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Published:May 28th, 2011 17:17 EST
Lessons From The Arab Spring: Change Comes to Tunisia and Beyond

Lessons From The Arab Spring: Change Comes to Tunisia and Beyond

By Gabriel G. Tabarani

Since February 2011, following the uprising in Tunisia, the populations of many countries in the Middle East and North Africa have successively made the headlines by taking part in revolts and popular demonstrations against their corrupt ruling regimes.

To a careful observer, there is no doubt that a common scenario has been repeated in each of these countries. During their time in power, the leaders of these states attracted and gathered around them a circle of privileged individuals or groups to which they delegated important powers, and their associated trappings. In return, these leaders demanded their protégés` blind submission, creating a quasi-dictatorial regime and the necessary internal security structures to ensure unwavering support.

These privileged few, in turn, exercised strict control over the population to keep the masses in ignorance and to prevent protest. Fearing for their privileges, they fought a constant battle against transparency and direct citizen participation in governance. This, with the aim of hiding what was going on behind the government`s closed doors.

The Tunisian and Egyptian masses have finally rid themselves of their "tyrants." However, serious doubts remain about the possibility of a definitive purification of local government and the departure of former entourages from power.

In some countries, the revolution has already begun, with varying chances of success. In other countries, negotiations are underway between the rulers and the ruled to institute some mitigating reforms. In all countries, the following questions will be asked of those who manage to take power from, or to share power with, leaders currently in place.

1. What system should be used to ensure the fair distribution of state resources through the entire population going forwards?

2. Should the administrations and experts who had been set up by the "tyrants" be replaced; and how should this be carried out?

3. How to ensure that the management of the state will be rational, efficient and above all fair, and that it will ensure sustainable development in the country?

In fact, as mentioned by a Tunisian professor at a conference on this subject a couple of weeks ago, the young revolutionaries in Tunisia need (to begin with) to deal with the same players who held centre stage during the successive terms of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. It is logistically impossible to replace at short notice, technicians, experts, officials and political professionals who have to their credit many years of experience in their respective fields.

To prevent the fruits of the revolution from be monopolized again and diverted to a new ruling clique that merely displaces its predecessors, it would require that in each country revolutionary committees be formed to establish new priorities that are fairer for all. I refer in particular to the case of Libya which is currently experiencing the darkest period in its history.

This would include the creation of a new development plan from which a new system of governance, with the necessary checks and balances would be introduced and applied. Citizens should reserve the right to monitor their governments to ensure that all the objectives of the revolution are achieved. For this purpose, it would be important to make use of three key elements: transparency, planning and participation.

Transparency is a term that is easily understood, though its implementation has generally proved to be "mission impossible" to date in the Middle East and North African countries.

Planning is essential to developing a program tailored to each nation`s particular circumstances as so to develop and sustain its economy while ensuring the welfare of its people.

Participation; it implies the association of the people in the governance of the country. The success of such an enterprise is essential to prevent a return of the old tyrants or the emergence of new dictators. This participation should enable the people to join in the creation of plans, determination of national objectives and in monitoring the implementation of reforms envisaged in these plans.

Gabriel G Tabarani is a journalist and author of several books on Middle East affairs the latest is JIHAD`S NEW HEARTLANDS: Why The West Has Failed To Contain Islamic Fundamentalism (May 2011).


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