7 PM | Arab Spring 2.0 | 30 April, 2019

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News:

Arab Spring 2.0, a new protest plaguing the Middle East.

Arab Springs 2.0

  • Algerians and Sudanese protesters have been taking to public squares calling for the resignation of their long-time presidents.
  • Earlier this month, both Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who had ruled Algeria for 20 years, and Omar al-Bashir, who had been at the helm in Sudan for three decades, quit amid public anger, reviving memories of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings.
  • In Sudan and Algeria, protesters demanding regime change, like their comrades in Egypt and Tunisia did in late 2010 and early 2011.

Unrest in Algeria:

  • Algeria economy is heavily dependent on the hydrocarbon sector, took a hit after the post-2014 commodity meltdown.
  • GDP growth slowed from 4% in 2014 to 1.6% in 2017 and youth unemployment soared to 29%.
  • This economic downturn was happening at a time when Mr. Bouteflika was missing from public engagement citing paralyses attack.
  • Recently, he announced candidacy for this presidential election, seeking another five-year term, which infuriated the public protests spreading across the country with demand of his resignation.

Unrest in Sudan:

  • Bashir and his military ruled the country through fear for three decades.
  • Split of South Sudan in 2011, with three-fourths of the undivided country’s oil reserves, broke the back of the junta.
  • Post-2014, Sudan fell into a deeper crisis, often seeking aid from richer Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and even Qatar, the Saudi bloc’s regional rival.
  • Sudan is also grappling with fuel and cash shortages.
  • Discontent first boiled over in the northeastern city Atbara in mid-December over the rising price of bread, and the protests soon spread into a nationwide movement.
  • Bashir tried everything he could to calm the streets from declaring a state of emergency to sacking his entire cabinet but protesters demanded nothing less than regime change.
  • Finally the army stepped in, removing him from power on April 11.

Where did the Arab Spring spread in past?

  • After Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, killed himself in January 2011, Tunisians took to the streets.
  • Bouazizi had been harassed by police officers who attempted to shut down his business with no recourse, and his suicide by self-immolation galvanized Tunisian protesters.
  • They demonstrated against government corruption and Tunisia’s autocratic president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
  • A month later, after 23 years in power, he fled to Saudi Arabia
  • Soon anti-government demonstrations had erupted in Bahrain, where protesters demanded the release of political prisoners and human rights reforms.

Causes of the Arab Spring:

  • Poverty and Unemployment: For years, many have criticized their governments for doing little to help alleviate high poverty and unemployment. Many of these countries were facing high unemployment rates, and particularly among educated youth populations.
  • Authoritarian Regimes in the Middle East: One common factor in all of the cases is the repressive authoritarian regimes of all of the countries discussed: Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddhafi in Libya, Al Assad in Syria, and Abdullah Saleh in Yemen had all consolidated their political power, limited any opposition voices, and their regimes carried out numerous human rights abuses against their citizens.
  • Frustration With Corruption: Many of the regimes were said to be highly corrupt, either in their political and business deals, or in their acquiring of family wealth. This could be seen in Tunisia, or Libya, for example.
  • Social Media: Many have argued that social media platforms allowed individuals to promote their content (such as political messages), as well as logistics of protests (where they will be held, what time, etc…).
  • Organizational Success of Civil Society: Civil society–and specifically those in organizations–was also very active in these protests. For example the Youth April 6 movement worked to announce protests, increase turnout at events, and were effective with media
  • The Military’s Relationship with Civil Society: military had their own agenda, and their own business interests outside of the state and they allowed the protests to transpire without intervening on behalf of the ruling regime.

Accomplishment of Arab Spring in Past:

  • Since 2011, the goals of many Arab Spring protesters have been denied as autocratic governments regain power and crack down on civil liberties.
  • Nonetheless, the uprisings have shown the power of mass demonstrations and peaceful protest.
  • It has shown the ability of social media to both fuel protest and communicate its goals to the outside world.
  • It showed autocratic governments and the rest of the world that millions of people living in Islamic nations believe in free expression and democratic governance.

Counter-revolutionary forces:

  • The counter-revolutionary forces are so strong that protesters often stop short of achieving their main goal in these countries.
  • People manage to get rid of the dictators, but the system those dictators built survives somehow, and sometimes in a moral brutal fashion.
  • There are two main counter-revolutionary forces in these countries.
  • System of Monarchy or the Army: They main guardians of the old system.
    • Tunisia is the only country where the revolutionaries outwitted the counter-revolutionaries.
    • In Egypt, the army made a comeback and further tightened its grip on the state and society through violence and repression.
    • In Jordan, the monarch always acts as a bulwark against revolutionary tendencies.
  • Geopolitical actors:
    • In Libya, the foreign intervention removed Muammar Qaddafi, but the war destroyed the Libyan state and institutions, leaving the country in the hands of competing militias.
    • In Syria, with foreign intervention, the protests first turned into an armed civil war and then the country itself became a theatre of wars for global players.
    • In Yemen, protests turned into a sectarian civil conflict, with foreign powers taking different sides.
    • In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia made a direct military intervention, on behalf of its rulers, to violently end the protests in Manama’s Pearl Square.
    • The same could happen in Algeria and Sudan as well.

Conclusion:

  • In Algeria and Sudan the army let the Presidents fall, but retained its grip on power, despite pressure from protesters and this is the challenge before the Arab protesters. While protesters keep rising up against the system, they are constantly being pushed back by the counter-revolutionaries.
  • The Algerian and Sudanese people, however, have the benefit of having seen the uprisings in Egypt and Libya play out. They’ve learned not to trust mere symbolic change, and are calling for nothing less than genuine reforms.
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