Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hoping for an Arab Summer: The Need for Democracy Building in North Africa

The world community applauded when popular uprisings throughout North Africa resulted in overthrows of long-standing dictators. As a consequence of the so-called Arab Spring, Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya, managed to rid themselves of Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi and to position themselves for a transition to democracy. Alas, democracy seems to have bypassed this region of the world. In Tunisia, right wing political parties emerged and seem to be winning more and more popular ground (click here for the story: It is questionable whether Islamist victory in Tunisian elections would be compatible with true democracy, allowing for freedom of speech and racial and gender equality. In Egypt, human rights activists who were instrumental in bringing down Mubarak now face detention and the threat of torture at the hands of the new government's authorities. Allegations surfaced that a prominent activist was recently tortured to death while in official state custody (click here for the story:, while another human rights crusader was recently detained at one of the most notorious Cairo prisons. By all accounts, the current Egyptian government consists of the same military leaders who supported Mubarak, and cynics have opined that the military took advantage of the Arab Spring to oust Mubarak and reclaim all the power for itself. Thus, any prospect of a true democracy seems far-fetched in Egypt today. In Libya, UN Security Council authorized a military intervention to protect civilians against Gaddafi's forces; such intervention resulted in the ousting, and ultimately, capture and death of Gaddafi. Now, rivalries rage among fighting regional militias, all vowing for a prominent position in the new Libyan government (click here for the story: Once again, it is uncertain whether democracy will prevail.
Such unfortunate developments in North Africa highlight the need for further democracy building. The world powers cannot stop at military intervention; rather, they should invest brain power and resources in the rebuilding of democracy post-Arab Spring revolutions. As we all know, revolutions may result in the creation of new, even more troubling regimes, and Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi could be quickly replaced by rogue leaders of the same caliber and propensity toward dictatorship. In order to prevent this outcome and to foster stability in North Africa, world super powers should participate enthusiastically in the reshaping of a new democratic Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. If world powers embrace this role, we may experience an Arab Summer: a prospering of democracy in these post-revolution societies.

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