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Lost in Translation: The African Spring

Updated on March 19, 2017

Introduction

Whenever the phrase "Arab Spring" is used, what comes to mind is a wave of demonstrations, civil disobedience, civil resistance and uprisings that swept the Arab world between 2010 and 2012. The uprisings were sparked off by the self-immolation of a 26-year Tunisian young man in front of the municipal council building. The young man set himself ablaze out of anger and frustration because police had beaten him earlier that day and confiscated his cart for not paying the required permit for operating it. Although the police action toward the young man could have sparked off the demonstrations, it is believed that the general public's deep-seated frustrations and anger due to police corruption, high unemployment, lack of political freedom, lack of respect for human rights and poor living conditions could have been at the center of the uprisings. Eventually, the demonstrations spread to Egypt, Libya, and throughout the Arab countries of Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria.

Lost in Translation

While the Arabic language and Islam predominantly constitute Tunisia's culture and could have contributed to the naming of the uprising the “Arab Spring,” it is curious that the uprisings were not called the "African Spring" since they originated in Tunisia, and Tunisia is located in North Africa. What is lost in translation is the fact that, the only three countries that saw legitimate regime changes were African countries—Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. In Tunisia, the Arab spring lead to the forced resignation of President Ben Ali and Prime minister Ghanouchi; termination of the political police;cessation of the RCD, the former ruling party of Tunisia and liquidation of its assets; release of political prisoners; elections to the constituent assembly; and dialogue for new transitional government. In Egypt, the Arab Spring led to the forced resignation of Hosni Mubarak who had ruled Egypt for over three decades. Mubarak was later arrested, tried and imprisoned for life. The uprisings also led to the resignation of ministers Nazif and Shafik; assumption of power by the armed forces; suspension of the constitution and dissolution of the parliament; demobilization of state security investigation service; dissolution of the NDP, the former running party of Egypt and the transfer of its assets to the state; arrest of corrupt ministers; lifting of the 31-year-old state of emergency; and the holding of democratic elections. In Libya, the Arab Spring led to the overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi and the assumption of control by the national transitional council.

Arab Spring

Ironically, the Arab spring failed to achieve regime changes in the Arab world. The major Arab countries that witnessed the spread of the Arab spring included Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria. In Yemen, the uprisings forced President Ali Abdulla Saleh to hand over power to the national unity government, however, he was not brought to justice for the mismanagement of the country during his 32-year rule. As a matter of fact, he still exerts a considerable amount of political influence in his country and is believed to be behind the rebel activities of Houthi forces. In Bahrain, the civil uprisings were met with harsh government response with the help of Saud Arabia's defense forces. In Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the king is the symbol of authority and sporadic demonstrations were not intended to overthrow their kings. In Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world, civil disobedience was met with the barbaric military response that witnessed mass killings and the largest disastrous refugee crisis in the world.

Consequences of the Africa-Arab Spring

The Arab Spring led to an overwhelming death toll in north Africa and elsewhere in the Arab world.Yemen recorded 250 deaths; Bahrain, 100; Libya 30, 000; Egypt, 900; and Tunisia, 300. These are the death toll numbers that were reported immediately in the aftermath of the Arab Spring; however, the death toll has gone up significantly over the years. The overthrow of Hosni Mubarak robed Saudi Arabia of its strong ally and diminished its standing in the Middle East and the world. The Arab spring led to the spread of terror activities across the Middle East and some parts of Africa due to the release of jihadists and terrorists from Arab prisons who later become terror operatives. This led to rampant abductions, mutilations and suicide attacks on many government institutions and on innocent civilians. The uprisings also led to economic consequences in terms of reduced oil production for the oil-producing Arab countries because of political violence and political instability.

Conclusion

While Islam and the Arabic language were unifying factors in the Arab Spring of 2011, it is important to note that the uprisings originated in Africa and the only three African countries--Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia--were the ones that witnessed legitimate regime changes: Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, arrested and imprisoned for life; Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed; Beni Ali in Tunisia was forced to resign and hand over power to the transitional government. The uprisings led to disastrous consequences. The release of jihadists and terrorists from Arab prisons created a strong force of terrorism operatives in the Arab world.The uprisings also led to the disastrous refugee crisis in Africa and in the Middle East.

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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 4 months ago from Auburn, WA

      You bring up a very important point about how we deal with North Africa. Reporters almost never use the term "Africa" or "African" when talking about the North. It's always part of the "Arab world," even though the only unifying factors are religion and language. The people of Morocco are vastly different ethnically and culturally from those in Iraq and Syria.

      Another interesting hub. Good job.