Sunday, January 23, 2011

Winds of change

Very few indeed predicted that the horrible self immolation of a desperate young man after police seized the fruits and vegetables he was trying to sell for his living would trigger a wave of protests that would finally bring down a dictatorial and corrupted regime in place for many decades.

But the power of people and the thirst for freedom and better quality of life have initiated a serious process of change. The key question is how these positive energies can be channelled into a peaceful transition to democracy. This would be a novelty in the Arab world. There are already signs of contagion and this  explains fears from long standing dictatorships in Libya, Egypt and other Arab countries after decades of oppression and humiliation for the masses.

Tunisia and its people have to set out a shared vision for the society they want to build. It will not be a 'chariaa' kind of regime but a true evolution towards a democratic country. The significance of this change in mindsets should not be underestimated: it means that there is not necessarily an Islamic alternative to the so-called Arab nationalist regimes which are increasingly contested by their people.

Europe, not France (the former colonial power) has an important role to play in this process in building a true partnership that would lead to political and economic reforms to ensure stability, peace and social justice. Tunisia needs certainly European support, but Europe also needs Tunisia to affirm its voice as a leading actor in promoting democratic rights in the entire Arab world. 

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