JWG via DTN 15 January 2023 JT and Rae have been reading the tar baby saga and are trying hard…
North Africa 2011-2014
Tunisian national dialogue quartet wins 2015 Nobel peace prize
Coalition of civil society groups wins highest-profile of the six Nobel awards
Reading the citation, the new committee chair, Kaci Kullmann Five, said the Tunisian coalition had helped bring the country back from the brink of civil war in 2013, and had made a “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy”. The prize was intended to reward and bolster such efforts in Tunisia and beyond.
The quartet was set up in the summer of 2013 at a time when the country’s Jasmine revolution, which had first sparked the Arab spring, looked like it would go the same way as Egypt’s brief democratic awakening, which had succumbed to a military coup in July of that year.
Tunisia was suffering some of the same symptoms as Egypt: a high-handed Islamist-led government that was ignoring the views of the secular opposition in writing up a new constitution, street clashes, high-profile assassinations and the appearance of Salafist extremists on the fringes.
The quartet – made up of the union federation UGTT, the employers’ institute, the Tunisian human rights league and the order of lawyers – brokered talks between the different forces and got them to agree a roadmap that included compromises on the constitution, a technocratic caretaker government and an independent election commission.
The members of the quartet have gone their own way since its peak in 2013 and Tunisia still faces severe problems, including public disillusion with the government – which has been largely recaptured by pre-revolutionary elites – and terrorist attacks culminating in the massacre of 38 tourists in Sousse in June.
But, alone among Arab spring states, Tunisia has kept its democratic aspirations alive in the wake of the Egyptian coup and the conflicts that have consumed Libya, Syria and Yemen.
Has the dialogue group saved Tunisia from sliding back to civil unrest?
(WSJ) No. Tunisia is still suffering from a struggling economy and an uncertain security outlook due to a homegrown terror threat. Tunisians comprise one of the largest segments of recruits joining Islamic State. Local extremists are also responsible for two separate terror attacks this year targeting the nation’s biggest economic segment: foreign tourism.
27 March 2015
(Foreign Policy) Authorities were aware of one of the gunmen involved in the attack at the Bardo museum in Tunis. Security services had taken note of Yassine Laabidi, but were not aware of any specific plans.
Laabidi and another man opened fire on the museum on Wednesday, killing 20 tourists and injuring 40 people. Both gunmen were killed. Two or three others involved in the assault remain at large. It remains unclear whether the attackers had formal links to any militant or armed groups.
The shooting is considered the worst terror attack in Tunisia since 2002 when al-Qaeda targeted a synagogue. Yet concerns about this type of attack in Tunisia had grown as of late. Libya has continued its descent into instability and large numbers of Tunisians have migrated to Iraq and Syria to fight with militant groups.
Isis claims responsibility for Tunisia murders
Jihadi group suggests attack was first of many as family of gunman Yassine Laabidi gathers for his funeral
Islamic State (Isis) has claimed responsibility for the slaughter in Tunisia’s Bardo museum. In an audio statement posted online, Isis described the museum, which houses a world-famous collection of Roman mosaics, as a “den of infidels and vice”. The attack was just “the first drop of rain”, the Associated Press quoted the group as saying. The two attackers were feted as “knights” armed with assault rifles and grenades and the group seemed to suggest that further strikes would follow.
Africa 2011: top stories for the year to come
A look ahead at the Africa stories that will be in the news in 2011.
(Global Post) Rebels, elections, presidents who don’t want to give up power, oil and diamonds: There are many stories from Africa that will capture world headlines in 2011.
Africa, China, the United States, and Oil ;
Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Africa Policy Forum
Emerging Markets Middle East & Africa
(IRPP) NURTURING DEMOCRACY LESSONS FROM POST-SOVIET RUSSIA
By Jeremy Kinsman
September’s anti-American violence in Libya, a country the US had hoped would be a new ally in the region, was a reminder that the fall of a tyrant can bequeath a combustible succession. The Obama administration has struggled to adapt to the confused new order that is emerging in the Middle East and
North Africa, and Jeremy Kinsman, Canada’s former ambassador to Russia, says Washington should learn from the mistakes made by the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union. (October 2012)
24 January 2014
Libertés, droits des femmes : les avancées de la Constitution tunisienne
(Le Monde) Trois ans après la chute du régime de Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, la nouvelle Constitution tunisienne a été adoptée, dimanche 26 janvier, à une majorité écrasante (200 voix pour, 12 contre et 4 abstentions) au sein de l’Assemblée nationale constituante (ANC). Elle remplace la Constitution de 1959, suspendue depuis mars 2011.
Deux ans et trois mois auront été nécessaires à cette Assemblée, élue en octobre 2011, pour finaliser le préambule de ce texte et ses 146 articles, organisés en dix chapitres. La nouvelle Constitution est le fruit d’un compromis entre les islamistes d’Ennahda, arrivés en tête aux élections, et les autres forces politiques représentées au sein de l’ANC, dont les débats houleux ont retardé le travail de l’Assemblée. Au cours des deux derniers mois, les articles ont été débattus un à un par l’Assemblée en séance plénière.
La Constitution s’inscrit, comme l’affirme son préambule, dans « les objectifs de la révolution, de la liberté et de la dignité, révolution du 17 décembre 2010-14 janvier 2011 ». Elle consacre un exécutif bicéphale et accorde une place réduite à l’islam. Pour la première fois dans le monde arabe est introduit un objectif de parité hommes-femmes dans les assemblées élues.
Tunisia opts for civil, not Sharia law as assembly votes on new constitution
Tunisia has rejected Islam as the source of its laws, with the country’s Islamist-dominated constituent assembly voting to adopt new articles amid fears that ongoing disagreements may derail the constitution altogether.
The country that in 2011 gave birth to the Arab Spring has adopted new articles in its upcoming constitution, the first two of which state that Tunisia is a “civil” republic based on the rule of law, but with Islam remaining as its state religion. After Saturday’s vote, 12 of the 146 articles discussed have now been adopted.
The articles received harsh criticism from opponents, some of them believing that an absence of Islam from the legal framework would open the door to “Satanism and idolatry.” In fact, the assembly, which was set up in 2011 to establish a new constitution after the uprising that removed the then-president, Zine el-Abdine Ben Ali, was plagued by so much infighting that there are fears that the January 14 deadline for ratifying the new constitution would not be met, AFP reported. (Reuters) Death threats disrupt Tunisia constitution debate
Tunisia: Ennahda and opposition agree on power transfer
(BBC) Tunisia’s governing Islamist Ennahda party and the opposition have agreed on the appointment of a caretaker government in the coming weeks.
Under the deal signed after talks in Tunis, a cabinet of independent figures will be in power until fresh elections.
Last month Ennahda agreed in principle to relinquish power, in an effort to end Tunisia’s political deadlock.
Tunisians protest as political crisis deepens
(Al Jazeera) Saturday’s march was the culmination of a week of protests organised by a coalition of opposition groups known as the National Salvation Front (NSF), calling for the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the assembly elected in 2011 to write the constitution. …
The powerful UGTT trade union, which has been mediating talks between the government and the NSF, on Saturday presented the government’s latest proposals on resolving the crisis. But after the meeting, Hamma Hammami, a representative of the opposition, said the group had replied to the ruling coalition’s proposals and that “the key to ending the crisis is in the [government’s] hands”. Hammami refused to elaborate on the proposals, except to confirm reports that they envisaged a change of government by September 29 at the latest, after a month of national dialogue on the new cabinet and the future constitution.
Now Tunisia Begins to Shake
(IPS) – Tunisia was plunged into political strife when opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi was assassinated late last month, triggering widespread pro- and anti-government demonstrations across the country. In the days since his death the North African nation has faced a further series of terrorist attacks that have threatened to destabilise a country seen as a model for post-revolution democracy in the region.
Four days after Brahmi was shot dead outside his home in Tunis on Jul. 25, eight Tunisian soldiers were brutally killed in Islamist militant attacks against the army. Since then, more soldiers have died in clashes, bombs have been detonated in and around the capital Tunis, and terror suspects have been killed and arrested in police raids.
Police claim to have foiled another assassination attempt against a political figure in the city of Sousse. The target was not named.
Tunisia on the brink of conflict after Mohammed Brahmi funeral
Unrest in Egypt fuels tensions between secular and Islamist groups as police use teargas to disperse protests
(The Guardian) Tensions have run high in Tunisia since Brahmi’s assassination on Thursday, and large protests throughout the day were met with police teargas. In a bid to stave off unrest amid intensifying protests, particularly in the capital, secular coalition partners of Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party said they were in talks to reach a new power-sharing deal.
Killing the Arab Spring in Its Cradle
(NYT) To prevent Tunisia from going the way of Algeria, all anti-fundamentalist groups must unite — which they are beginning to do — and they will need the sort of international support Algeria’s secular democrats never received. Western governments must pressure the Tunisian authorities to protect those at risk. But so far, the European Union and the United States, focused on Syria and Egypt, have mostly turned a blind eye.
Tunisia government will not quit – PM Ali Larayedh
(BBC) Tunisia’s Islamist-led government will not step down despite opposition demands, the prime minister has said.
Tunisian politician Mohamed Brahmi shot dead
Thousands rally at interior ministry in Tunis, hours after opposition figure was assassinated in front of his house.
(Al Jazeera) Brahmi, 58, was a member of the People Movement party, part of the same coalition as Chokri Belaid, another prominent politician who was assassinated in February. Turmoil hits Tunisia after secular politician slain
Miracle in the Sahara: Oasis Sediments Archive Dramatic History
(Spiegel) A marvel of nature, the lakes of Ounianga in the Sahara Desert have lasted thousands of years and withstood dramatic climate change. Now, a German geologist has analyzed lakebed sediments to shed light on a spectacular chapter in human history. … These sediments are a unique archive of the history of the earth. They contain evidence of what is probably the most impressive and dramatic change in the climate occurring on the planet since the end of the last ice age. The mud on the lake floor tells the story of the greening of the biggest desert on earth, which then dried up a few millennia later.
Tunisia Assassination Upends Government
Opposition Leader Shot Amid Standoff Between Islamists, Secularists; Widespread Protests Pressure Prime Minister
(WSJ) The assassination comes amid a violent standoff between the country’s Islamist and secular political forces, after what had been a relatively smooth transition toward democracy in what was the Arab Spring’s first successful popular uprising.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who is from the Islamist party, said late Wednesday he would dissolve the government and form a national-unity cabinet of technocrats, in a bid to head off the deepening crisis. Some moderate members of Ennahda and many in the opposition had been calling for a unity government for months, but negotiations over its composition had gone nowhere.
Leading Tunisian opposition politician killed
(Al Jazeera) Protesters clash with police after opposition figure Shokri Belaid killed by gunfire outside his home in Tunis. (Foreign Policy) Tunisian opposition politician, Chokri Belaid, was shot in the neck and head, and killed Wednesday outside his home in Tunis. Belaid, a prominent secular opponent to the Ennahda-led Islamist government, was one of the leaders of the opposition Popular Front and the general secretary of the Democratic Patriotic Party.
Omar Ashour: The Algerian Tragedy
(Project Syndicate) Let’s start by stating the obvious: AQIM is not a product of the Arab Spring. AQIM exists because of the military coup that ended the “Algerian Spring” two decades ago. And it has not been strengthened by the Libyan revolution, but rather by the failure of state-building in North Mali, the absence of post-conflict reconciliation and reintegration in Algeria, and a lack of accountability for a shadowy Algerian security establishment whose brutal methods have proved woefully inadequate to the challenge.
AQIM’s history can be traced directly to the coup staged by a handful of Algerian generals against President Chadli Bendjedid in January 1992. Bendjedid, whose memoirs were recently published (he died in October), gave Algeria its first relatively democratic constitution, lifting the ban on political parties and guaranteeing a minimum of basic rights, including freedom of speech, assembly, and conscience. He was the first Arab president to be criticized on state-owned TV (that is, without the critic disappearing afterwards). Algeria was the first Arab Spring country.
Islamist Intimidation The Battle for the Future of Tunisia
(Spiegel) Almost two years after the Arab Spring got its start in Tunisia, Salafists are intimidating women, artists and intellectuals. Many fear that the government is tacitly supporting the radical Islamists in their efforts to turn the young democracy into a theocracy.
(Chatham House) Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi and Dr Moncef Marzouki were awarded the 2012 Chatham House Prize by His Royal Highness The Duke of York KG, for the successful compromises each achieved during Tunisia’s democratic transition. Representing two sides of the same coin, they have together ensured that Tunisia remains at the forefront of the new democratic wave in the Middle East and North Africa.
The winners collected their awards and a scroll signed by our Patron, Her Majesty the Queen, at an award ceremony in London on 26 November 2012. Sheikh Ghannouchi and Dr Marzouki also spoke at Chatham House on Tunisia’s democratic transition. More.
Sheikh Ghannouchi has been widely praised for his contribution to promoting the idea of compatibility between Islam and democracy and modernity which has been translated into the promotion of a culture of tolerance and bridge-building across the political spectrum. He believes that majority rule on its own is not sufficient during transition periods to achieve success. Instead, consensus and coalitions are needed to tackle the challenges of democratic transition. This belief has led the Ennahdha party to make the choice of forming a coalition government with other secular parties which has led people across the world to view Tunisia as a model in the region where consensus, respect and acceptance of others – Islamist and secularist – has become the rule.
Libya’s Political Vacuum Impedes U.S. Probe of Benghazi Attack
(AP) More than a month after attacks in Libya left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead, the United States is struggling to bring the killers to justice. But when American officials try to speak to Libyan leaders, there’s often no one on the other end of the line.
Moammar Gadhafi’s death almost a year ago left a country with few political institutions, and Libya’s new political class is still trying to put together a democratically elected government. Infighting has grown even more bitter since the Sept. 11 attack on U.S. outposts in the eastern city of Benghazi. Many ministries, including those that would take the lead in an investigation, are on autopilot as the new lawmakers plot alliances and betrayals over endless cups of coffee in Tripoli, the capital.
Sheila Arnopoulos — Tunisia: A revolution in progress
It was my first night in the city of Sidi Bouzid where a humiliated street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself to death a year and a half ago – launching the first of several Arab Springs.
From my hotel room it didn’t sound like the revolution was over. Guns were going off under the window of my budget hotel as I watched young men running wild, screaming and fighting with one another.
That May night was typical of my five-month stay from January to June of this year in Tunisia researching a book about the revolution.
Islamists Threaten Libya’s Future
The killing of U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens comes in the wake of a new threat of Islamic fundamentalism that has rocked Libya over the last few weeks.
A number of presumed Salafist attacks have been carried out against foreign consulates and interests in Benghazi since the end of the war. Some embassies in Tripoli have recently been threatened.
Radicals have also warned Libyan women to dress conservatively and to cover their hair. Jihadists have called for gender segregation in educational facilities.
Libya is littered with signs of the growing power of Salafists, such as the recent destruction of Sufi shrines. From Tripoli’s Al Mahary Radison Blu Hotel the azure waters of the Mediterranean ocean can be seen lapping along miles of powdery white beaches. But this stunning view is scarred by piles of rubble and bent steel girders in concrete.
Libya Consulate Attack: U.S. Intelligence Agencies Didn’t Sound Alarm About Threat Of Unrest
(Reuters) – Although U.S. authorities believe anti-American violence that erupted on Tuesday in Libya and Egypt was triggered by an Arabic talk-show broadcast three days earlier, U.S. officials said high-alert warnings were not issued to American outposts in the region about the possibility of unrest.
An Egyptian TV network, al-Nas, broadcast on Saturday what its presenters described as extracts from an English-language film denigrating the Prophet Mohammad, which it said had been uploaded on the YouTube website by “migrant Coptics,” a reference to exiled members of a Christian sect with a large minority presence among Egypt’s Muslim majority.
While U.S. government officials were aware of the film’s inflammatory content, three officials said the broadcasts did not prompt strong warnings from intelligence agencies or the State Department of possible threats to U.S. diplomatic missions in the Islamic world.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula Claims Role In ‘Innocence Of Muslims’
(HuffPost) The search for those behind the provocative, anti-Muslim film implicated in violent protests in Egypt and Libya led Wednesday to a California Coptic Christian convicted of financial crimes who acknowledged his role in managing and providing logistics for the production.
What We Know About the Obscure Film That Sparked The Deadly Riots in Libya
The violence that claimed the life of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three of his American staff members yesterday appears to have been sparked by an obscure, anti-Islam film produced by Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American real-estate developer who says his goal was to draw attention to the hypocrisies of Islam.
So, what do we know about Bacile? In short, not much.
A man claiming to be Bacile spoke to a number of international news outlets by phone after going into hiding in the wake of the attacks. See Muhammad Film Consultant: ‘Sam Bacile’ is Not Israeli, and Not a Real Name
Spiegel offers more detail, explains the link to Morris Sadek, radical Coptic Christian, and the Salafists.
Deadly Attack Evokes Uncomfortable Memories
The deadly escalation in the Middle East is an orchestrated one — and it is not just Muslim extremists who are behind it. … since the film started receiving the support of two men hated by many Muslims, Islamists have mobilized. One of Bacile’s backers is Morris Sadek, a Coptic Christian from Egypt. Originally a human rights activist who worked on behalf of this Christian minority in his homeland, Sadek’s positions have grown increasingly radical in recent years.
For example, Sadek describes Arabic as the “language of the invaders” and campaigns for Egypt to return to the ancient Coptic language. He also advocates the establishment of a Christian parallel government, which would lead an independent Coptic state in Egypt. “My enemy is the god of Islam,” he said in an interview last year, while at the same time clarifying that he loves all Muslims and has Muslim friends himself. Sadek’s Egyptian citizenship was revoked last year because of his positions and he now lives in the United States. … This time, too, Islamist groups have deftly fanned the flames of their followers’ anger. In many cases, it was they who circulated and publicized the video over YouTube and other video platforms over the past few days. At the same time, they spread rumors that the government in Washington backed the filmmakers and planned to broadcast the film on American television on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks
U.S. ambassador killed in Libya
(Foreign Policy) President Obama has confirmedthat Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed along with three members of his staff in an attack by an armed mob on the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday. According to the New York Times, the incident marks the first death of an American envoy overseas in more than two decades.
The attack in Benghazi coincided with an assault on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in which Egyptian protesters scaled the compound’s walls and burned an American flag. According to the Wall Street Journal, the demonstrators were responding to a film by an Israeli-American real-estate developer named Sam Bacile that condemned Islam and insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who incited deadly riots in the Muslim world in 2010 by threatening to burn a Koran (he late did), had promoted Bacile’s movie.
Tragedy in Libya
…What makes the deaths all the more tragic is that they will inevitably become politicized. On Tuesday, conservative websites were highly critical of a statementby the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that came ahead of a protest where demonstrators breached the embassy’s walls in a moment reminiscent of 1979 in Iran. Liz Cheney and the Republican-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee joined in, accusing the administration of issuing an “apology” for abizarre and mysterious film attacking the Prophet Mohammed that served as a pretext for the protests. … This crude film — which “portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, pedophile and fraud,” as the Wall Street Journal put it — may have been obscure before, but it’s not anymore. Afghan President Karzai has already issued a statement condemning the movie — but not the embassy attacks. Radical Islamist groups and countries like Iran will be looking to exploit the situation, whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
Libya ‘sets trial date’ for Gaddafi’s son
Saif al-Islam will go on trial next month in Libyan town of Zintan, prosecution official says, despite an ICC warrant.
(Al Jazeera) Saif, the second son of Gaddafi is wanted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity but has since been held in a secret prison in the custody of the Zintan fighters who captured him.
On July 31 his lawyers issued a statement claiming their client was pleading to be put on trial before The Hague-based court for justice to be served.
But the new Libyan authorities have maintained that he should stand trial in his home country.
Gaddafi Loyalists Up In Arms
(IPS) – The security situation in Libya remains tense as violence by way of car bombings, political assassinations of high-ranking government and military officials, attacks on foreign diplomatic staff and NGOs, and young men sorting out minor disputes with AK-47s continues unabated.
IPS spoke with armed Gaddafi loyalists who vowed they will step up their fight. Government sources alternately claim the perpetrators are former President Muammar Gaddafi loyalists or Islamists bent on revenge.
This murky situation is further exacerbated by a clamp down on the dissemination of information in the local media, and Libyan security forces preventing foreign journalists from covering the scenes of attacks first-hand or taking pictures.
Libyan assembly votes Gaddafi opponent as president
(Reuters) – Libya’s national assembly picked former opposition leader Mohammed Magarief as its president as the North African country’s newly elected congress began its rule.
Magarief, seen as a moderate Islamist, will head the 200-member congress, which will name a prime minister, pass laws and steer Libya to full parliamentary elections after a new constitution is drafted next year.
Libya’s election — So far, so hopeful
Though much could still go wrong, the case for Western intervention is being vindicated
(The Economist) Preliminary results suggested that a party generally regarded as secular and fairly liberal won the most votes in Libya’s first post-Qaddafi general election, pushing an Islamist party close to the Muslim Brotherhood into second place. It would be a personal victory for Mahmoud Jibril, an American-educated economist who had worked for the old regime before turning against it at the start of the revolution. A big step for a battered country
So far the general election looks a lot better than most Libyans expected (14 July)
Libyan preliminary results trickle in
(Al Jazeera) Mahmud Jibril of leading political coalition calls for ‘national dialogue’, as Libya appears set to buck Islamist trend.
In Libya elections, lessons for Arab Spring
(CSM editorial board) The Libya elections were a step forward for a bedraggled Arab Spring. They revive the region’s cry for democracy and may set a model in how to accommodate Islam with individual rights. Turnout was high – nearly two-thirds of Libyans voted in the country’s first free election in half a century. Preelection violence and ballot problems were minimal.
(Foreign Policy) On Saturday, roughly 65 percent of registered voters in Libya cast ballots in a national assembly race — the country’s first election since the overthrow of Muammar al-Qaddafi, who ruled Libya for more than four decades. The vote went relatively smoothly despite election-rated violence in the east, where Libyans are angry about the number of seats allotted to the region in the new assembly.
Early results suggest that the National Forces Alliance, a coalition of some 60 parties led by Mahmoud Jibril, the rebel prime minister during the revolution, is ahead of Islamic groups, including the Libyan wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. TheNew York Timesnotes that the outcome could break “an Islamist wave that swept across neighboring Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings.”
Jibril, a Western-educated political scientist, has called for Libya’s 150 political parties to form “one coalition” in the wake of the election.Election observers give thumbs-up to Libyan vote
(Reuters) – International observers declared Libya’s landmark national assembly election a success on Monday, concluding that violent incidents and anti-vote protests in the restive east failed to stop Libyans from turning out in large numbers.
Meantime, Egypt parliament set to meet, defying army
Pain and Joy as Algerians Celebrate Independence
(VOA) But Paris-based Algerian journalist Atman Tazaghart says that while Algerians are very proud of their independence from France, they also are disappointed. Their dreams of building a modern, democratic and prosperous society have not been realized. Despite the country’s vast oil wealth, unemployment is high and many are angry at what they believe is a dictatorial state.
Fifty years after Algeria’s independence, France is still in denial
(The Guardian) Freedom for Algeria, the largest country in Africa and the Arab world, called time on a savage period of history in which some 1.5 million Algerians died, most in aerial bombing raids and ratissages – jargon used to describe the way in which army units “combed through” cities and towns slaughtering those they came across. Hundreds of thousands more were tortured as an entire nation was made to pay for resisting the might of an overseas “master” to whom it had been subjugated for 132 years.
Is Algeria immune to the ‘Arab Spring’?
As the old ruling party wins a new parliamentary majority, we ask if change has bypassed Algeria.
Insight: Algerian Islamists hope for “Arab Spring” revival
(Reuters) – Algeria’s Islamists, in the political wilderness since their last attempt to win power dissolved into civil war, are now trying again, galvanized by the success of their brethren elsewhere in north Africa in the wake of the “Arab Spring”.
Most Islamists in Algeria have been excluded from political life since the conflict, but in the past few months they have shown renewed signs of activity, much of it conducted from exile to dodge the attentions of the Algerian state.
Tunisians impatient for revolution to bear fruit
By Christian Lowe
(Reuters) Tunisians had hoped after President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was thrown out in January there would be some relief from poverty and inequality. But that hasn’t happened, and people are getting angry.
Last month, the north African country was praised again as a beacon for the region when it held its first ever democratic election and handed power to a moderate Islamist government.
But behind Tunisia’s progress toward democracy lies an uncomfortable truth: in the 10 months since the revolution, the standard of living for the average Tunisian has got worse.
The new government understands the need to improve living standards. But it is handicapped by the sharp economic slow-down that has followed Ben Ali’s departure.
Tunisia’s democracy blooms as model for Arab Spring
Smooth elections, a coalition between moderate Islamists and secularists, and an explosion of civic life are propelling Tunisia forward as a model for the Arab Spring.
Charles Cogan: Arab Spring, Islamic Harvest: Tunisia Goes to the Polls
In general, what we are seeing in this dénouement of the Arab Spring is the rise of constitutionally-based Islamist parties à la Ennahda, and we may as well get used to it, up to and including maintaining diplomatic relations with these parties. Besides the just-concluded elections in Tunisia, there will be the upcoming parliamentary elections in Egypt starting in November, and then the projected elections in Libya, where the Islamist component in the new Libyan regime is significant. There will of course be clashes of culture between secularists and Islamists, and we are already seeing some of this in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Welcome to the new Arab world where democracy and Islam meet.
The day after Tunisia’s elections
(Foreign Policy) Post-election Tunisia faces serious challenges. But the debates, for once, will not take place behind closed doors. They will be in the open, in the press, and on the internet. The process will not be easy, but Sunday’s elections were a pretty good first step on the road toward democracy in Tunisia.
Tunisians have high hopes with first free election
(Foreign Policy) Sunday, Tunisians voted in their first free election since the former French colony achieved independence in 1956. The election will determine a temporary president as well as a 217-member constituent assembly that will serve as the interim governing body tasked with drafting a new constitution. Male and female voters took to the polls in droves, with turnouts estimated at up to 90 percent of registered voters.
Security fears behind Algeria haven for Gaddafi family
(Reuters) – Algeria’s decision to give refuge to members of Muammar Gaddafi’s family is rooted in its leaders’ deep fears that the revolution in neighboring Libya will revive the Islamist violence it has spent years battling.
Algeria’s own experience makes it wary about Islamist violence. A conflict between the government and Islamist militants, which reached its peak in the 1990s, killed an estimated 200,000 people.
The violence has subsided in the past few years through a combination of tough security measures and a program of reconciliation with Islamists who agree to lay down their arms.
Algeria’s security weak spot is the huge expanse of desert and the porous borders in its south. Here, it has relied heavily on cooperation with neighbors, including Libya under Gaddafi.
The past few weeks have seen a resurgence of high-profile suicide attacks in Algeria. Last week 18 people were killed when two bombers targeted a barracks in western Algeria. A bomb attack on a police headquarters in July killed two people, and one on another police target injured 29 people this month.
Algerian security officials believe this could be the result of al Qaeda’s local branch exploiting chaos in Libya to get their hands on weapons, and in particular plastic explosives. (The Economist) An unhappily neutral neighbour – The Maghreb’s sole country to resist reform is rattled by Libya’s revolution
South Sudan counts down to independence
(BBC) The new country will be rich in oil, but it will be one of the least developed countries in the world following the long conflict.
Morocco’s ‘moderate’ Arab Spring only a start: Analysts
(Straits Times) FACED with protests like those that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and have shaken much of the Arab world, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI made an unusual offer: concessions.
And now that voters have massively backed a new constitution curbing his near absolute powers, analysts say the king will need to follow through on promises of democracy to his increasingly demanding people.
‘The constitutional reform is an opening granted by the monarchy, a measured and controlled opening,’ said Khadija Mohsen-Finan, a regional expert at the University of Paris.
‘It may seem enviable in comparison with the rest of the unmoving Arab world, but it is well below the demands of the streets,’ she said. Supporting her statement are the reports from Reuters : Thousands of Moroccans protest, unmoved by reforms and Al Jazeera Morocco protesters reject reform vote — February 20 Movement denounces 98 per cent support for Friday’s referendum as sham
Morocco votes on King Mohammed’s reforms
(BBC) The proposals, put forward by King Mohammed VI, would give the prime minister and parliament more power.
Analysts say that he is widely expected to win the vote, though low turnout could spark demands for bolder changes.
Morocco’s own youth-based February 20 Movement organised weeks of pro-reform demonstrations through websites such as Facebook and YouTube which brought thousands on to the streets. They have urged their supporters to boycott the vote.
G8 urged to speed up North Africa aid
The G8 group of rich nations has come under pressure to spell out details of its $20 billion pledge for nations embroiled in the Arab Spring revolution
(Emerging Markets) Tunisia … yesterday said it welcomed the “good intentions” but insisted it would need a “hefty package”.
The US Treasury declined to discuss detailed timelines but said the G8 and multilateral institutions were engaged in a “very intensive effort” and recognized that the [multilateral] banks had critical work across the whole continent.
“There is no G8 package yet”, finance minister Jalloul Ayed … said much work was needed to firm up the headline $20 billion support promised by the G8 Deauville summit.
China’s changing tone on African investment
In Libya alone, China had to repatriate 36,000 workers at a cost of $3bn, leading to scepticism about risky investments.
(Al Jazeera) … China is evaluating the impact of the Jasmine revolution on its overseas investment and outward business expansion strategy.
Africa – once considered the lab for Chinese companies’ reach outside – is being relegated into a destination with too many risk factors. Safer political destinations and countries closer to home are likely to benefit from the shift.
The readjustment has been in the works for some time but the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have made those subtle shifts more pronounced.
“The political risk aside, investment in Africa is no longer what it used to be,” the Economic Observer quoted an unnamed official from the ministry in May. “Opening a mine there is not so easy any more, now you need to take into account the environment, local employment and benefits to local economy.” – No such inconvenient considerations in Asia?
NORTH AFRICA: Rights of spring
(Emerging Markets) While the people must make up the democratic deficit, governments must fill the financing gap as Arab Spring nations face up to the economic fallout of revolution
Adding to the feel that the Arab Spring is a seminal moment to rival events in Europe after 1989, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has been called upon “to support the transition in countries of the region which embrace multiparty democracy, pluralism and market economies”.
The EBRD will join the IMF, World Bank, European Investment Bank, the African Development Bank and other development agencies in providing multilateral support for the Arab Spring. Gulf investors – including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait – will also play an important role in providing state support and much-needed direct investment flows.
Egypt and Tunisia are for now the focal points for assistance, while Libya remains embroiled in war. Algerians and Moroccans have called for reform – and protests and strikes continue across both countries – but neither country has yet come under intolerable pressure.
Meanwhile in the Maghreb
(Foreign Affairs) North Africa is where the Arab world’s recent political upheaval began and where it has reached its most violent climax. Beyond Tunisia and Libya, how nervous should the ruling regimes in Algeria and Morocco be about their political futures?
(Foreign Affairs) … Algeria, which was governed by a one-party system under military control from independence in 1962 until 1989, now has a multiparty system in which political parties do not matter as much as the military. In Morocco, King Mohammed VI oversees a nominal multiparty system under an absolute monarchy. He appoints key members of the government, including the prime minister, and has the power to dissolve parliament and impose a state of emergency. No one is allowed to criticize him or question his religious leadership as the “commander of the faithful.”
Gadhafi’s dying dream for African unity
(Globe & Mail) … behind the absurd titles, behind the crown and sceptre that were awarded to him by his hand-picked collection of African tribal monarchs, Col. Gadhafi had a profound impact on Africa. And for better or worse, he will leave a vacuum behind him on the African landscape if he is toppled from power in Libya.
West ‘facilitates corruption in Africa’ says top economist
There hasn’t been enough discussion of secret bank accounts as corruption facilitators.
(CNN) — Industrialized countries have been enabling corruption in Africa by providing crooked officials with a haven for their money, according to Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz.
The former World Bank chief economist, one of the few economists to foresee the global financial crisis, was among the speakers at this year’s Global Poverty Summit, held in Johannesburg.
Southern Sudanese claim independence
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Monday his government would accept the final results of a January referendum in southern Sudan that saw voters overwhelmingly endorse independence. Across southern Sudan, 98.83% of voters backed the bid to create a new country come July. American officials indicated the U.S. will recognize southern Sudan as a country and will review Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The New York Times (free registration) (2/7) , AlertNet/Reuters (2/7) , The Toronto Star/The Associated Press (2/7)
African Union concerned over protests
(FT) The spectre of contagion from the north African protests haunts the summit of the 53-member group in Addis Ababa, and has lent an air of urgency to efforts to resolve political upheavals south of the Sahara
Tunisia relatives of ousted president in Montreal: official
However, the federal government quickly made it clear that “deposed members of the former Tunisian regime and their immediate families are not welcome in Canada.”
One of Ben Ali’s many brothers-in-law arrived in Montreal on Friday morning aboard a private jet accompanied by his wife, their children and a governess, the official said
Thousands rally against Tunisia’s new leaders
Thousands rallied in Tunisia on Saturday after the main trade union called for a new government of “national salvation,” as the prime minister promised the first democratic elections since independence.
Survey shows South Sudanese poll tilts for independence
A poll by the Reuters news agency confirms that voters last week overwhelmingly chose independence from the north in at least nine of 10 states in South Sudan. Meanwhile, in the north, protesters were attacked by riot police in Khartoum after demanding the release of opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi, who was detained after called for a popular revolt. AlertNet/Reuters (1/19) , Reuters (1/19)
Dr. Charles Cogan: Facts and Perceptions in Tunisia: Offering Legitimate Technical Assistance (But Not to Put Down a Revolution!)
(HuffPost) … The fact is that the French have been in bed with Ben Ali for a long time. So has the United States. Ben Ali was seen as a bulwark against the spread of Islamism in a society that has a history of being more liberal ideologically and politically than the rest of the Arab world. Ben Ali had a sort of compact with the Tunisian population: he would provide them education and prosperity, but they would not have political expression. What Ben Ali created was an oppressive police state, accompanied by a pervasive and money-grubbing nepotism that had become a target of popular wrath. Ben Ali’s family, and especially the family of his second wife, the former hairdresser Leila Trabelsi, constituted a “quasi-mafia,” in the phrase of a cable from the American Embassy in Tunis, published by WikiLeaks.
Tunisia to form new government
A new unity government was expected to be announced today in Tunisia in a bid to swiftly appease opposition leaders and stabilize the country after clashes between protesters and police. The overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was forced Saturday into exile, has prompted observers to ponder whether such revolution could spread to other autocratic counties in the Arab region. The Wall Street Journal (1/17) , The Washington Post (1/15)
Watching and waiting
(The Economist) THE mood on the streets of Tunis remains uncertain. A day after the president, Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali, fled the country (he is now said to be in Saudi Arabia), Tunisia’s future hangs in the balance. The question now is how far the Jasmine Revolution will go. Apart from Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution in 2005, it is the only successful Arab revolution since the end of the colonial era. For now, power is still very much in the hands of the ancien regime but Tunisians are hoping that their revolution will not stop with the ousting of Mr Ben Ali and the crumbling of his 23-year oppressive reign. They are demanding big changes for Tunisia. But their demands—sorting out unemployment, providing freedom of speech and human rights, bringing real democracy to Tunisia—are tough ones. It is not clear what kind of government will take over from Mr Ben Ali’s nor whether it will be able, or want, to fulfil them.
Power Again Changes Hands in Tunisia as Chaos Remains
Bowing to the continuation of the uprising over night, the prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, ceded authority to the speaker of the Tunisian parliament.
Tunisians drive president from power
(CBC) Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi says he is assuming power after the president of the North African country stepped down following weeks of riots.
Ghannouchi did not mention a coup or the army being in charge, saying only that he was taking over while the president is “temporarily indisposed.”
Tunisia violence mounts, Ben Ali fires government
(Reuters) – Tunisian President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali fired his government and called an early parliamentary election on Friday in an increasingly frantic effort to quell the worst unrest in his two decades in power.
The announcements came as police fired teargas and gunshots rang out to disperse crowds in central Tunis demanding the veteran ruler’s immediate resignation despite his promise on Thursday to step down in 2014.
Sudan referendum likely to redefine Africa’s politics: interview
(Xinhua) — As the southern Sudan referendum enters day two, … Mwambustya Ndebesa, a history lecturer at Uganda’s top university Makerere University, told Xinhua in an interview recently that increased oil interest, Islamic/Christian fundamentalisms, and usage of River Nile waters among other key issues will confront the new state and the continent.
South Sudanese vote for second day
(Al Jazeera) As referendum on whether to split from the north continues, Khartoum ‘pledges’ to assume country’s $38bn foreign debt.
Unrest Spreads to Algeria
CAIRO, Jan 9, 2011 (IPS) – At least three Algerians have died and hundreds have been injured in four days of protests over housing shortages, rising food prices and failing economic policies that only three months ago won praise by the International Monetary Fund and other Western financial institutions.
World envoys are arriving in Sudan for independence vote
Envoys from countries worldwide, some of whom helped broker the peace deal in 2005 that ended a long-running civil war, were arriving in Sudan on the eve of a referendum that is likely to divide the country into two. The government has continued to reject an offer of an additional 2,000 UN troops, saying fears of renewed civil war between the north and south are no longer justified. Google/Agence France-Presse (1/7) , Reuters (1/6)
CANADA WANTS RESUMPTION OF DARFUR NEGOTIATONS
( RCI) Canada has called on the government of Sudan to resume participation in the peace talks for Darfur region that had begun in Doha. Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada is disappointed in the Khartoum government’s decision to withdraw, particularly because it comes just days after the biggest Darfurian rebel movement, the Movement for Justice and Equality, joined the talks. The minister added that Canada is worried by the recent escalation of violence in Darfur both on the part of the Sudanese military and the insurgents. Since 2006, Canada has invested more than $800 million for peace, humanitarian aid and security in Sudan.
Despite gloomy forecasts, Sudan vote could come off without war
Chances are diminishing that a civil war will start anew after the scheduled Jan. 9 referendum on independence for southern Sudan. Neither Islamists in the north, nor former rebels in the south, appear to have the stomach for more war even though the south is likely to split the county in two, and to take most of the country’s oil with it. The New York Times(1/2)