The Rebirth of Democracy in Tunisia
Previously published on Jan 26, 2011
Democracy is a slow, ongoing process that is often quickly exhausted. The Peoples of the Middle East and Africa have struggled to both define and institute their own unique brands of democracy. In recent years, the West has watched upheavals in places like Iran go unheeded while seeding democratic reform once again in countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. On the other hand, images of security forces embracing peaceful protestors in Tunisia, after the resignation of their long-time leader in the wake of populous pressure in response to the murders of protesters by police officers, were quite heartening. With the dictatorship bowing to political pressure, we may have witnessed the exact conception of a government for the People by the People.
The early part of 2011 was marked by the collapse of the Lebanese governing coalition, the continued standoff by former President Laurent Gbago of the Ivory Coast, violence against protesters in Algeria, and the split of Sudan. Although these events and more point to greater instability for this region in the near future, Africa is no stranger to strife while the last couple of decades have brought about great change. There is much poverty, as well as plenty of flashpoints that could easily rip countries all over the continent apart, yet Africa continues to slowly recover from its long history of European colonization and exploitation. One major sign of progress is greater cohesion as seen by several African nations interceding in the Ivory Coast to prevent civil war from breaking out over the disputed election results.
In the Middle East, the spreading threat of globalized terrorists groups like Al Qaeda has both been a rallying point for Islamic Extremists across the Arab world, which under normal circumstances would have never networked due to cultural differences, and, in a positive development, created a need for greater unity in divided Arab communities. As the Middle East struggles to reconcile their strong cultural identities with a global community primarily rooted in Western principles based on secularism, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra, Iran, Yemen, and others are only a few likely sources of conflict. With the International Community's support continual, albeit seriously fluctuating based on conditions, progress must be measured by sustained peace in specific areas and the Middle East's growing role in world affairs.
Caught between these two often contentious worlds are countries such as Tunisia. It must have been very tempting for the leadership of this country to ignore the call of its People and serve as another provocateur of mass violence. In the wake of violence against protesters by the police, far more explosive riots would been expected, followed with a significantly more violent crackdown by the dictatorship, though military support was unlikely as they are the People, while extremists could have easily stepped in to lead a bloody revolution. Instead, citizens united to show a fairly peaceful front unwilling to accept anything less than democratic representation through free elections. Only after the dictator left and the transitional government failed to cave in to every demand of protesters did violence result in more deaths, yet violence has overall taken a backseat
Democracy may bloom in Tunisia in the coming months or it might not last longer than its next election, yet its People have achieved a very real victory. Democracies can come in many different forms and exist under any number of scenarios while there are a fair share of democracies that collapse or never fully mature. This is why democracy is an ongoing struggle to maintain the rights of the People. It is also why any step forward in creating government based on a political process, instead of violent retaliation, is a win. Consequently, the International Community should be heartened by recent events in this North African country. Despite any fidelity owed to non-democratic leaders of the region for the sake of stability, we must also do everything possible to support the People of Tunisia in their pursuit of freedom.