The 6th Caliphate – Tunisia

Hamadi Jbeli, the Secretary General of Ennahda has recently declared Tunisia to be the 6th Caliphate. Fears amont the secularists in Tunisia have risen as Jbeli said, “My brothers, you are at a historic moment … in a new cycle of civilization, God willing … We are in sixth caliphate, God willing.” – As Ennahda has continued to say that it will remain a moderate party, Jbeli’s statement have led many to believe that Ennahda’s “true agenda” is beginning to show. Other Ennahda party members state the Jbeli’s comments were taken out of context, but as this article suggests, even mentioning Caliphate is dangerous because it is often associated with hard line radicals. I think that it is too soon to tell what Ennahda plans for Tunisia, and whether Sharia law is something that might be enforced upon the country. Ennahda’s leader, Rached Ghannouchi is considered to be a moderate by some, but a fundamentalist by others. It is too early to tell what Ennahda’s plans are, as with all political parties and leaders, until they begin policy formation one can not truly know their intentions are.

To read the article, click here


Protesters Take to the University in Tunisia

With the October 23rd elections over, and Ennahda taking the win, Tunisia has still been experiencing outbursts of violence. Under Ben Ali Tunisia remained a secular state, but as the Islamists are gaining leverage, clashes have ensued. This particular article demonstrates the clashes as protesters at a University outside of Tunis protest over secular and Islamist identities. As previously noted, Ennahda said that it would ensure that Tunisia still maintained women’s rights, and secular freedoms, though as time has progressed, some of the fears of the secularists are coming true as Islamists are gaining ground and beginning to have a larger impact on the Tunisian society. Tunisia has recently declared that it will continue its state of emergency (<– click link to read more about it) as violence still shakes the country. It will be interesting to see after the constitution is drafted how the secularists and Islamists form or maintain any existing relationships. It is too soon to tell how Ennahda will effect the country, but seeing as clashes over the idea of an Islamist state have followed so quickly behind the elections suggests that many are not happy with its outcomes thus far.

click here to read the article about the protestors at Manouba University.

History of Algeria, Part V

Finally, a look at the Arab Spring, using Al Jazeera’s Eye on Algeria page.

December 29, 2010: Protests began in Algiers with resistance from police, leading to injuries and arrests. The protests had been ongoing, ranging from the rising unemployment (mainly among university graduates) and corruption within the government. President Bouteflika had amended the constitution in 2009 to allow another election term to the current president in which he won. Food prices also soared with an increase of imports of basic provisions.

January 2011: Protests spread to other cities and towns throughout Algeria, and riots a couple days later sparked arson and looting in local business, government buildings and town halls. Over 800 people were injured, over 1,100 arrested and 3 were dead. After a man set himself on fire in Tunisia (in which is considered the technical start of the Arab Spring), Algerians also participated in self-immolation and suicide. The police and tried to suppress the protests, riots and marches by claiming that they were not authorized by the government. Demonstrations flared more when Ben Ali from Tunisia fled, and Algerians waved the Tunisian flag to show their success.

Political parties tried to rally and make claims as to why the protests were occurring. One party extremely urged the government to lift the 19-year state of emergency which severely limited freedom of the citizens.

February 2011: University strikes started when students claimed that they were given poor education. Paramedics were also on strike. After the resignation of Mubarak, protests in Algiers intensified. Police cordoned off the borders of Algiers to contain the demonstrations, and protesters could not reach the main square by being fired with tear gas and water cannons. Similar demonstrations also cropped up in Oran, Constantine and Annaba. Finally on the 22nd, the government officially lifted the state of emergency ban and began to allow demonstrations as long as there was a fair notice.

March and April 2011: Protests continue against unfair wages and pension packages, but they are met with pro-Bouteflika supporters who tried to lynch another democracy group leader. President Bouteflika released a statement saying he planned to “reinforce representative democracy” and create changes within elections, the government and the press.

While there are still sporadic protests and demonstrations throughout the country, it looks as though there hasn’t been a collective action against the state unlike the other Arab Spring movements. While the state is still plagued with problems, the government has taken some serious steps to mending the situations (making peace with Morocco, holding new elections, etc.).

Libya Country Report – Outline

Libya will probably prove the most challenging country in transition in the Arab revolutions. Below is a proposed outline of Libya’s country report:

I. Brief history of the country and foreign intervention

II. Demographics

III. Political economy

a) national oil politics

b) the role of oil in the Arab Spring

IV. The role of the armed rebel forces

 a) NATO intervention

V. The country’s tribal and regional divisions

a)how the monarchy based its political legitimacy on tribal connections

b) how Qaddafi nurtured tribal divisions to his advantage in order to retain power

c) how the identification of tribal and family units function as important social network

d) how these divisions will either hamper or help advance the new Libya

VI. The role of Islam in Libya’s new society 

VII. Libya’s political relation to Algeria, Tunisia and the region.


Ennahda in Tunisia

As Ennahda has claimed the victory in Tunisia, there is much discussion around how they will govern the country. Though many fear this political success, Ennahda has continued to say that it will rule as a moderate Islamic Party. This article said that the party now wants to be referred to as an Islamic Party, because Islamist suggest theocracy in the eyes of the West. Leaders of Ennahda have stated that they will continue to champion a “…greater commitment to the principles of Western-style liberal democracy” and that they hope other Arab Spring countries will take note of this. Soumaya Ghannoushi, the spokeswomen for Ennahda, and the daughter of the party’s founder has said that, “Accepting each other, accepting pluralism, accepting diversity and trying to work together — this is the lesson Ennahda can give to other Islamic political movements…” As stated in an earlier post, pluralism and political freedoms should remain at the forefront of Tunisia. Since they are the first of the Arab Spring countries to hold elections, they will be used as an example for other governments.By focusing on free and fair elections, pluralism, and other political freedoms, it will help future elections if Ennahda proves to be an unsuccessful interim government. We should continue to focus on these things because Tunisia’s future rests on the ability to vote freely and fairly for other political parties.

To read the related article, click here!

The Overblown Islamist Threat

This article from the New York Times discusses the Islamists in government positions. It suggests to the West and others who ‘fear’ the Islamists, that this fear is overblown. It says that while they do exist, and in places like Tunisia where they have been elected, they know they have a job to do and if the government fails again they will be held accountable. Thus far, Ennahda has said that it will respect personal rights and that women’s rights won’t suffer. The article suggests that if the West tries to contain the Islamists, they will become much more appealing to the voters. One thing that I believe to be a factor in the rise of the Islamists, is that in countries such as Tunisia where there was political oppression, groups like Ennahda were able to mobilize quickly when elections finally came around. Though they were politically oppressed, they still had a political view where as other ‘new’ groups could not mobilize as quickly, nor were they as well known as Ennahda. I think that once  these other political parties gain popularity they will have more support in future elections. If Ennahda proves to be a moderate party, then they might continue to have favorable support, though only time will tell how Ennahda will govern Tunisia. The author of this article touches upon this idea by saying,

“Ennahda understands that it can’t ignore the secular part of the electorate. If the party wants to be as successful in Tunisia’s next election after a new constitution has been written, it knows it needs to present moderate views.”

Right now, instead of trying to prevent the Islamists from coming to power, more emphasis should be placed at how future elections are are carried out, and put more of their focus on whether or not free and fair elections will remain in places such as Tunisia. As the author states,

“…pluralism and a peaceful political landscape that is free of armed groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Pluralism would ensure that neither Islamists nor anyone else could come to power and then deny the right of political organization to others. And peaceful transfers of power are essential for any stable democracy.”

To read the article, click Here!

Libya Demographics

On September 16, the UN recognizes the National Transitional Council as the legal representative of the country.

On October 20, Qaddafi is killed ending 42 years of repression.

Fourth largest country in Africa by area (1.8 million square kilometers) 90% of its territory is covered by the Sahara dessert.

Capital:  Tripoli

Official language:  Arabic

Currency:  Dinar ($1 USD=1.26 Dinar)

Arab Islamic Rule lasted from 642 to 1551

Ottoman Empire lasted from 1551 to 1911

Italian Colonial Era:  1911-1951

Independence from UK & France:  December 1951

Kingdom of Libya:  1951-1969

Lybia under Gaddafi : 1969-2011

National Transitional Council established in 2011

Est. Total population in 2011:  6.6M out of which 1.7 million live in Tripoli

Gross National Income per capita:  $17,068 USD

GDP per Capita:  $11,314 USD

GDP per capita (PPP) purchasing power parity: $14,000 USD money can buy – fourth highest per capita in Africa behind Seychelles, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon (est 2010)

Human Development Index (HDI):   rank 53  out of 169-  Highest in Africa (2010 figures)

Health – Life expectancy at birth:  74.5 years

Education – Mean years of schooling (adults)  7.3 yrs

Adult literacy rate:  86.8 ranking 112 out of 179 (2009 figures)

Gender inequality index (0=equal): 0.5 –  (2008 figure)

9thth largest oil reserves in the world; and 17th highest petroleum production

-The Libyan economy depends primarily on revenues from the oil sector, which contribute about 95% of export earnings;  25% GDP;  and 80% of government revenue.  High revenues from the energy sector coupled with a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, but little of this income flows down to the lower rank of society.   

-Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit agricultural output, and Libya imports about 75% of its food. 

Exports – commodities:  crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals

Imports – commodities:  machinery, semi-finished goods, food, transport equipment, consumer products.