February 1, 2010 – Dictators copy each other’s playbooks. When the revolution caught him off-guard, the late Ben Ali of Tunisia dissolved his cabinet and promised swift reforms. But Tunisians were not amused and wanted a simple solution: his ouster.
As protests continue in Cairo, with two million people descending on Tahrir square on February 1, 2011 alone, Mubarak has frantically sworn in a new cabinet and promised more “swift” reforms. Egyptians want nothing short of his departure – Go Mubarak, Leave Now, the protesters chanted.
As if he was deaf to their fervent calls for him to simply quit, today he announced that “he would not run for president again on the next election due in September,” which is too little too late. A few weeks ago this would have sufficed. Moreover, a new election under the same rules, which favored Mubarak and ensured his party’s victory without having to compete, would simply reproduce the continuation of the old regime.
Meanwhile, western countries are scrambling to airlift their citizens, much the same way they did in Rwanda. Uncertain about what the future holds for the aid-darling Mubarak, the United States is carefully treading the water. Reportedly reviewing the U.S. aid to Egypt, the Obama administration insists on urging Mubarak for real reforms. As the going got tough, Obama went as far as hinting to the dictator to call it quits but it is yet to be seen how far the U.S. would go to facilitate Mubarak’s exit before the economy tanks and the country slides into an uncharted and uncertain territory. The European Union is echoing a different tone with concerns over Egypt slipping into the hands of extremists.
Nonetheless, the will of the people is proving more powerful than not just the writ of a dictator but also the geopolitical realities of our time. The events in Tunisia and now in Egypt are having serious ripple effects throughout the Middle East and Africa. Sporadic protests have erupted in Yemen, Jordan, Sudan and other places in the region. But reportedly, in every corner where a dictator clings to power using brute force, situations are tense and the people’s spirit is high.
Sources from Ethiopia, where tyranny has ruled for a quarter of a century, paint a picture of a revolution ready to explode. Amid high inflation, massive unemployment, a failed price-cap attempt, and a growing discontent with the regime’s deafening development propaganda, there is an unspoken acknowledgement: the people of Ethiopia have had enough.
In a tale of perhaps many more defections to come, the chairman of EPRDF’s youth wing has reportedly defected to Germany. Following the news of the defection, the youth committee in the country has dissociated itself from the regime. According to our sources, in what seems to be a show of force, in various towns around the country, snipers are placed at key spots and there is an increased surveillance. In other instances, armored vehicles and tanks were driven around towns.
News Update : In an unconfirmed report, today (February 2nd, 2011) a sizable number of people consisting mostly of youth have turned up in Adama town, Oromia region. An informat through facebook wrote,
There is a high tension here in Addis. Apart from too many meetings (daily), the government doesn't seem to know what it is doing. This morning, about 300 youth were gathered in Adama to protest but were quickly overwhelemed and dispersed by police.
Officials in the country, even at local administration level, are scared of a sudden eruption of protest. Leaders were briefed to stay vigilant as the whole country is clearly agitated by economic woes and growing repression.
Social media has played significant roles in Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. In Ethiopia, where communication is strictly a government monopoly, users are reporting a slower connection through text messages, IM, Twitter and Facebook. Telephone service is increasingly unreliable. Meles Zenawi’s regime could preemptively be preparing to pull the plug on activists who may use those mediums to exchange information.
In Egypt, a day after the peaceful two million people march, violence has erupted. Plain-clothed security, disguised as Mubarak supporters (referred to as pro-government protesters), are unleashing violence against peaceful anti-government protesters. The Huffington Post has upto the minute updates – here or follow the events on AlJazeera English – here.
When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right - Victor Hugo.