In the wake of the multiple Arab uprisings since the Bouazizi heroic act of self-immolation with fire, the Arab people are enduring insecurity, lack of stability, joblessness, bankruptcy and hard times, rather than basking in democracy and welfare. Many Arabs are even regretting the good old dictatorships that secured them daily bread, safety and stability. In Meidan Tahrir, during the second Egyptian uprising initiated by the military against the then President Morsi and his brotherhood, there were many placards lamenting Mubarak’s reign alongside with his photos in military garb.
Today, the streets of Cairo are unsafe and Alexandria, where religions coexisted peacefully, is no more. In the countryside at nightfall people bolt their doors and hope for the best. Tourism that was until recently one of the biggest money-earning sectors is practically dead and tourist guides are lamenting their bad luck at the gates of Jizzah pyramids saying, “Prosperity is gone with Mubarak, today we hardly survive from money remittances from family expatriates in the Gulf, if something similar happens there, we die.” Egypt, the most important and powerful country of the MENA region is on the brink of disintegration; unless….
In Yemen, insecurity is such that nobody dares to go outside of Sanaa without a Kalachinkov machine gun to defend themselves. People prefer to travel in convoys escorted by the army, since tribal strife is back and is encouraged by the Shia Houthis who thrive in insecurity. The ex-communist South abhors the central government and would not mind breaking away, though they know deep down that it is not feasible in these times.
The homegrown Qaida die-hards are back in service recruiting poor rural Yemenis and brainwashing them for future terrorist attacks, not fearing probable US deadly drone strikes. “Dying in Jihad is an honor and a guarantee to have access to Eden,” they profess in a condescending manner. For them, Islam will prevail and America will collapse and take with it its Arab lackeys. Yemen is poised for deep trouble, unless….
In Syria, Assad was not happy with shooting his people who disagree with him, so he began gassing them, as if to say: “if I have to go to hell, then you go first before me.” The world is watching this drama unfold without being able to punish him because the Russian bear is making frightening groans that scare the West. Assad is very bad news for the country, but so is the opposition that is fragmented. The opposition might lead to the Libyan scenario, after the fall of the dictator. Whatever happens, democracy will not occur tomorrow in this country, unless…
In Libya, the situation is so opaque, that nobody knows what is happening inside. The militias, which the elected government would not or could not disarm, control the country. They are even selling oil to foreign companies without government authorization. The latter even threatened to shoot foreign tankers that engage in such illicit actions, but can they? The answer is no, because they have no means to carry out their threat. Today, Libya is many countries in one, waiting for the propitious time to start a new cycle of violence, unless…
In Algeria, Bouteflika is politically dead and the country is holding its breath. The Generals, de facto power behind the throne, are busy looking for a man to replace him, and that is a difficult task. The country, as of now is calm but anything can occur at any moment. The Algerians are not ready to give up their social peace because of the horrors they endured, both at the hands of the Islamists and the army during the civil war 1990-1998. The government is bribing the people into submission through subsidizing staple foods, medicine, transportation and habitations, but that is not enough, people want democracy and freedom. For now, Algeria has escaped unscathed by the Arab uprising because of strict policing and bribery, but for how long? It could well be that next time around; the fire will not be put down easily, unless…
The monarchies have so far been spared by the tumultuous uprisings but not for long, because Act II of this movement will sweep them out of their feet, unless…
These monarchies divide into two groups:
Traditional monarchies deriving their legitimacy from tribal allegiance; these are Jordan and Morocco; and
Gulf monarchies, which owe their existence and survival to petro-dollars.
Morocco and Jordan have also been swept by uprising fever, but so far they have resisted because they have prompted changes and reforms, though not too far-fetching. The reforms are important and help to restart the incremental political effort leading towards a democratic design.
In the full swing of the Arab uprisings in 2011, Mohammed VI, in a nimble and calculated move, proposed a constitution revamp, ceding some of his powers to the Head of the Government, but retaining enough power to act as a guarantor of national unity and as an arbiter. The credibility capital of this monarch is twofold:
– Historical legitimacy: the Alawite dynasty is four centuries old and the Moroccan monarchical system itself is 14 centuries; and
– He talks little, listens to the people a lot and works hard.
Even when the uprising winds started blowing in the direction of Morocco, and the Mouvement du 20 février took to the streets to denounce corruption, nepotism and power abuse of the officials in the vicinity of the monarch, they did not call for a regime change but just some sort of devolution: they wanted a parliamentary monarchy instead of an executive one.
In spite of the sympathy capital it enjoys, the Moroccan monarchy has to renew itself for the long run; cut on the absurd protocol, reduce the so-called “shadow cabinet” of advisors and curtail their extensive power and make all corrupt officials stand trial, no matter how close they are to the throne, in order to establish universal accountability in the country once for all.
In Jordan, unlike in Morocco, the monarchy is on shaky ground because it lacks historical depth and consequently historical legitimacy. It is true the Jordanians like and respect their monarch but, like Morocco, it has to renew itself at once before it is too late.
The oil monarchies of the Gulf do seemingly enjoy stability and security but that is all artificial. At the height of the Arab uprisings, the governments fearing any form of backlash literally embarked on distributing cash to the population to buy allegiance and time. In the short run this will work, and it did, but in the long run once the money is gone, sentiments will change for sure.
In many Gulf states opposition is not tolerated, criticism is not welcome and feedback is not sought. Women are like furniture, part of the house, they can be moved at will. They are locked in house prisons and when they go out, they are locked in total Hijab prisons. They cannot talk to anyone except their husbands, children and close family. However, it so happens that a lot of women go to the West for education and do get higher degrees to come back and be locked in golden prisons. Some accept this fate others rebel.
In most of these patriarchal and tribal countries, the seemingly modernized population is light years away from modernity. There is tremendous wealth but no accountability whatsoever. There is stability but no freedom. There is powerful government but no checks and balances. There is law and order, but contestation is not allowed. In a word, there is neither freedom of thought, nor freedom of belief, nor freedom of criticism. People have wealth but must lead a regimented life and there is no available alternative.
UNLESS, the Arab world opts for full democracy. Sooner than soon, it will have to face a new wave of uprisings led by the youth, the underprivileged, women and ethnic minorities, but unlike Act I of the uprisings, Act II will be destructive because it will usher in a period of instability and chaos that might last for years if not decades.
Unless the Arab World empowers women, who represent half of the overall population, they will rise and contest the established social order in an unprecedented manner nobody can predict.
Unless the Arab World attends to the immediate needs of the youth, the situation will undoubtedly go bad.
Unless the Arab World fully recognizes the myriad of ethnic groups in its flanks and their cultural and political demands, there could no social peace.
Unless the Arab world shares national wealth equally between its citizens, strife will increase tremendously and might never end.
Unless the Arab World establishes accountability within its governments, national wealth will be wasted forever and ever
The Arab World will have to act fast to change things and earn credibility and legitimacy, otherwise it will, alas, be damned…
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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