With Ben Ali’s departure, what next for Tunisia?
Today, the four week old situation in Tunisia escalated and latest reports say that President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has now left the country following huge demonstrations on the streets demanding his resignation. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has just been on TV and announced that he will now run the government. There are reports that five people have been killed in the last few hours.
Demonstrations started in mid December 2010 over corruption, inflation and unemployment and nearly a hundred people have been killed by security forces since then.
The government of Ben Ali, which initially responded with defiance, was stunned by the scale of public disquiet. Ben Ali, an absolute dictator, has left no opposition within the country.
The United States and France, two principle allies who stood by Ben Ali through all his repression, his banning of hijab and his attacks against other manifestations of Islam, have largely remained silent. Indeed some statements from France were supportive of Ben Ali.
The western media, which usually reports popular uprisings – such as in Iran and Burma – with great relish, has been strangely subdued in comparison. They do not seem certain if it is good or bad thing if a repressive secular ally of the west falls!
The implications of Ben Ali’s departure are significant across the Arab world. As one commentator wrote recently in the Washington Post, the US’s greatest threat in the Middle East is not war, it is revolution. Public anger over corruption, unemployment, and dictatorship exist in Egypt, Algeria and most countries in the region.
It must be remembered that what we have seen so far is a near repeat of how Ben Ali came to power 23 years ago in 1987. Then, president Habib Bourgiba, a similarly unpopular president who had ruled for over 30 years was forced out, and replaced by one of his inner circle – Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Similarly today, Prime Minister Ghannouchi, from Ben Ali’s inner circle, replaces Ben Ali.
People cannot be satisfied that a close associate of Ben Ali takes over and continues the economic and other policies of Ben Ali with some tinkering but no real change.
In addition to a change of face, the Muslim world needs a change from the current dictatorship’s democracies, and other systems to the Islamic Khilafah system. The real alternative to the status quo, across the entire Muslim world is the Islamic Khilafah system – which would address the people’s needs; be accountable; independent of the west and would restore stability and prosperity to the region.
“And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not” [TMQ Yusuf 12:21]
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