It seems like the worm has turned once again in North Africa and the Middle East. People sick of generations oppression and brutal autocratic regimes have started to rise up against their governments and demand freedom.
In Tunisia the Jasmine Revolution has taken root and President has been forcibly removed from office after 23 years of iron fisted autocratic rule. Fueled by high unemployment and poverty all the country needed to ignite into rage was a spark. That spark came courtesy of a college aged fruit vendor. Charged with selling fruit in a public market without a permit, the man committed suicide. Burning himself alive.
Using Facebook and Twitter, news of the tragedy spread and people mobilized in the streets. Promising that with their blood and souls they will sacrifice themselves for the martyr. The weight of his populace upon him Ben Ali fled the country and the government was toppled. His bank accounts frozen and family members being held for crimes against Tunisia.
In Egypt, as thousands take to the streets in an apparent mirror image of the Tunisian Revolution, President Hosni Mubarak is not giving up without a fight. The internet has been shut off or at least severely restricted. Taking away that powerful tool has not seemed to dissuade the Egyptian populace. Word of mouth has replaced 21st century social networking and the crowds in the streets continue to grow.
Mubarak has ordered the army into the markets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. Arresting hundreds of protesters and banning public demonstrations as tanks and fighter jets try in vain to force a population ready for real change back into submission. So far the reports of wide spread violence have been light, the tanks have not yet begun to open fire on the lightly armed protesters. Mubarak perhaps sensing the gravity of the situation has ordered them to patrol and hold fire unless wide spread violence breaks out.
How long this will be possible is anyone’s guess. Mubarak seems to be playing a waiting game, sacking his cabinet in an attempt to placate the masses. As the strife drags on the country will grind to a halt, basic services will begin to suffer, already shortages of food are being reported in Cairo. Even now forces are aligning against the Mubarak Government, the Muslim Brotherhood long outlawed in Egypt has made a return, and Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is forming consensus around himself and appears to be a strong contender to lead the country out of darkness.
The Egyptian government long a recipient of western foreign aid and a relative friend to the democracy’s of Europe and the Americas plays a vital role as a bulwark against extremist Islamic factions in the region. Not to mention it’s strategic position in the area as the major shipping and trade route with the Suez Canal. How events play out in the coming days will affect trade and political relations around the globe for years to come.
Personally I believe that ultimately a mandate to rule comes from the people. Yes governments can and do manage to suppress and torture whole populations for generations at a time. But only because the people themselves allow it. As was the case in Tunisia the people of Egypt have had enough, the straw has been broken. No longer will they allow the brutal security police to take away people in the night. No longer will they allow leaders to rule like Pharaohs, growing fat while people starve in the shadow of luxury.
They have been shown the light of true democracy flickering against oppression in the sands of Northern Africa. It is not yet a torch, but with time and care that light will begin to spread further and further. Calling out to brothers and sisters who yearn to be free.
Democracy isn’t perfect either but at least it places the responsibility for the successes or failures of a country where it belongs. In the hands of it’s people. To quote Winston Churchill in an address to the British House of Commons Nov 11, 1947. “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Well spoken words if I have ever heard them.
This video taken from the Live 8 festival sums up a person’s frustration with corruption, torture and war. One man’s dream against a brutal regime. I give you fellow Canadian Bruce Cockburn singing If I had a rocket launcher.