News / Africa

Could A Tunisian-Style Revolt Happen Elsewhere?

A police officer faces protesters during a demonstration against the Constitutional Democratic Rally - RCD, the party of deposed President Ben Ali, in the center of Tunis, 18 Jan 2011
A police officer faces protesters during a demonstration against the Constitutional Democratic Rally - RCD, the party of deposed President Ben Ali, in the center of Tunis, 18 Jan 2011

Multimedia

Audio
  • Nabil Fahmy, Dean, American University in Cairo, School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

Cecily Hilleary

Years of anger and dissatisfaction in Tunisia over corruption, joblessness and other economic woes have erupted recently. What was unimaginable two months ago has taken place—Tunisia’s government shattered. Now, analysts are looking at other regimes in the region for signs of similar unrest. They do not have to look far. There have been self-immolations by protestors in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania. Jordanians have demonstrated against high food prices. At an economic summit in Egypt, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa warned Wednesday that “the Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and the general recession.”

Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian ambassador to the U.S.
Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian ambassador to the U.S.

Nabil Fahmy, Dean of the American University in Cairo’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and a former Egyptian Ambassador to the United States, speaks with VOA's Cecily Hilleary.

Hilleary: Ambassador Fahmy, a third man has set himself on fire in Egypt.  Are we seeing the beginning of a Tunisian style revolt in your country?

Fahmy: No, I don’t think so. I think what you’re seeing is a reflection of the region as a whole following what happened in Tunisia with tremendous interest. They were also quite surprised by how it unfolded in terms of the violence that occurred, the very large number of casualties and then by how quickly the Tunisian president left the country.

VOA's Cecily Hilleary speaks with Amb. Nabil Fahmy of American University in Cairo:

There’s also a bit of a “copycat” effect. In other words, people feel frustration—and obviously the people have emulated the process because of their frustrations and fears, concerns, feeling that this was the way to attract attention. I think it is a bit superficial to say what happens here can happen similarly in other countries.

Having said all that, it is alarming, yes. It is alarming to see what happened in Tunisia in terms of the violence between the government and the people. It is alarming to see people anywhere, even in my own country, feel obliged to put themselves on fire.  That reflects that some people feel very frustrated.

Now, again, whether this is simply a “copycat” situation or a reflection of a greater problem, I think it’s too early to say.  But I don’t really believe that this is something that will be repeated in a rapid fashion from one country to another.

But I think frankly, if I may say, that the Arab countries generally have to seize this occasion to learn the lessons from what happened in Tunisia, to look at their problems and how quickly and how effectively they are responsive to the concerns of their people. They have to seize the occasion to have a better relationship, a more symbiotic relationship between the executive organs and public opinion. And I say this across the board in the Arab world. I’m not talking about any country in particular.

Hilleary: Are we seeing that kind of examination of conscience in Egypt?

Fahmy: Well, again, my first answer is that it’s too early to tell. You can’t make a judgment on what’s happened over a few days since the Tunisian situation, particularly when you have an Arab summit now in Sharm el Sheikh on economic issues. Everybody’s busy with that.

But let me take you back a step before that. I actually think at the end of last year, we had one election and in the fall of this year we will have another, I think this whole year will be a year in which Egyptians look at themselves by way of the government looking at itself, by way of the people deciding what role they want to play because of the election process.

Hilleary: So what makes Egypt different from Tunisia?

Fahmy: One distinct difference between Egypt and Tunisia, for example, that serves the Egyptian situation is there’s no comparison whatsoever in terms of the freedom of the press in Egypt and what it was in Tunisia. There is an almost absolute free flow of information inside Egypt, and that was not accessible at all in Tunisia.

On the other hand, Tunisia has a much larger middle class and, frankly, the percentage of educated people in Tunisia is statistically much higher than almost any other country in the Arab world. So I mention positives on both sides—and problems on both sides—simply to emphasize that we all need to look at our problems.

But it is, I think, simplistic and superficial to assume that because it happened “here” it will happen “there.” Yes, you will see people saying, “If it happened here, maybe we’ll try doing the same thing in other parts of the Arab world.” And that’s why I don’t think that you’ll find this emulated quickly. I do believe it’s an occasion for all of the Arab world to learn the lessons and to develop a better relationship with the people.

Hilleary: There’s a scheduled demonstration on January 25 in Cairo, I understand, to which Mohamed ElBaradei is invited. Is there a possibility that it could spark something larger than just a peaceful, quiet demonstration?

Fahmy: Let me answer that in the following fashion: First of all, I’m not aware of the details of the demonstration. That being said, demonstrations have been allowed in Egypt over the last two or three years which you would never have seen in Tunisia; by the way, so there is a fundamental difference between the clamp down in Tunisia and the situation here. We’ve had demonstrations in front of Parliament for the last four years, on a regular basis.

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

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid