Lost in Translation: The African Spring. By Dr. Vincent Womujuni.

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Whenever the phrase “Arab Spring” is used, what comes to mind is the wave of demonstrations, civil disobedience, civil resistance and uprisings that swept the Arab world between 2010 and 2012. The uprisings were sparked off by the self-immolation of a 26-year Tunisian young man in front of the municipal council building. The young man set himself ablaze out of anger and frustration because police had beaten him up earlier that day and confiscated his cart for not paying the required permit for operating it. Although the police action toward the young man could have sparked off the demonstrations, it is believed that the general public’s deep-seated frustrations and anger due to police corruption, high unemployment, lack of political freedom, lack of respect for human rights and poor living conditions could have been at the center of the uprisings. Eventually, the demonstrations spread to Egypt, Libya, and throughout the Arab countries of Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria.

The African Spring

While the Arabic language and Islam predominantly constitute Tunisia’s culture and could have contributed to the naming of the uprising the “Arab Spring,” it is curious that the uprisings were not called the “African Spring” since they originated in Tunisia, and Tunisia is located in North Africa. What is lost in translation, however, is the fact that, the only three countries that saw legitimate regime changes were African countries–Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. In Tunisia, the Arab spring led to the forced resignation of President Ben Ali and Prime minister Ghanouchi; termination of the political police; cessation of the RCD, the former ruling party of Tunisia and liquidation of its assets; release of political prisoners; and dialogue for the new transitional government. In Egypt, the Arab Spring led to the forced resignation of Hosni Mubarak who had ruled Egypt for over three decades–Mubarak was later arrested, tried and imprisoned for life. The uprisings also led to the resignation of ministers Nazif and Shafik; assumption of power by the armed forces; suspension of the constitution and dissolution of the parliament; demobilization of state security investigation service; dissolution of the NDP, the former running party of Egypt and the transfer of its assets to the state; arrest of corrupt ministers; lifting of the 31-year-old state of emergency; and the holding of democratic elections. In Libya, the Arab Spring led to the overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi and the assumption of control by the national transitional council.

The Arab Spring

Ironically, the Arab spring failed to achieve regime changes in the Arab world. The major Arab countries that witnessed the spread of the Arab spring included Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria. In Yemen, the uprisings forced President Ali Abdulla Saleh to hand over power to the national unity government; however, he was not brought to justice for the crimes against humanity during his 32-year rule. As a matter of fact, he still exerts a considerable amount of political influence in his country and is believed to be behind the rebel activities of Houthi forces. In Bahrain, the civil uprisings were met with harsh government response with the help of Saud Arabia’s defense forces. In Jordan and Saudi Arabia, their kings are symbols of authority; therefore, sporadic demonstrations were not intended to overthrow their kings. In Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world, civil disobedience was met with the barbaric military response that witnessed mass killings and the largest disastrous refugee crisis in the world.

Consequences of the Africa-Arab Spring

The Arab Spring led to an overwhelming death toll in north Africa and elsewhere in the Arab world.Yemen recorded 250 deaths; Bahrain, 100; Libya 30, 000; Egypt, 900; and Tunisia, 300. These are the death toll numbers that were reported immediately in the aftermath of the Arab Spring; however, the death toll has gone up significantly over the years. The overthrow of Hosni Mubarak robed Saudi Arabia of its strong ally and diminished its standing in the Middle East and the world. The Arab spring led to the spread of terror activities across the Middle East and some parts of Africa due to the release of jihadists and terrorists from Arab prisons who later become terror operatives. This led to rampant abductions, mutilations and suicide attacks on many government institutions and on innocent civilians. The uprisings also led to economic consequences in terms of reduced oil production for the oil-producing Arab countries because of political violence and political instability.


While Islam and the Arabic language were the unifying factors in the Arab Spring of 2011, it is imperative to note that the uprisings originated in Africa. It is also important to point out that the only three African countries–Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia–were the ones that witnessed legitimate regime changes: Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was overthrown, arrested, and imprisoned for life; Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya was overthrown and killed, and Beni Ali of Tunisia was forced to resign and hand over power to the transitional government. In addition, the uprisings led to disastrous consequences: the release of jihadists and terrorists from Arab prisons created a strong force of terrorism operatives and the disastrous refugee crisis in Africa and in the Middle East.

Article Source: Ezine, Dr. Vincent Womujuni



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