Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Where did all the Zimbabwean man go?

31 Dec 2018 at 19:00hrs | Views
If Zimbabweans were serious about changing their lot, they could borrow a page from the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia (December 17 - January 14, 2011). In 2010, Tunisia's experienced high unemployment rate, particularity among the educated youth. Consequently, growing youth unemployment, corruption and political repression led to the Arab Spring and the fall of the regime.

The revolution was sparked by Mohamed Bouazizi, who was trying to earn a living by selling fruits and vegetables. He set himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid on December 17, 2010, after his goods were confiscated by the police. What followed were outbursts of rage, and demonstrations across Tunisia. The protests reached the capital of Tunis on December 27 with about 1,000 citizens expressing solidarity with the residents of Sidi Bouzid and calling for jobs. The rally, which was called by independent trade union activists, was stopped by security forces, but the protests spread further. The following day, the Tunisian Federation of Labor Unions held another rally in Gafsa that was also blocked by security forces. At the same time, other groups started to join the protests. About 300 lawyers held a rally near the government's palace in Tunis.

The police broke up a protest in Monastir peacefully but used force to disrupt further demonstrations in Sbikha and Chebba. However, the momentum continued with more protests on December 31 and further demonstrations. The tempo changed with public gatherings by lawyers in Tunis and other cities following a call by the Tunisian National Lawyers Order. Mokhtar Trifi, president of the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), said that lawyers across Tunisia had been "savagely beaten."

The original protests were over jobs, economic malaise and social despair. The brutal police crackdown resulting deaths enraged and galvanized more people to join the protests. Demonstrators began fighting the police in pitched battles. A police station was torched, forcing Ben Ali to withdraw the police.

On January 5, Mohamed Bouazizi, who launched the uprising by setting himself ablaze, died in hospital and his funeral in his hometown of Sidi Bouzid became a rallying cry. The next day, the Tunisian Bar Association staged a general strike in protest over attacks by security forces against its members. Reports suggested that 95 per cent of Tunisia's 8,000 lawyers took part, demanding an end to police brutality against peaceful protesters. The chairman of the national bar association said, "The strike carries a clear message that we do not accept unjustified attacks on lawyers. We want to strongly protest against the beating of lawyers in the past few days." Teachers also joined the strike in solidarity. Ben Ali tried some Machiavellian moves to no avail:

He made concessions and promised political reform, vowed to seek re-election, and offer cash bribes, sacked the interior minister, ordered all detainees released, promised to create 300,000 jobs, raised salaries for the army, and denied that he was planning to install his son-in-law as his successor.

He lashed out at street demonstrators, accused them of being extremists, mercenaries, and agents of the CIA, Mossad, and even Al Qaeda (as Qaddafi claimed); brutally clamp down with tanks, jet fighters (as Mubarak did), and live ammunition; and arrest opposition leaders and scores of protesters.

Switzerland froze the accounts of Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Qaddafi. Ben Ali was laughed off, however, and the protests continued to spread across the country despite a curfew and brutal crackdown that left over 50 people dead. A distraught Ben Ali tried to mollify the protestors with a promise of fresh elections to replace him in six months.

No deal. Divisions had already appeared within his own administration and the security forces. There were signs that the army and the military sympathized with the protesters. "Witnesses in at least two towns said that police had vanished, while opposition activists had said senior army chiefs were refusing to fire on protesters."

On January 14, Ben Ali imposed a state of emergency and sacked his government amid violent clashes between protesters and security forces. Gatherings of more than three people were banned and he promised fresh legislative elections within six months in an attempt to quell mass unrest. However, it was too late. That night, the army had seized control of Tunisia's main airport and closed the country's airspace. Though members of his extended family were reportedly arrested, Ben Ali managed to flee the country. It was reported that he first headed to France but after being denied entry, changed course to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi took over briefly as acting president.

On January 15, Tunisian state TV announced that Ben Ali had officially resigned his position and that Ghannouchi had handed over power to parliamentary speaker Fouad Mebazaa. The Jasmine Revolution, which claimed over 70 lives, had an electrifying effect all over Africa and the Arab world. It inspired street protests against aging autocrats in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

To understand our pathetic situation, replace Tunisia with Zimbabwe!

Source - Sam Wezhira
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.