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Politics 2013-01-11

Arab Spring fails to fulfil promise

By Raby Ould Idoumou in Nouakchott and Walid Ramzi in Algiers for Magharebia – 11/01/13

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Two years after young Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze and ignited the Arab Spring, many across the Maghreb wonder what happened to their revolution.

Critics cite on-going protests and unrest, security concerns and the slow pace of economic progress to argue that results have failed to meet the ambitions and hopes of the forces that brought change.

Observers also wonder about some unforeseen flaw that carried extremist currents to power.

"The stage through which the Arab region is going is bleak in some of its details," Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci conceded during a parliamentary session on Tuesday (January 8th).

The people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya "wanted to change their relations with their regimes and governments", Medelci added.

Whether they succeeded was the question posed at an Algiers conference organised by the Paris-based International Centre for Terrorism Studies and Victim relief (CIRET-AVT) and the Algerian Association of Solidarity with Rural Women (AASFR).

Held under the title "Arab Revolution: Reality or Illusion", the seminar found that two years after the wave of change began in Tunisia, new governments had failed to satisfy their promises to deliver democracy and a better life for all citizens.

The "Arab Spring has become an Islamist winter", the conference concluded.

"Results produced by the Arab revolutions in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt were contrary to expectations and had negative consequences in these countries and others in the region," said AASFR head founding member Saida Benhabyles.

Human rights, the status of women and the security situation have all declined, she said.

"These revolutions have deviated from the course and goals of real revolutions, which are based on realising freedom, justice, security and stability," Benhabyles added.

Algeria is not immune to the extremist current, despite the Islamists' failure in the 2012 legislative election.

Religious Affairs Minister Bouabdallah Ghlamallah recently accused the country's salafist movement of seeking to seize power.

"What do those people want?" he asked during a January 1st seminar at Dar El Imam in Algiers.

In Morocco, a series of protests and calls for change from the youth-led February 20 Movement (M20F) led King Mohammed VI to promise constitutional reforms. The referendum on the amended constitution won nearly universal approval.

From Ennahda in Tunisia to the Justice and Development Party (PJD) in Morocco, the Arab Spring brought the Islamist party sweep. But even as Morocco is hailed as the most open of the Islamist movements, the PJD has been criticised for not doing enough to improve the economy.

The spike in food prices has created an economic crisis and caused popular resentment. At the end of December, Marrakech saw demonstrations over high electricity and water bills.

In Tunisia, once a beacon of democracy for the Maghreb and the birthplace of the Arab Spring, there is major economic deterioration and growing popular discontent.

In a report published by The Guardian, many secular Tunisians expressed their fears that ruling Islamist party Ennahda would impose an ideological dictatorship, restrict freedom of expression, and let Tunisia return to a form of the strangling repressive control that characterised ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule.

Meanwhile in Libya, after the revolutionaries toppled the Moamer Kadhafi regime, Ansar al-Sharia and scores of small groups of radical Islamists emerged, something that threatened a civil war. Fighting between these groups, their attack on the US diplomatic mission, the liquidation of political adversaries and the intimidation of citizens have hurt a country that urgently needs calm and reconstruction.

The most dangerous result of the Libyan revolution was the flow of weapons to northern Mali, where al-Qaeda and MUJAO terrorists, along with their radical Islamist partners, are taking advantage of the post-coup chaos to begin building a salafist emirate.

Their radical religious view is contrary to the open Islam and the secular spirit of the region's native population.

As they enforce their harsh version of Sharia on a large section of Mali, civilians are held hostage.

In neighbouring Mauritania, the strength of Islamists has also increased, even without an Arab Spring revolution.

"What we're seeing is an inclination towards unilateralism and conflict with democracy in most political Islamist groups, both before and after the Arab Spring," Mauritanian thinker Abul Abbas Ould Borham says.

But across the region, these groups have not proven that they can govern equitably and better citizens' lives, Mauritanian analyst and journalist Fata Ould Matali tells Magharebia.

"It's true that Islamists have reaped the fruits of these revolutions, but they have also reaped the thorns of Arab countries that were already immersed in the marginalisation of peoples," he says.

"The Islamists jumped on the bandwagon before they offered a worthy model of struggle in the Arab world," political analyst Habiballah Ould Ahmed says. "Therefore, their wrong use of the so-called Arab revolutions disappointed the people."

El Dod Ould Sheikh Ibrahim, a young activist in Mauritania's 25 February Movement, says that the results of Arab Spring "were not up to the expectations and aspirations" of those who struggled.

"The Islamists exploited Bouazizi's ashes," he says. "Political Islam tried to reap the fruits of a struggle for which everyone paid."

"We have a wise saying that says: if you put a frog on a throne of gold, it will soon jump to the swamp," the young activist adds.

What do you think of this article?


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  1. Anonymous thumb

    عبد الله 2013-1-21

    The one who said "The Arab Spring has become an Islamist winter" could have unknowingly been made to speak by God about what days will show to governments which intentionally ignore "decisive nights" which occur in winter and with which God has annihilated some people who were more powerful and stronger than the twenty-first century Pharaohs. God has tested them with destructive winds "which He imposed upon them for seven nights and eight days in succession, so you would see the people therein fallen as if they were hollow trunks of palm trees." So understand o clever people! Look at those who were granted power by God before you! Do you see any remnants of them?? So fear God in His servants! Be good as God was good to you! Don't forget that God instituted you as representatives on earth just to follow the contents of His sacred "constitution". Just in the same way that you ask those whom you appoint as your representatives in running the affairs of your people to respect and act according to your constitutions. Then will you not reason??!


  2. Anonymous thumb

    موطن حر 2013-1-20

    “Arab Spring Arab Spring fails to fulfil promise” ("fails to" should be deleted) And stop undermining these revolutions. We are now living this reality. We are enjoying the change we have brought about. It is true there are some security violations. However, it is not as you describe it. (With my big respect to the opinions of some brothers in Algeria). Why do you consider the revolution in Libya as a revolution against an Arab leader? You haven’t lived with Kadhafi and what he did to us. They have seized money from the people at the beginning of revolution. He closed businesses. He banned studying foreign languages. He executed students at universities. He turned the country into a communist state. He controlled the livings of people. He turned the country into military barracks. He imposed on us a ten year siege. Let's not even talk about foreign policy, including the elimination of the opposition to the war in Chad, Uganda, massacres in prisons and violations of personal freedoms. Do you know that during his rule, it was forbidden to own a 4x4 SUV? It was forbidden to go abroad without a clearance from his security services and so on. We rose up only when things exceeded limits. The Libyan people have endured a lot. Maybe younger generations haven’t witnessed the endurance of the Libyan people. But just ask people who were in Libya in the eighties and they will answer your questions. Now you hold conferences, meetings, explain matters your own way, in the absence of any concerned party, whether Egyptian, Libyan or Tunisian. Sorry, we don’t need anything from you, except taking care of your own people and feelings of your rulers, because revolutions are felt only by those who lead them. Salam alikum. A citizen, meaning a free Libyan citizen. Long live the Maghreb people!


  3. Anonymous thumb

    بلعور 2013-1-19

    You are agents of America, France and Israel too!


  4. Anonymous thumb

    سيني 2013-1-18

    When Muslims left their religion, followed the croakers to topple regimes, they forgot the recommendations of our noble prophet to be patient with the ruler no matter how oppressive he is. The prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, says "Listen and obey the ruler even if he hits your back and takes your money." If you don't like the words of the noble prophet, you are floundering in your base ideas, God and His messenger disown you, your ideas and actions. We seek refuge with God from this miserable situation of the minds of some people who belong to Islam. Please post this article if you believe in freedom of opinion.


  5. Anonymous thumb

    JALEL 2013-1-18

    We need more time because you can’t judge peoples in just a short time; you need one or two generations. I think that’s what’s needed.


  6. Anonymous thumb

    younsi djamel 2013-1-16

    “‘The stage that the Arab region is going through is bleak in some ways,’ Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci conceded during a parliamentary session on Tuesday, (January 8th).” The others are moored and Algeria doesn’t want to or is afraid of getting splashed!


  7. Anonymous thumb

    bendermous 2013-1-14

    All human groups in the world are constantly moving. That’s why their political and social organisation must also follow this movement, evolving in time. But, unfortunately, sometimes there occur blockages and nothing moves forward until the dam gives way. These are violent ruptures that force change, and the lower strata of society will pay the price for them.


  8. Anonymous thumb

    radhwane 2013-1-13

    Respect the choices of the peoples.