As the name goes, The Arab Spring is a name given to the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on 18 December 2010. Also known as the the Arab Revolutions (Arabic: الثورات العربية, al-Thawrāt al-ʻArabiyyah) or Arab Intifada. The term Arab Spring was first coined in the American political journal Foreign Policy. Joseph Massad, writing in al-Jazeera, said the term was not simply an arbitrary or even seasonal choice of nomenclature, but rather part of a US strategy of controlling the movements aims and goals.
Till date, rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen; civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and Syria; major protests have broken out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan; and minor protests have occurred in Lebanon, Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, and Western Sahara, as well as clashes at the borders of Israel in May 2011. In neighboring Iran, protests by the Arab minority in Khuzestan erupted in 2011 as well. Weapons and Tuareg fighters returning from the Libyan civil war stoked a simmering rebellion in Mali, and the consequent Malian coup d’état has been described as “fallout” from the Arab Spring in North Africa. The sectarian clashes in Lebanon were described as a spillover violence of the Syrian uprising and hence the regional Arab Spring.
The series of protests and demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa has become known as the “Arab Spring”,and sometimes as the “Arab Spring and Winter”, “Arab Awakening” or “Arab Uprisings” even though not all the participants in the protests are Arab. It was sparked by the first protests that occurred in Tunisia on 18 December 2010 in Sidi Bouzid, following Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in protest of police corruption and ill treatment. With the success of the protests in Tunisia, a wave of unrest sparked by the Tunisian “Burning Man” struck Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen, then spread to other countries. The largest, most organised demonstrations have often occurred on a “day of rage”, usually Friday afternoon prayers. The protests have also triggered similar unrest outside the region.
As of February 2012, governments have been overthrown in four countries. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January 2011 following the Tunisian revolution protests. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February 2011 after 18 days of massive protests, ending his 30-year presidency. The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown on 23 August 2011, after the National Transitional Council (NTC) took control of Bab al-Azizia. He was killed on 20 October 2011, in his hometown of Sirte after the NTC took control of the city. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed the GCC power-transfer deal in which a presidential election was held, resulting in his successor Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi formally replacing him as the president of Yemen on 27 February 2012, in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
During this period of regional unrest, several leaders announced their intentions to step down at the end of their current terms. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015, as did Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose term ends in 2014, although there have been increasingly violent demonstrations demanding his immediate resignation. Protests in Jordan have also caused the sacking of two successive governments by King Abdullah.
The geopolitical implications of the protests have drawn global attention, including the suggestion that some protesters may be nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Tawakel Karman from Yemen was one of the three laureates of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize as a prominent leader in the Arab Spring. In December 2011, Time magazine named “The Protester” its “Person of the Year”. Another award was noted when the Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda won the 2011 World Press Photo award for his image of a Yemeni woman holding an injured family member, taken during the civil uprising in Yemen on 15 October 2011.
Various factors have led to the protests, including issues such as dictatorial regime or absolute monarchy,violations of human rights, corrupt government (demonstrated by Wikileaks diplomatic cables), economic declination, high rate of unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors, such as a large percentage of dissatisfied educational youths within the population. Also, some, like Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek attribute the 2009 Iranian protests as one of the reasons behind the Arab Spring. The 2010 Kyrgyzstani revolution might also have been one of the factors, which influenced the beginning of the Arab Spring. The catalysts for the revolts in all Northern African and Persian Gulf countries have been the concentration of wealth in the hands of autocrats in power for decades, lack of transparency of its redistribution, corruption, and especially the refusal of the youth to accept the status quo. Increasing food prices and global famine rates have also been a significant factor, as they involve threats to food security worldwide and prices that approach levels of the 2007–2008 world food price crisis. Amnesty International singled out Wikileaks’ release of US diplomatic cables as a catalyst for the revolts.
Tunisia and Egypt, were the first to witness major uprisings, differ from other North African and Middle Eastern nations such as Algeria and Libya in that they lack significant oil revenue, and were thus unable to make concessions to calm the masses.
The reason for the current escalation of protests was the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi. Unable to find work and selling fruit at a roadside stand, on 17 December, a municipal inspector confiscated his wares. An hour later he doused himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze. His death on 4 January, brought together various groups dissatisfied with the existing system, including many unemployed, political and human rights activists, labor, trade unionists, students, professors, lawyers, and others to begin the Tunisian revolution.
Following the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, a series of increasingly violent street demonstrations through December 2010 ultimately led to the ouster of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. The demonstrations were preceded by high rate unemployment, food inflation, corruption, lack of freedom of speech and other forms of political freedom, and poor living conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades, and have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of which were the result of action by police and security forces against demonstrators. Ben Ali fled into exile in Saudi Arabia, ending his 23 years in power.
A state of emergency was declared and a caretaker coalition government was created following Ben Ali’s departure, which included members of Ben Ali’s party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), as well as opposition figures from other ministries. However, the five newly appointed non-RCD ministers resigned almost immediately. As a result of continued daily protests, on 27 January Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi reshuffled the cabinet, removing all former RCD members other than himself, and on 6 February the former ruling party was suspended; later, on 9 March, it was dissolved. Following further public protests, Ghannouchi himself resigned on 27 February, and Beji Caid el Sebsi became Prime Minister.
On 23 October, citizens voted in the first post-revolution election to elect representatives to a 217-member constituent assembly that would be responsible for the new constitution. The leading moderate Islamist party, Ennahda, won 37% of the vote, and managed to elect 42 women to the Constituent Assembly.
Triggered by the uprising in Tunisia and prior to his entry as a central figure in Egyptian politics, potential presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei warned of a “Tunisia-style explosion” in Egypt.
Protests in Egypt began on 25 January 2011 and ran for 18 days. Beginning around midnight on 28 January, the Egyptian government attempted, somewhat successfully, to eliminate the nation’s Internet access, in order to inhibit the protesters’ ability to organize through social media. Later that day, as tens of thousands protested on the streets of Egypt’s major cities, President Hosni Mubarak dismissed his government, later appointing a new cabinet. Mubarak also appointed the first Vice President in almost 30 years.
On 10 February, Mubarak ceded all presidential power to Vice President Omar Suleiman, but soon thereafter announced that he would remain as President until the end of his term. However, protests continued the next day, and Suleiman quickly announced that Mubarak had resigned from the presidency and transferred power to the Armed Forces of Egypt. The military immediately dissolved the Egyptian Parliament, suspended the Constitution of Egypt, and promised to lift the nation’s thirty-year “emergency laws”. A civilian, Essam Sharaf, was appointed as Prime Minister of Egypt on 4 March to widespread approval among Egyptians in Tahrir Square. Violent protests however, continued through the end of 2011 as many Egyptians expressed concern about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ perceived sluggishness in instituting reforms and their grip on power.
Hosni Mubarak and his former interior minister Habib al-Adli were convicted to life on prison on the basis of their failure to stop the killings during the first six days of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. His successor, Mohamed Mursi, was sworn in as Egypt’s first democratically elected president before judges at the Supreme Constitutional Court.
Anti-government protests began in Libya on 15 February 2011. By 18 February the opposition controlled most of Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city. The government dispatched elite troops and militia in an attempt to recapture it, but they were repelled. By 20 February, protests had spread to the capital Tripoli, leading to a television address by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who warned the protestors that their country could descend into civil war. The death toll, numbering in the thousands, drew international condemnation and resulted in the resignation of several Libyan diplomats, along with calls for the government’s dismantlement.
Amidst ongoing efforts by rebel forces and demonstrators to wrest control of Tripoli from the Jamahiriya, the opposition set up an interim government in Benghazi to oppose Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. However, despite initial opposition success, government forces subsequently took back much of the Mediterranean coast.
On 17 March, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 was adopted, authorising a no-fly zone over Libya, and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. Two days later, France, the United States and the United Kingdom intervened in Libya with a bombing campaign against pro-Gaddafi forces. A coalition of 27 states from Europe and the Middle East soon joined the intervention. The forces were driven back from the outskirts of Benghazi, and the rebels mounted an offensive, capturing scores of towns across the coast of Libya. The offensive stalled however, and a counter-offensive by the government retook most of the towns, until a stalemate was formed between Brega and Ajdabiya, the former being held by the government and the latter in the hands of the rebels. Focus then shifted to the west of the country, where bitter fighting continued. After a three-month-long battle, a loyalist siege of rebel-held Misrata, the third largest city in Libya, was broken in large part due to coalition air strikes. The four major fronts of combat were generally considered to be the Nafusa Mountains, the Tripolitanian coast, the Gulf of Sidra, and the southern Libyan Desert.
In late August, anti-Gaddafi fighters captured Tripoli, scattering Gaddafi’s government and marking the end of his 42 years of power. Many institutions of the government, including Gaddafi and several top government officials, regrouped in Sirte, which Gaddafi declared to be Libya’s new capital. Others fled to Sabha, Bani Walid, and remote reaches of the Libyan Desert, or to surrounding countries. However, Sabha fell in late September, Bani Walid was captured after a grueling siege weeks later, and on 20 October, fighters under the aegis of the National Transitional Council seized Sirte, killing Gaddafi in the process.
A major demonstration of over 16,000 protesters took place in Sana’a on 27 January, and soon thereafter human rights activist and politician Tawakel Karman called for a “Day of Rage” on 3 February. According to Xinhua News, organizers were calling for a million protesters. In response to the planned protest, Ali Abdullah Saleh stated that he would not seek another presidential term in 2013. On 3 February, 20,000 protesters demonstrated against the government in Sana’a, others participated in a “Day of Rage” in Aden that was called for by Tawakel Karman, while soldiers, armed members of the General People’s Congress, and many protestors held a pro-government rally in Sana’a. Concurrent with the resignation of Egyptian president Mubarak, Yemenis again took to the streets protesting President Saleh on 11 February, in what has been dubbed a “Friday of Rage”. The protests continued in the days following despite clashes with government advocates. In a “Friday of Anger” held on 18 February, tens of thousands of Yemenis took part in anti-government demonstrations in the major cities of Sana’a, Taiz, and Aden. Protests continued over the following months, especially in the three major cities, and briefly intensified in late May into urban warfare between Hashid tribesmen and army defectors allied with the opposition on one side and security forces and militias loyal to Saleh on the other hand
After Saleh pretended to accept a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered plan allowing him to cede power in exchange for immunity only to back away before signing three separate times, an assassination attempt on 3 June left him and several other high-ranking Yemeni officials injured by a blast in the presidential compound’s mosque. Saleh was evacuated to Saudi Arabia for treatment, but he handed over power to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, who has largely continued his policies and ordered the arrest of several Yemenis in connection with the attack on the presidential compound. While in Saudi Arabia, Saleh kept hinting that he could return any time and continued to be present in the political sphere through television appearances from Riyadh starting with an address to the Yemeni people on 7 July. On Friday 13 August 2011, a demonstration was announced in Yemen as “Mansouron Friday” in which hundreds of thousands of Yemenis called for Ali Abdullah Saleh to go. The protesters joining the “Mansouron Friday” were calling for establishment of “a new Yemen”. On 12 September, Saleh issued a presidential decree while still receiving treatment in Riyadh authorizing Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi to negotiate a deal with the opposition and sign the GCC initiative into law.
On 23 September, three months since the assassination attempt, Saleh returned to Yemen abruptly, defying all earlier expectations. Pressure on Saleh to sign the GCC initiative eventually led to his signing of it in Riyadh on 23 November, in which Saleh agreed to step down and set the stage for the transfer of power to his vice-president. A presidential election was then held on 21 February 2012, in which Hadi (the only candidate) won 99.8 percent of the vote. Hadi then took the oath of office in Yemen’s parliament on 25 February. By 27 February, Saleh had resigned from the presidency and transferred power to his successor, however he is still wielding political clout as the head of the General People’s Congress party.
Protests in Syria started on 26 January 2011, when a police officer assaulted a man on public at “Al-Hareeka Street” in old Damascus. The man was arrested right after the assault. As a result, protesters called for the freedom of the arrested man. Soon a “day of rage” was set for 4–5 February, but it was unsuccessful. On 6 March, the Syrian security forces arrested about 15 children in Daraa, in southern Syria, for writing slogans against the government. Soon protests erupted over the arrest and alleged mistreatment of the children. Daraa was to be the first city to protest against the Baathist regime, which has been ruling Syria since 1963.
Thousands of protestors gathered in Damascus, Aleppo, al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, and Hama on 15 March, with recently released politician Suhair Atassi becoming an unofficial spokesperson for the “Syrian revolution”. The next day there were reports of approximately 3000 arrests and a few martyrs, but there are no official figures on the number of deaths. On 18 April 2011, approximately 100,000 protesters sat in the central Square of Homs calling for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. Protests continued through July 2011, the government responding with harsh security clampdowns and military operations in several districts, especially in the north.
On 31 July, Syrian army tanks stormed several cities, including Hama, Deir Ez-Zour, Abu Kamal, and Herak near Daraa. At least 136 people were killed in the most bloody and violent day since the uprising started.
On 5 August 2011, an anti-government demonstration took place in Syria called “God is with us”, during which the Syrian security forces shot the protesters from inside the ambulances, killing 11 people consequently.
By late November – early December, the Baba Amr district of Homs fell under armed Syrian opposition control. By late December, the battles between the government’s security forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army intensified in Idlib Governorate. Cities in Idlib and neighborhoods in Homs and Hama began falling into the control of the opposition, during this time military operations in Homs and Hama ceased and stopped.
By mid-January the FSA gained control over Zabadani and Madaya. By late January, the Free Syrian Army launched a full-scale attack against the government in Rif Dimashq, where they took over Saqba, Hamoreya, Harasta and other cities in Damascus’s Eastern suburbs. On 29 January, the fourth regiment of the Syrian Army led by the president’s brother Maher al-Assad and the Syrian Army dug in at Damascus, and the fighting continued where the FSA was 8 km away from the Republican palace in Damascus. Fighting broke out near Damascus international airport, but by the next day the Syrian government deployed the Republican Guards. The military gained the upper hand and regained all land the opposition gained in Rif Dimashq by early February. On 4 February, the Syrian Army launched a massive bombardment on Homs and committed a huge massacre, killing 500 civilians in one night in Homs. By mid-February, the Syrian army regained control over Zabadani and Madaya. In late February, Army forces entered Baba Amro after a big military operation and heavy fighting. Following this, the opposition forces began losing neighborhoods in Homs to the Syrian Army including al-Insaat, Jobr, Karm el-Zaytoon and only Homs’s old neighborhood’s, including al-Khalidiya, remained in opposition hands.
By March 2012, the government began military operations against the opposition in Idlib Governorate including the city of Idlib, which fell to the Army by mid-March. Saraqab and Sarmin were also recaptured by the government during the month. Still, at this time, the opposition managed to capture Al Qusayr and Rastan. Heavy fighting also continued in various neighborhoods in Homs and in the city of Hama. The FSA also started to conduct hit-and-run attacks in the pro-Assad Aleppo Governorate, which they were not able to do before. Heavy-to-sporadic fighting was also continuing in the Daraa and Deir ez-Zor Governorates.
By late April 2012, despite a cease-fire being declared in the whole country, sporadic fighting continued, with heavy clashes specifically in Al-Qusayr, where rebel forces controlled the northern part of the city, while the military held the southern part. FSA forces were holding onto Al-Qusayr, due to it being the last major transit point toward the Lebanese border. A rebel commander from the Farouq Brigade in the town reported that 2,000 Farouq fighters had been killed in Homs province since August 2011. At this point, there were talks among the rebels in Al-Qusayr, where many of the retreating rebels from Homs city’s Baba Amr district had gone, of Homs being abandoned completely. On 12 June 2012, the UN peacekeeping chief in Syria stated that, in his view, Syria has entered a period of civil war.
The protests in Bahrain started on 14 February, and were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedom and respect for human rights; they were not intended to directly threaten the monarchy. Lingering frustration among the Shiite majority with being ruled by the Sunni government was a major root cause, but the protests in Tunisia and Egypt are cited as the inspiration for the demonstrations. The protests were largely peaceful until a pre-dawn raid by police on 17 February to clear protestors from Pearl Roundabout in Manama, in which police killed four protesters. Following the raid, some protesters began to expand their aims to a call for the end of the monarchy. On 18 February army forces opened fire on protesters when they tried to enter the roundabout, fatally wounding one. The following day protesters reoccupied Pearl Roundabout after the government ordered troops and police to withdraw. Subsequent days saw large demonstrations; on 21 February a pro-government Gathering of National Unity drew tens of thousands, whilst on 22 February the number of protestors at the Pearl Roundabout peaked at over 150,000 after more than 100,000 protesters marched there. On 14 March, Saudi-led GCC forces were requested by the government and entered the country, which the opposition called an “occupation”.
A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE CHALLENGES IN NIGERIA.
Though the present socio-economic and political problems befalling the Nigerian nation would have necessitated the need for and Arab spring in the country, however certain challenges needs to be addressed if such dream and waves of civil unrest and protest would be anything to go by.
The average Nigerian mentality is centered on ethnicity where one see’s self as from his tribal background first before being seen as a Nigerian and as such patriotism is lacking so when a wave of protest starts from the North, the tribes in the south will call it a northern concept or an agenda to unsit the rulling president who is from their own southern part, etc.
Also the high rate of corruption will never give way for an arab spring because human rights activists and protesters can easily be overtune by monetary incentives, bribery and as such scuttle the revolution.
The fear among Nigerians to believe and fight for there right will certainy hampared the revolutionary struggle. We tend to take what ever comes our way especially crude polices from the government in our own destiny We dare not speak evil of any policies that are detrimental to our national and individual developments. The last protest from the fuel subsidy issue should throw more light on this as it was tough and hard in the north and the west while the people from the south east and especially from the south south did not take part fully saying the President is their son!
The wide intolerance gap between Muslims and Christians in the country is seen as a big blow that will kill the movement if it ever gets underway in the country. The Muslims would want to be the head at the end of the struggle. Lets not forget the Nigerian military that have tasted power for over a decade may be tempted to take sides if an Arab spring kick off.
Therefore, the challenges of the Arab spring across the globe especially in the muslim world clearly shows the injustice and discontentment among people of the world over their living conditions and standard. Having waited for years and tolerated draconian harsh economic policies, the people decided it is time to take their destiny in their hand and take up arms even if it means dying in it.
The Nigeria nation will and may never experience the Arab upsurge with the current problems in the country. What is eminent is that the country is driftling gradually towards secession if the living standards of the people is not improved.
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