Monday, January 17, 2011
It is too early to say whether the recent events in Tunisia represent a genuine grass roots democratic movement. But it is encouraging. There are no democracies in the Arab World. North Africa is no exception. Under the dictatorship of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali Tunisia has been ruled with an iron fist since 1987. However when a local trader named Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid in protest at the police confiscating his fruit an vegetable stand, riots broke out which snow balled across the nation leading to a situation that forced Ben Ali to flee the nation he had dominated for decades. Like so many dictators before him he has sought refuge in Saudi Arabia. Today Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi who has stepped in as leader on an interim basis has released many political prisoners and lifted restrictions on the media. It is a good start. There will no doubt be concern in Washington, Tel Aviv and other capitals that this might provide an opportunity for Islamists to step into the vacuum and dominate the country in a similar way as happened in Algeria in the early 1990s. But we should be positive an optimistic and hope that this will be a lesson to all the autocrats across the Arab world that if you push your people too much for too long, the slightest little thing can trigger your down fall.