News / Africa

Analyst Says Tunisia Crisis Points Out Need for North Africa Reforms

Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations says he's not sure if North Africa can learn from Tunisia given its reliance on coercion

Analyst Says Tunisia Crisis Points Out Need for North Africa Reforms
Analyst Says Tunisia Crisis Points Out Need for North Africa Reforms

Multimedia

Audio
  • Steven Cook of Council on Foreign Relations spoke with Butty

James Butty

A U.S.-based expert told VOA the Obama Administration must approach the situation in Tunisia with caution.

This comes as the Washington Post, in its Sunday editorial, criticized the Administration for downplaying reforms in the Arab world and giving muted support for democracy and human rights.

The paper said the Tunisia crisis offers urgent lessons for the U.S. administration.

Steven Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, said it is up to the citizens of Tunisia to determine where their country goes next.

He said other North African countries should draw lessons from the Tunisian uprising and begin to undertake genuine reforms.

“Nobody would have expected President (Zine El Abidine) Ben Ali, who presided over one of the worst police states in North Africa for the better part of the last quarter century, to have been driven from power so quickly. In terms of how this will affect other countries in North Africa, certainly, I think, the lesson that they should draw from this is that they need to get out ahead of these problems and undertake some genuine reforms,” he said.

New Tunisian President Foued Mebazaa swears-in at the Tunisian Asssembly in Tunis, 15 Jan 2011
New Tunisian President Foued Mebazaa swears-in at the Tunisian Asssembly in Tunis, 15 Jan 2011

But, Cook said whether North African leaders will draw the same lessons from the Tunisian crisis remains to be seen considering that those leaders have consistently relied on coercion and violence to maintain themselves in power.

Cook said he was not surprised by Sunday’s Washington Post editorial criticizing the Obama Administration for downplaying reforms in the Arab world and giving muted support for democracy and human rights.

“It’s not surprising to me that ‘The Washington Post’ would editorialize along those lines. But, I think caution is the watchword. I think the administration needs to be smart. Certainly, the people of Tunisia, who have spoken want theirs to be a more democratic, open government, and I think the Obama Administration took a very good step by issuing a strong statement. Now the question is determining who’s actually in charge and who the United States can work with, and what policy levers the United States can pull in order to nudge the new Tunisian leaders in the direction of a more democratic future,” Cook said.

In the final analysis, Cook said it would up to Tunisians to determine where their country goes next, and that there is very little the United States can do.

Tunisia’s constitution calls for new presidential elections in 60 days. Cook said everything should be done to organize elections once the violence can be brought under control.

“Certainly, holding to the constitution and organizing the election is, I think, very important and, to the extent that they can do it, I think they should do it. The question is right now stability in Tunisia. There has been continuing violence and protests and the remnant of Ben Ali’s leadership is attempting to sow chaos in the country. But, everything should be done to organize elections and to maintain stability in the country so those elections can take place freely and fairly without the threat of violence,” Cook said.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs