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Features

Will dominoes fall in North Africa?

Dibussi Tande

2011-01-27, Issue 514

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/70443

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As a wave of protests sweeps Egypt inspired by Tunisia’s uprising, Africa’s bloggers ask if Algeria and Mauritania too will stand up to their oppressive governments, writes Dibussi Tande.

The Arabist comments on the ongoing protests in Egypt, inspired by the recent Tunisian protests that led to the collapse of the Ben Ali regime:

‘The most significant thing about today's protests across Egypt is that their scale was totally unexpected. Yes, there has been a wave of protests since late 2004. But none have been nationwide to this extent, and none have been as big. We still do not have a clear picture of what transpired in much of the country, and media focus tended to be on the main protest in Cairo's Midan Tahrir. But that is enough to know that these may be the biggest protest movement since at least the 1977 bread riots and perhaps even the biggest since the 1950s.

‘It was not predictable, just like Tunisia, because it was an unknown unknown — we did not know that the threshold for such an event had been reached, partly because previous protests had fizzled out or were effectively contained by the regime. While we (here I mean the press, analysts, and activists) knew many Egyptians were tired of the current state of affairs, we did not know that an external change (what happened in Tunisia) could have this kind of impact on a country that, after all, has been protesting for years and that is nowhere as repressive and controlled as Tunisia was under Ben Ali… Today, a red line has been irrevocably crossed, a barrier of fear transcended.

‘What tomorrow brings is anyone's guess. The regime might contain and diffuse this, but will probably have to make some significant concessions (such as Minister of Interior Habib al-Adly's head, for a start). Or it might snowball into something much bigger.’

The Moor Next Door wonders whether Algeria would be the next country in the Maghreb to collapse given the widespread disaffection in the country particularly among the harraga, the disenfranchised youth who were at the forefront of the Tunisian protest:

‘David Kenner has an interesting posting at Foreign Policy on the “long-term viability of Algerian strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika,” based on Wikileaks cables. American diplomats identified key risks to Tunisia’s stability in leaked State Department cables, Kenner writes, and the cables on Algeria may be similarly predictive or useful in some other way. “Is Algeria next?” It identifies the harraga phenomenon and conversations between American officials and Said Sadi. In answering Kenner’s question these are valid points of reference. As someone put it on Twitter recently, “impossible is not Algerian”; Algeria’s long-term stability is very uncertain and it seems increasingly likely that discontent with the country’s managed crisis will produce some kind of political rearrangement in the near future. The harraga issue deserves comment as is shared between Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya and because it is interesting to think out politically in terms of Kenner’s overall question, which is important and reasonable (especially as most commentary has focused on Egypt as the next candidate for popular destabilization)...

‘Algeria’s structural crisis is significantly deeper, more militarized and factional than Tunisia’s and can be expected to be far more gory in a time of true crisis, when youth violence and public resistance goes out of the state’s control and organized opposition forces form.’

Dekhnstan publishes excerpts of the manifesto of Yacoub Ould Dahoud the Mauritanian who, inspired by Tunisia’s Bouazizi, set himself on fire in front of the Senate in Nouakchott a couple of weeks ago:

‘Extremism and terrorist groups are a result of 50 years of poverty and the loss of hope that rulers’ oppression will end... Enough corruption, Enough oppression. Mauritania belongs to the people, not to the Generals and their entourage.

‘To get the corrupt army band from power, enough with corruption, enough oppression. We suffered fifty years of corruption and oppression. Do we and the future generations not deserve one month of steadfastness to dash out of oppression, intellectual, material and physical oppression [?]’

He goes on to make a list of demands and then ends with a call for the ultimate sacrifice:

‘If you do not accept this offer, then you should face the people’s wrath and be forced out as Ben Ali was… Our lives are a small price to pay for Mauritania so that our sons can live in a country with social justice, liberty and democracy.’

Out Of Hadhramout recalls that 25 years ago, the Sudanese ousted their president in protests similar to Tunisia’s and wonders whether Tunisia can avoid the mistakes that the Sudanese made thereafter:

‘Before Tunisia, it happened in Sudan. Very rarely mentioned is the popular uprising against Ja'afar Numeiry that took place in Sudan about 25 years ago. In March 1985, a few days after Numeiry had doubled the prices of bread, petrol and public transport, public protests began in Sudan. Daily protests continued and were soon to be joined by university students, union activists and tens of thousands of others. Many were arrested, a state of emergency was declared so as to better manage crackdowns. Then, too, like in Tunisia, the military at first watched impartially; but eventually sided with the popular uprising. On the 5th of April, 1985 - the Sudanese armed forces supported the people's demands for the ouster of Numeiry and seized power in Sudan, while Numeiry was out of the country; they suspended the constitution, sacked Numeiry's top officials and dissolved the People's Assembly. Led by General Suwar Al'Dhahab, they formed a transitional government, they organized democratic elections and about one year after they had taken over, the military relinquished power to a democratically elected government. Only for that government to be ousted on the 30th of June1989…

‘Ben Ali has been unseated. Tunisians are now jubilant. They are rejoicing and celebrating. Revolutions are that sweet. But, they are only sweeter if dreams are realized; and if they bring better changes; if the goals for what lives were lost for, are achieved. Tunisians can - in fact, should - learn from the Sudanese experience. The question now for them, is: What next? Can and will their elation continue for long? Will their expectations be fulfilled? Can and will what they revolted for, be achieved?’

Buckaroo Thandi argues that perceptions of women are dictated primarily by geography:

‘The first time I ever noted the frenzy over women's chest areas was in Swaziland. The international media was fascinated by the Reed Dance, 'Women parade around like THAT?' they seemed to scream as they happily snapped away. But at my school in the middle of Manzini, Swazi school girls practiced for traditional dance competitions dressed in what was normal for traditional dances: bare chests and all.
Having read all the rants and raves about women and cleavages in Eurocentric literature and media, I looked sideways at teachers during those traditional dance practices, hoping to see signs of, at the very least, embarrassment...but there was none whatsoever. The teachers seemed to only be occupied with whether the girls were following the beats….

‘Certainly I've never heard of anyone within my circle of friends going on and on about bra size or dreaming of a visit to a cosmetic surgeon about it, well, only one but she wanted it because the weight was putting pressure on back. And yet, years ago, a kindly old man on the street went out of his way to advise me on why I should cover up my legs, 'It's the backs of your knees child, honour the backs of your knees. Don't show them off too much or they'll become a common sight.' Sounds like what some would say about a cleavage elsewhere.’

Oo The Nigerian laments about the inability of Nigerian residents to perform even the most basic monetary transactions on the web:

‘I just bought 3 domain names from GoDaddy. No, that is not news, the news is that I had to use a US based VPN before the purchase went through. (the VPN made the godaddy server think I was browsing from the US).

‘The first 50 times I tried making this purchase, it kept giving me the error “unable to process”. After doing quite a lot of Googling I saw that all purchases from Nigeria are flagged automatically. (No prize for getting why). So I went and setup the VPN and the purchase went immediately.

‘Of course I should have used Paypal but my account has kept getting locked ever since I returned to Nigeria from the UK...

‘Essentially, any purchase made from Nigeria is deemed fraudulent until strenuously proven otherwise.

‘What this means is that, those lovely stories about you creating a little webapp and slamming a Paypal button is fantasy if you are doing it from here. We are not allowed to participate in global ecommerce. If you think making payments with your own money is hard, try receiving. Without payments there is no commerce, so we are left out.’

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


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