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Arab World In Revolt

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Peter Clifford

21/2/11 Peter Clifford –

www.petercliffordonline.com:

ARAB WORLD IN REVOLT

I was going to write my next post on something completely different from politics but the pro-democracy protests across the muslim world have continued to dominate the headlines and I feel compelled to comment further on what looks like (potentially) the most significant and powerful revolutionary movement seen in decades.

Firstly, congratulations to the people of Egypt, who not only got rid of Mubarak but succeeded in what has been, so far, a relatively peaceful transition towards democracy, with minimal deaths and injuries (though no less painful for the families and friends involved).

Whether the full transition to free and fair parliamentary elections and a true democracy with an independent judiciary, police and army continues, remains to be seen.

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Egyptian Army Helped - AP via BBC

At the moment, the government of Egypt is in the hands of an army council, who to their credit enabled the revolution by refusing to be heavyhanded with protesters. However, governing army generals have a habit of developing a thirst for power, once tasted, and frequently annoint one of their number as the next president. Let’s hope better sense and justice prevails in Cairo.

Another interesting sideline to the Egyptian revolution is that the London Telegraph reports that the Mubarak family spent the 18 days preceding the President’s resignation moving vast amounts of money around the world and into safer havens where they continue to have access. Estimates vary from $7 billion to £70 billion.

Even if its the lower figure, this is an obscene amount of money to be accumulated by one family and undoubtedly obtained through corruption and the misuse of power. I hope that the new Egptian authorities go to great lengths to recover it and return it to where it belongs – in the service of widespread social welfare and reform in a country that badly needs it.

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Bahrain Pearl Square - AFP

In my previous article on these extraordinary events (Democracy On The March) I asked the question – where next? Almost everywhere across North Africa and the Middle East and even further afield to East Africa and China, it appears that people are taking up the flame of courage from those in Tunisia and Egypt and carrying it forward, realising, perhaps for the first time, that there is enormous power in the scaling up of numbers.

Vast hordes of angry citizens, even if unarmed, terrify suppressive authorities it seems.   And rightly so.  The moment you suppress anyone you create the seed of anger and resistance that given the right nutrients will grow and expand into an unstoppable force, in the same way that fragile plants force themselves millisecond by millisecond, relentlessly, through concrete.

Clearly the most significant “nutrient” in the current political “soup” is the widespread use and access to, the Internet and the mobile phone network. The more these come into common usage and integrate themselves, one system with another, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, the Web itself, smartphones etc, the more difficult it becomes for repressive governments to control the information coming into and going out of their countries.

This is as it should be. The whole point of democratic systems is the protection of the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression and free access to information.

It is the young everywhere which have realised the potential and taken rapidly to the advantages of mobile communication. You may not have a job or much of a future under the prevailing system, but if you can talk to thousands of people about it there is the opportunity for creative change. The older generations, including myself, have been slow to realise this.

Watching celebrities making fatuous remarks on Twitter seemed like a huge waste of everyone’s time to me. Using Twitter to rapidly promote interest in this blog has been far more interesting and effective.

Clearly, it is how you use modern technology that makes a difference. The fact that in Libya for example the median age is 24.2 and the literacy rate is 88% adds power to the process.

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Protestors in Libya - Yahoo.com

Unsurprisingly, this electronic freedom to communicate scares repressive authorities half to death. Egypt tried shutting down the Internet, but then discovered it shut down business as well. Colonel Gaddafi in Libya is trying the same thing, in a country notorious for its lack of access to independent reporting.

Yesterday, the Chinese President Hu Jintao called for “stricter government management of the internet”. China’s Twitter website equivalent,”Weibo”, run by Sina.com, blocked discussion of Egypt and over the weekend, message chains using the Chinese word for “Jasmine” – as in the Jasmine Revolutions in the Middle East – were blocked as well.

This will not do gentlemen, the seeds against repression have already germinated and are growing fast.

If you would like to support freedom of communication in the circumstances described above, link with AVAAZ in their latest campaign to supply independent broadcasting equipment to pro-democracy groups worldwide ( I have supported previous AVAAZ campaigns on saving Sakineh Mohammedi Astiani from death by stoning and helping to bring about democratic change in the Ivory Coast)

Meanwhile, protests continue in Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya, in Algeria, in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Syria,Yemen, Iran, China and the former French colony of Djibouti, just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.  Former President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union has even suggested it could happen there.

There have also been further deaths and demonstrations in the Ivory Coast where the losing presidential candidate Laurent Gbagbo refuses to stand down after three months.

Interesting times, which I will continue to watch closely. Particularly as it all may have significant messages for Western governments as well.

*********************

GUA AFRICA:

My support of Emmanuel Jal’s charity Gua Africa continues throughout February and by using any of my Amazon links I will ensure that 10% of any commission I earn goes to support Emmauel’s work with the child victims of war (your Amazon prices remain as normal). Thank you to all of you who have supported us so far.

Incidentally, southern Sudan which is where Emmanual Jal originates from (see previous posts South Sudan Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) has decided simply on the name South Sudan when it moves to full independence on July 9th, following on from the referendum last month.

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South Sudan Flag - BBC

The road to freedom is still not without serious problems as 200 people were killed this month in an attack by rebel leader George Athor in Jonglei State.  Hopefully, peaceful solutions can still be found to end Athor’s conflict with the government.

Until the next time,

www.petercliffordonline.com

 

Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com

TO HAVE YOUR SAY SCROLL DOWN & CLICK ON ” COMMENT” IN THE GREY PANEL

If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – http://bit.ly/petercliff – onto your friends.

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2

Democracy On The March l Gua Africa

www.petercliffordonline.com/democracy

Peter Clifford

8/2 /11 Peter Clifford –

www.petercliffordonline.com:

DEMOCRACY ON THE MARCH L  l  GUA AFRICA

Democracy On The March:

First Tunisia, then Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and also Sudan. Democracy is definitely on the march.  The big question is where next? If democracy has legs then Algeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, some other Middle East states and also China are lying in its path.

Democracy is not a perfect system, as all of us who live in one know full well.  But combined with an independent judiciary, police force and army, we know that to a very large degree we have freedom of self expression, including the right to criticise the government of the day and to peacefully demonstrate and campaign against things we don’t like.

We also know that we can do that without fear of reprisals, arrest, imprisonment or torture and furthermore, if we do fall foul of the law, by and large, the legal system will usually be fair.  And if we feel it isn’t, we can freely campaign to get an appeal and a review of our case.

Tahrir Sq. Cairo

Lastly, and very importantly, we also know that our democratic voting system (whichever one we choose) works sufficiently well and accurately enough so that governments the majority don’t like can be removed and replaced by a democratic opposition in an orderly way. We also know that the opportunity to vote will occur on a regular basis and be largely free of corruption and manipulation.

Frankly, all the above, that most of us living in a democracy normally take for granted, are unknown luxuries in the countries mentioned at the beginning of this article – and clearly it is time that things changed.

It seems absurd to me that any ruler, president, prime minister or king (apart from in true constitutional monarchies where the royals have no law making powers) should be allowed to rule for 30 years or more.

Eight or ten years maximum is more than enough before cosy cronyism and corruption  sets in and the ruler, whoever they are, is surrounded by sycophantic appointees and supporters who will do anything to maintain the status quo and their well heeled and privileged lifestyles.

In a democracy you can get rid of people like that. In a dictatorship, oligarchy or some medieval fiefdom run by self – selected royals – you can’t.  They surround themselves with repressive soldiers, police and laws and rule by fear, corruption and control – all to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

What we in democracies forget is that our countries also went through a similar stage of evolution to the ones we are seeing now in Africa and the Middle East.

Europe during the Middle Ages was a mess of city states, fiefdoms and warring factions that cared little for the rights of individuals and antagonism remained between nationalist “tribes” and nations right up until the end of the second world war.

America broke away from English rule and then went through its own civil war before black slaves were freed and gradually allowed to assert their right to be equal to everyone else.

American Civil War - soldierstudies.org

What we are now seeing in other parts of the world is part of this evolutionary process and I hope that it will continue with as little bloodshed as possible. And then hopefully all individuals in those nations will become free to speak as they chose, vote as they chose and live as they chose.

More than this, as I intimated in my very first blog on this site, I  hope these revolutions allow women to take their full and equal place in these societies as they do in ours.  Without this those revolutions remain incomplete and ineffective.

And watch out China (which blocked mention of Egypt last week on its own version of Twitter, called Sina) and all those other states mentioned earlier, especially Saudi Arabia – your days of complete and utter control of both women and your society in general by a small number of self -chosen fat cats are truly numbered – at least I hope so!

GAU AFRICA:

My support of Emmanuel Jal’s charity Gua Africa continues throughout February and by using any of my Amazon links I will ensure that 10% of any commission I earn goes to support Emmauel’s work with the child victims of war (your Amazon prices remain as normal).

Emmanuel has also highlighted on his Facebook page, the demonstrations on January 30th in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, which have largely gone unreported by the world’s media.

According to information that has leaked out up to 70 people were arrested and 20 are still being held at the headquarters of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) (probably the same place I briefly visited 30 years ago – See Part 3 of my Juba prison story) and in danger of being tortured.

Prisoners in Sudan

Imprisoned in Khartoum

These are mainly, though not all, Arab young men, citizens of North Sudan and many were injured before being arrested and at least one has reportedly died since. You can read more of their story at: Free Sudanese Protesters Now (scroll down for the English version).

Clearly North Sudan still has some way to go before it truly embraces freedom and democracy.

Meanwhile, it is good to report (and following on from previous blog posts on southern Sudan (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 ) that it was announced yesterday that the South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly, almost 98.83%, for independence and secession from the North.  President Omar Al – Bashir of Sudan has again confirmed his agreement on behalf of the North to this division.

Good luck to South Sudan on its journey to freedom and lets hope its new government implements democracy and equality from the start and quickly resolves the outstanding issues with the North.

Emmanuel Jal was in Hong Kong recently and talked more at the MAD (Make A Difference) Conference about his extraordinary life as an escaping boy soldier and his rescue by British aid worker Emma McCune .

You can hear all this on the video clip below and hear him sing the song he wrote and dedicated to Emma who was tragically killed in a car crash shortly after she got him to safety in Kenya. MAD is an organisation of young people in Asia that have come together to bring about and support constructive change around the world.

I have to say I am now a fan of Emmanuel’s music – though many of the Chinese in the video below still look rather bemused!  I don’t think some of them knew what to make of it at all!


And lastly, next time it snows, forget about snowmen – try SnowArt instead!

Until the next time,

Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com

TO HAVE YOUR SAY SCROLL DOWN & CLICK ON ” COMMENT” IN THE GREY PANEL

If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – http://bit.ly/petercliff – onto your friends.

Lastly, don’t forget to sign up (Top Right) for my mailing list for future information, advice, tips and reviews – for a limited time only there is a FREE copy of my 40 page ebook on “Love Relationships – The 10 Step Guide” which I have written especially for this website.



 

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