Egypt has just entered a tunnel darker than the one that, just a year ago, produced Mohammed Morsi and ushered in the short, sad reign of his Freedom and Justice Party. With the military’s ouster of the country’s only freely elected president, a new era begins with little promise of lasting solutions to the problems that plague the country.
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In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya are confronted with major structural adjustment challenges that cannot be solved without the help of regional and international donors and private investment. After decades of one-man rule, their economies are in tatters, political institutions are fragile, civic society is underdeveloped, and security has yet to be firmly established. Progressive minded secularists are engaged in an uneven battle with conservative Islamists intent on consolidating power. The situation in all three countries is fluid, dynamic and dangerous. Violence is never far from the surface, and when it flares up regimes are shaken and unable to mount an effective response. These close neighbours are entering new territory with an untested leadership and with an administrative apparatus sorely in need of technical assistance. Only Libya possesses sufficient natural resource wealth that properly managed can help it recover without international financial assistance. The military takeover in Egypt has quieted the street for the moment, it remains to be seen if in its aftermath the country can be put on a sounder political and economic footing. Like Egypt, Tunisia requires substantial foreign aid and investment to right its economy. Security, education, employment, all must figure prominently in national development strategies. Support for secularist parties is essential to balance political power and to avoid the rise of religious tyranny. In all cases, international actors should be supportive of locally generated solutions, and highly attentive to sensitivities about foreign intervention. Outside engagement should be broad-based, and include regional intergovernmental organizations such as the Arab League. Such engagement must be sustained over a sufficient period of time to increase the likelihood that there will not be political and economic backsliding.
Pity the poor dictator whose quest to modernize ends up sowing the seeds of his destruction. There is the exquisitely decadent Ben Ali clan in Tunisia, which struck a bargain with the Third Estate, allowing it more freedom, prosperity, mobility than has any other state in the region, as long as it kept its head down in matters political. But educated people, middle class people, people who travel freely, who have access to modern communication technology, and, most importantly, who have a sense of personal empowerment, can be bought off or shut out for just so long. When the economy went bad due to the aftershocks of the global financial crisis, Ben Ali ran out of inducements, and when the army he kept small to avoid competition refused to fire on the people, and his much larger police force was cowed into inaction, he ran out of threats. Within days the modernizing but greedy Tunisian plutocracy was forced to flee this most European of Maghrebi states. This is a scenario that has been played out all too many times, and not only in this politically benighted corner of the world.
Muammar al-Gaddafi has been in power for over 40 years. He is likely to stay in power unless he is forcibly removed by his own people, which seems a remote possibility given the resources at his disposal, some say billions in cash, or by the international community, read the United States, which also appears improbable given “Afraq” war weariness reminiscent of the post-Somalia period when inaction led to the deaths of many thousands in Rwanda. And resources are the key to who wins and who loses in these protracted affairs. Witness the ability of another African Big Man, Jonas Savimbi of Angola, to wage a long battle with an oil-rich government even after he lost U.S. and South African backing and his lifeline through Zaire was cut. Savimbi armed and fed a sizeable force, UNITA (National Unity for the Total Independence of Angola), for eight years on proceeds from diamonds and ivory, which netted approximately $500 million annually. At one point 40 flights a week were taking off and landing at his two main airfields in the central highland towns of Luzamba and Andulo. While the internationals tried to broker a peace deal, Savimbi was using South African and other smugglers, based in Namibia and Botswana, to get diamonds out and to get supplies in, including large arms shipments from Bulgaria and Ukraine.
SIDE BY SIDE OR TOGETHER?
Working for Security, Development & Peace
in Afghanistan and Liberia
A Report on the March 30 & 31, 2007 Workshop “Coordinated Approaches to Security, Development and Peacemaking: Lessons Learned from Afghanistan and Liberia” held by the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (CMSS), University of Calgary and the Institute of World Affairs (IWA), Washington, D.C.