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Abstract: The Maghreb is in motion. Political changes underway across North Africa have created opportunities for more representative and transparent governance. Debates over the nature of authority and the role of the state that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago now shape political discourse. And yet, doubts remain.
Transitions in Libya and Tunisia remain incomplete, and their ultimate impacts on the region are still uncertain. Popular expectations of reform are straining governments’ abilities to adapt. Dilemmas of political identity and institutional structure challenge both new and existing governments. Meanwhile, the region’s persistent economic tasks—to provide jobs, stability, and growth for the millions of citizens who enter the labor market every year—endure. Economic success will be integral to the success of the region’s political transformation and its future.
To better understand the evolving political, economic, and security dynamics in the Maghreb (defined here as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya), the CSIS Middle East Program convened a conference in Washington, D.C., on October 12, 2012. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the keynote address, imparting her optimism as well as her commitment to building on recent gains in freedom and civic participation. The conference gathered a senior group of experts from government, academia, policy research, and the business community to share their insights. While many agreed that there is reason to be cautiously hopeful, there was no denying that the region is at the beginning of a long and uncertain phase of change.
Abstract: On May 29-31, 2012, the Stimson Center convened a workshop on Water Challenges and Cooperative Response in the Middle East and North Africa as a component of the 2012 US-Islamic World Forum held in Doha, Qatar. Participants included scientists, academics, policy analysts, and practitioners from several MENA countries, as well as US and European experts. The interdisciplinary working group identified the principal water resource issues facing decision makers and stakeholders in the region, assessed the MENA states’ existing governance capacities and resources to address these emerging pressures, and recommended priority areas and approaches for advancing international and intersectoral cooperation and for identifying and strengthening intellectual and technical resources, tools, lessons, and best practices that could be shared, applied, or adapted across the region.
This report first provides a brief overview of available water resources in the MENA region. It then discusses the salient socio-economic and environmental stresses and trends that will drive and condition water supply and demand over the coming decades. Next, the report sketches prevailing water management approaches that are being developed or might be brought to bear. With this foundation in place, the report then seeks to illuminate the water governance policy options and obstacles confronting the region by examining three case studies: the Tigris-Euphrates basin, the Nile basin, and a side-by-side consideration of water stewardship in Yemen and Oman. Finally, the report concludes by presenting some recommendations suggesting strategies for the MENA countries to build their water management capabilities and bolster collaborative alternatives to managing scarce water resources at both the domestic and regional levels.
Abstract: After gaining power during a 1969 coup, former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi began amassing a significant arsenal of small arms and light weapons to act as a deterrent to external and internal threats. However, as the opposition to Gaddafi grew over the years, former dictator randomly deposited caches of weapons in public places and office buildings without documenting their locations. During the 2011 civil war, these undocumented locations were abandoned by Gaddafi loyalists as his strongholds were captured by the rebels. Unguarded caches of weapons were subsequently loot- ed by rebels, militias, ordinary civilians and other criminal groups, who took the weapons for various reasons ranging from self-protection to sale on black markets or for use in violent clashes elsewhere. Moreover, Libya’s porous borders allowed the weapons to be transferred to other countries, enabling conflicts in the surrounding regions.
A United Nations (UN) report on the regional impact of the Libyan civil war indicates that the weapons from Gaddafi’s arsenal were smuggled through the Sahel, including Chad, Niger and Nigeria, and have been obtained by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Some countries in the region reportedly suspect that weapons were smuggled by army regulars and mercenaries who fought for Gaddafi. Furthermore, several states within West Africa have reported an increase in the arms trade.
Abstract: Governments across the Maghreb are struggling to address a wide range
of socioeconomic and political grievances that sparked popular uprisings
throughout 2011. The problems are rooted in political systems that
have been marred by corruption, exclusion, and marginalization of large
swaths of the population, including young people. Despite significant
change in the last year, the region is still at the beginning of a long phase
To better understand the political and economic factors shaping transitions
in the Maghreb (defined here as Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia)
and opportunities for spurring economic growth, the CSIS Middle East
Program convened a half-day conference in Washington, D.C., on June
13. Because states dominate most economies in the region, the conference
examined both government strategies to address a range of economic
challenges and the role that trade and investment could play in promoting
growth. The conference brought together high-level U.S. government officials,
diplomats, and leading experts in academia and business. The following
report summarizes the views and ideas discussed at the conference.
Abstract: The Middle East North Africa (MENA) region is experiencing a shift in its political and social landscape as citizens throughout the region are mobilizing for greater dignity and freedom. This political awakening is a response to the decades-long dominance of systems of economic and political exclusion, which have stalled economic progress, created enormous wealth distribution gaps, endemic corruption, high unemployment and soaring inflation. The popular rage relates not least to the way the considerable resource wealth of the region is managed.
For the ONS Summit 2012 to be held 28-31 August, this year on the theme "confronting energy paradoxes", the ONS Foundation approached International IDEA as an organization specializing in democracy and operating in the West Asia and North Africa region to write a study entitled An energy-rich region of increasingly energized citizens - the interplay between democracy, politics and energy in the shadow of political upheaval in the MENA region.
Abstract: The cases of successful breakthrough examined in this study are the Soviet Union in 1991 and Russia in 1993, Poland in 1989, Serbia in 2000, Ukraine in 2004, Indonesia by 1999, Chile in 1988, and South Africa by 1996. Cases of failed and then ultimately successful democratic transition are Ghana by 2000, Mexico by 2000, South Korea by 1987, and Turkey by 1983. Finally, the cases of failed transition examined are Algeria in 1991, Iran in 1979, China in 1989, and Azerbaijan in 2005.
Ten domestic influences were found to be common to each of the successful cases of democratic breakthrough examined in this study, including incremental reform victories preceding breakthrough attempts, the presence of coherent oppositions, economic distress and poor service delivery, rising expectations and increasing levels of literacy and education, mass mobilization, a growing influence of civic actors, preservation of independent information flows, reform offers by regimes that only embolden oppositions, robust “get out the vote” and “protect the vote” efforts, and breakthroughs that are largely free from violence.
Seven types of external influence were identified as influential, including passive factors, such as economic shocks, diffusion, and the influence of norms and ideas; and active factors, such as direct democracy aid, diplomatic influence, economic influence, and reputational influence.
Even though all of these domestic factors and most of the external ones featured in every successful case of breakthrough, the impact of these precipitants varied in influence from case to case.
Abstract: Despite protests over housing shortages, rising food prices and lack of jobs, Algeria seems to be bucking the revolutionary trend.
A number of factors help to explain the apparent “Algerian exception” to the Arab Spring. In addition to the scars of the civil war, the fractured nature of Algerian society works against the emergence of a broad-based socio-political movement. Civil protests have also been limited due to the lack of organizational structures within civil society and the authorities’ capacity to buy the social peace.
The regime’s talk of “a spring for Algeria” is evidence that it is aware of the significance of growing domestic and international expectations for change.
Yet, measures undertaken so far do not constitute the kind of fundamental reforms required to restore state legitimacy by reducing the gap between official and real power within the political system and to restructure the economy to create greater opportunities.
External actors are likely to play only a limited role pushing for substantive change. The real drivers of change will be internal. Much will depend on the ability of civil society to form a broad-based movement to maintain pressure on the authorities and security services recognition that they need to gradually withdraw from politics.
Abstract: The so-called Arab Spring continues to reverberate locally, regionally and geopolitically. The 20 articles in this issue of FMR reflect on some of the experiences, challenges and lessons of the Arab Spring in North Africa, the implications of which resonate far wider than the region itself.
Abstract: Since the end of February 2011, 790,000 migrant workers and their families have crossed the Libyan border into other countries to escape the conflict and ongoing violence in Libya. Although migration crises of this kind are not new, the massive outflow of migrants fleeing the violence in Libya represents one of the largest migration crises in modern history. Given that there were approximately 1.8 million migrant workers in Libya, a country heavily reliant on migrant workers before the crisis, it is clear that such large-scale movement has significant implications for the neighbouring region and beyond, as well as for the post-crisis reconstruction of Libya itself. The scale of the crisis in Libya has brought to the political foreground the issue of protection and rights of migrants caught in crisis; the role of State actors and international cooperation mechanisms in such situations; and the implications of such crises for migrants’ countries of origin as well as for wider migration management systems.
Migrants Caught in Crisis: The IOM Experience in Libya analyses the effect that the Libyan crisis has had on migrants caught in the crisis and the wider implications for migration in the region, based primarily on the experience of the International Organization for Migration in the evacuation, return and reintegration of migrant workers from Libya. It contextualizes the crisis in Libya from a comparative perspective within the region and takes a brief look back at the socio-economic, political and migration situation, prior to the crisis. It then provides a detailed account of the evacuation of migrant workers from Libya and the central role played by IOM. The effects of the crisis on sending countries and their nationals are also examined, as are the implications for the post-crisis reconstruction of Libya. The report considers the challenges and lessons learned with regard to the following in the international response to the Libyan crisis: the role played by State actors, cooperation mechanisms, evacuation as a form of protection, security and humanitarian access, and resource mobilization. Finally, although the situation in Libya is still evolving after the downfall of the Gaddafi regime, emerging migration policy challenges and future policy considerations are put forth.
Abstract: Transboundary rivers may contribute to increased hostility between riparians. This may contribute to increased hostility between riparians. This article accepts earlier arguments about water scarcity. Structural Scarcity occurs in river basins with unequal resource distribution, often created by geographic asymmetries. Hence, this article argues that the geographic asymmetries present in many river basins are key determinants of conflict risk among riparians. In a river basin the upstream state enjoys an inherent advantage and upstream river use is likely to produce unidirectional externalities that harm the states downstream. This in turn, is likely to produce grievances or claims downstream that may contribute to worsen overall state relations and consequently increase the risk of dyadic conflict.
Abstract: Security threats in Africa’s Sahel region, spanning the northern tier of the African continent, have existed for decades. However, in recent years security analysts have focused their attention on the increasingly sophisticated attacks by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the now al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab based in Somalia and the insurgent group Boko Haram based in northern Nigeria. Increased fighting in this “arc of instability” as well as changing tactics among insurgent and terrorist groups might reveal a growing relationship1 between these groups and as a result pose a greater risk for instability not only in the region but for the international community. The following report will provide a brief review of AQIM, Boko Haram and al Shabaab in the Sahel region based upon open source reports and will also highlight potential linkages.
Abstract: Understanding why the Arab spring has so far passed Algeria by is of considerable geostrategic import. There are several reasons for the apparent ‘Algerian silence’: historical antecedents that feed the opposition’s current organisational muddle, the government’s populism, and shortcomings in European strategies.
Abstract: The menace of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb Islamique (AQIM) gained particular international attention as a result of the abduction of western foreigners. During the last years AQIM has not only perpetrated attacks in various countries of the region but also diversified its methods and tactics. Mauritania, in particular, has been victim of all types of AQIM attacks: kidnappings, suicide bombings, attacks to Embassies and military bases, and so forth. However, despite the efforts made by AQIM to secure a high profile and affiliation in Mauritania, the organization has not been able to establish permanent cells in the country nor has it been capable of building a strong foundation that would promote an increasing presence. This paper argues that the connection of AQIM and its messages with criminal networks and local tribes is structurally fragile. In fact, the political agenda pursued by AQIM in Mauritania does not match with that of its temporary allies. The actions perpetrated by AQIM on Mauritanian soil had an enormous negative impact on the economy and on the popular perceptions.
Not only radical Islam was thwarted to certain extent by the strong tribalism and the powerful brotherhoods that permeate social and religious structures, but also the links of the organization with trafficking and smuggling is a source of concern by many, who question the consistency of these illegal activities with Islam. Yet, the capacity of AQIM to make strategic regional alliances and benefit from scenarios like the conflict in Libya should not be underestimated.
Abstract: Hosted by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Studies (CEDHD) and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), the conference focused on developing national security poliices in North-West Africa, under the title "Integrating Human Security into National Security Policies in North-West Africa". The event took place in Raba 23-24 November 2010 and brought together high-ranking representatives from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal as well as a number of international experts. The conference was supported by the Swiss federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
The conference discussed national and transnational security challenges in North-West Africa and analyzed various national responses in terms of their impact on human security in the region. A central theme of the conference was the effort to take stock of national experiences in dealing with various security threats and understanding how national security policy could help reduce the fear and want citizens face. Participants also explored how approaches to national security policy would need to change in order to better respond to the needs of people in the region: Can countries in the region work together to learn from each other's experiences? Can they design and implement national security policies in a way that benefit all people in the region? What regional mechanisms could be developed to assist national security policy-makers in North-West Africa?
Abstract: After the attacks of September 11, 2001, a growing number of analysts and policymakers drew a link between the dramatic rise of terrorism in the Middle East and the region’s lack of democracy. The question of whether levels of political rights and freedoms affect the resort to violence continues to be a source of major political debate.
While some scholars insist that democracies are less likely to produce terrorist activity, due to their ability to channel grievance peacefully, others contend that regimes transitioning to democracy are highly vulnerable to destabilization. Periods of liberalization often raise citizens’ expectations for freedom that regimes are unwilling or unable to meet. The resulting dissonance can fuel violent opposition.
This study examines whether liberalizing regimes in the Maghreb are more or less vulnerable to the threat of political violence and terrorism than their more repressive counterparts. Do political reform processes, however limited and incomplete, boost regime legitimacy and undercut support for radical opposition forces?
Over the last decade, the Maghreb has become a major producer and exporter of violent extremists to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Europe. This paper investigates whether political liberalization efforts in Algeria and Morocco, including the incorporation of mainstream Islamist groups, have contributed to a rise or decline in the level of political violence. Tunisia, one of the Arab world’s most authoritarian states, is also examined to determine whether more exclusionary state policies prevent violence or instead facilitate radicalization. The three cases suggest that the greater the gap between expected change and actual change, the greater the likelihood of political unrest and violence.
This paper argues that the potential negative impacts of liberalization processes on stability stem not from the depth of political and economic reforms but rather from their limited and inconsistent nature. This unevenness is, in some sense, inevitable. It is extremely difficult for political institutions in authoritarian contexts to keep pace with popular demands. As a result, most Arab societies find themselves torn between what they are and what many expect them to become. This gap cannot be easily erased. But it can be managed.
Abstract: The fate of the Sahrawi nation of Western Sahara hangs in the balance this week. About 165,000 Sahrawi refugees in Algeria are eagerly watching the current UN-sponsored negotiations taking place outside of New York City on the status of their country. For the past 36 years they have been languishing in camps, waiting for the day they may return home, which is currently under Moroccan control. Thus far, they have had little reason to hope.
The three-day negotiations, taking place from March 11-13, involve Morocco, with backing from the United States; regional nations like Algeria and Mauritania; and representatives from Western Sahara. It is the latest meeting in a 20-year process that has been marked by a continual failure to resolve the disputed status of this little-known and forgotten corner of Africa, wedged between Morocco and Mauritania.
Morocco is a perennial favourite of Western tourists who rightfully admire its spectacular natural vistas and the hospitality of a friendly people. But its dealing with the Sahrawi people is a little-known, dark and festering sore.
Abstract: The Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory annexed by Morocco despite Algerian objections, is a critical region that could quickly become part of the criminal and terrorist networks threatening North Africa and the Sahel. The undergoverned areas abutting the territory are becoming major hubs for drug trafficking, contraband smuggling, and weapons circulation. And Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is extending its reach in the region. The potential for destabilization is real.
AQIM and its offshoots in the Sahel are already working to expand their partnership with smugglers from massive refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, and to enlist recruits among the disenchanted youth there. If AQIM strengthened its alliance of convenience with the Polisario, the movement that has long fought for Western Sahara’s independence, a formidable terrorist organization could emerge.
Nearby Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara is plagued by widespread socioeconomic protests and ethnic strife. A deep enmity has developed between various groups in the territory, some of which have ethnic and cultural ties to inhabitants of the Tindouf camps. A growing number of Western Saharans find themselves increasingly isolated and frustrated—a precarious development. Just over a year ago, Laayoune, Western Sahara’s biggest city, was the site of violent rioting. Ethnic cleavages and cultural animosity have become dangerously pronounced, threatening to further fuel radicalism, violence, and confrontations.
Resolving the Western Sahara conflict would help untangle the main existing
deadlocks in North Africa and the Sahel: impediments toward regional
reconciliation and coordination in the fight against violent extremism and organized
criminal activity. Based on the author’s multiple trips to the Moroccan
Western Sahara and dozens of interviews, this paper examines the security
risks of the persistence of the conflict by analyzing the destabilizing forces that
heighten local tensions and regional instability.
Abstract: The 2011 protests and revolts have opened up a period of political unrest across the Arab world. A good year into what has been termed the Arab Spring, this volume spotlights different dimensions of a process of dynamisation that has spread to touch all Arab countries in some way or other. Pieces on Libya, the small Gulf monarchies, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan and Morocco examine the actors behind the protests, reactions by incumbent leaders and initial changes - from cosmetic reform to regime change - along with the concrete challenges faced by the respective societies, political elites and economies. Also, the geopolitical impact of these changes is analysed, in particular their effect on the Arab-Israeli conflict and on Iran’s regional role, and the repercussions of the armed struggle in Libya on its neighbours. Another chapter traces the course and development of the US policy debate about what stance to adopt. Each contribution concludes with concrete policy recommendations. In addition, opportunities for the EU to take action are sketched out for two critical policy fields: energy and migration. The volume is rounded off by ten theses summarising the impact of the Arab Spring on international politics, which extends far beyond North Africa and the Middle East.
Abstract: Since an obscure young fruit vendor named Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire in the dusty Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid in December 2010, the flames that ended his life have spread across the entire Middle East, both figuratively and literally. The protests, demonstrations, and upheavals originally inspired by his action have acquired a variety of terms – Arab spring, Arab awakening, Arab uprising – and they have ousted, threatened, or at least frightened almost every ruling regime in the region. The terms used to describe this phenomenon clearly connote a sharp break from the decades of political stagnation and quietism that preceded Bouazizi’s desperate act and imply that some momentous region-wide transformation has been set in motion.
However, as Amos Yadlin reminds us in his introductory overview, only six of 22 League of Arab States members have experienced the full force of the upheaval, and in only two of those (Tunisia and Libya – the latter in the wake of external military intervention) has the regime actually been overthrown. In two others (Egypt and Yemen), the leader has been ousted but major elements of the ancien regime remain in place; in one (Syria) the struggle between regime and opposition continues unabated; and in one (Bahrain), the uprising seems to have been suppressed, at least for the time being. This volume does not delve into the domestic politics and society of those six states. Such issues are ably dealt with by area studies experts. Instead, in keeping with the mandate of the Institute for National Security Studies, we focus here on the regional and international implications of this phenomenon, with special reference to the potential ramifications for Israeli national security.
One year is not a very long time in which to judge the significance of events, especially when they continue to unfold, and historians may rightly criticize efforts of this sort as premature. In validating their criticism, they will almost certainly enjoy repeating the widely cited (though never really authenticated) comment allegedly made by Chinese Premier Zhou En Lai to US President Richard Nixon about the significance of the French Revolution: “Too soon to tell.” Any rush to judgment should certainly be avoided. Unfortunately, there is no consensus among historians on what does constitute sufficient perspective. More to the point, policymakers and the analysts who are supposed to help them in their deliberations do not have the luxury of waiting until some period of time arbitrarily defined as “enough” does elapse. Instead, they need to identify the challenges they face and constantly formulate and reformulate their policies in real time, notwithstanding the unavoidable fact that they will have to do that on the basis of incomplete or even erroneous information and of inevitably imperfect understanding. The purpose of the authors of this volume, all members of the INSS research staff, is to provide brief, concentrated studies of the international and regional dimensions of the Arab spring in the hope of minimizing analytical imperfections in the ongoing public debate over issues that confront Israel with urgent choices.
Abstract: A year after the eruption of Libya’s spontaneous revolution, there are few signs of progress towards establishing internal security or a democratic government. Real power lies in the hands of well-armed militias with little inclination to disarm or demobilize and the ruling Transitional National Council (TNC) has been reduced to holding its meetings in secret to avoid bottle-throwing, grenade-hurling demonstrators. Amidst this turmoil come increasingly louder demands for a Shari’a regime as the old regime’s looted armories and former soldiers fuel new insurrections in the Sahel/Sahara region. Even as neighboring Mali descends into a new round of rebellion that threatens to become an all-out civil war, Niger and Algeria are struggling to find ways to break the wave of violence at their borders.
This second part focuses on the new tactics and strategies enabled in the region, most notably by the Tuareg in Mali. The article also discusses related issues in Algiers, which are also rooted in AQIM's presence in Mali, as well as the increased arms availability for other militant groups in West Africa.
Abstract: Despite growing concerns across the Sahel and Maghreb over the increasing potency of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the diffusion of heavily armed mercenaries from Libya, the expanding influence of arms and drugs trafficking, and the widening lethality of Boko Haram, regional security cooperation to address these transnational threats remains fragmented.
Algeria is well-positioned to play a central role in defining this cooperation, but must first reconcile the complex domestic, regional, and international considerations that shape its decision-making.
Abstract: Despite this commitment from the US government to the Sahara-Sahel, there is no consensus among policy makers, observers, regional governments and locals on-the-ground as to the ultimate rationale for these security initiatives. The primary justification for the US militarization of the Sahel is the existence of a small number of self-proclaimed ‘Islamist’ groups operating in the deserts connecting Mauritania, Mali, Burkina, Niger, Algeria, Tunisia, Chad and Libya, not to mention groups already active in northern Morocco Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Debate has focused on whether or not these armed groups, individually or taken as a dis-articulated whole, present a potential and significant threat to local and international interests. It is hoped that this collection of essays sheds new light and, eventually, brings fresh eyes to a series of securitizing practices occurring on the ‘margins’ of empire, generally, and US hegemony specifically.
Articles in this issue include:
1. From GSPC to AQIM: The evolution of an Algerian islamist terrorist group into an Al-Qa‘ida Affiliate and its implications for the Sahara-Sahel region | Stephen Harmon
2. War on ‘terror’: Africom, the Kleptocratic State and Under-class Militancy in West Africa-Nigeria | Caroline Ifeka
3. Counterterrorism and democracy promotion in the Sahel under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from September 11, 2001, to the Nigerien Coup of February 2010 | Alex Thurston
4. Western Sahara and the United States’ Geographical Imaginings | Konstantina Isidoros
5. The Western Sahara Conflict: Regional and International Repercussions | Yahia H Zoubir
6. Sahelian blowback: what’s happening in Mali? | Vijay Prashad
7. All quiet on the West Africa front: Terrorism, Tourism and Poverty in Mauritania | Anne E. McDougall
Abstract: This factsheet addresses the following questions with reference to the countries of the Arab Uprising including Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria:
Have people's human rights improved throughout 2011 as a result of the uprisings in MENA?
How many people have died in the different uprisings across the region?
Who has so far been held accountable for abuses against demonstrators during 2011?
Some commentators have suggested that the success of Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt poses a threat to human rights – what is Amnesty International’s position?
What has the role of women been in the uprisings and what have the changes in the region meant for women’s rights?
What does Amnesty International want to see happen in 2012?
Abstract: 2011 was a year without precedent for the peoples of the Middle East and
North Africa region. It was a year in which millions of people of all ages
and backgrounds, especially the young and often with women to the fore,
flooded on to the streets to demand change. Often, they continued to do so in
the face of extreme violence meted out by the military and security forces of
those who claimed to govern – and who had continued to enjoy and to squander
the fruits of power – in their very name.
Dubbed the “Arab Spring”, in fact the protests brought together in common
cause people from many different communities – certainly Arabs for the most
part but also Amazigh, Kurds and others. It was as if a tightly wound coil of
frustration caused by years of oppression, human rights violations, misrule and
corruption was suddenly unsprung, releasing an energy and power that ordinary
people until then had neither experienced nor realized that they possessed.
The flames of protest, literally and tragically, were sparked by the desperate
act of one young man – Mohamed Bouazizi – in the small Tunisian town of Sidi
Bouzid. His injuries proved fatal before he could see the maelstrom of popular
fury that his act touched off. That maelstrom succeeded, in turn, in toppling the
long-standing rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen who, until 2011, had
It was a year like no other, when the whole region shook as ordinary people
summoned up the courage to provide a demonstration of “people’s power” such
as the region had never seen before and, incredibly, to sustain it even when the
might of the state and its repressive security forces were deployed against them.
This failed in Tunisia and then in Egypt, where peaceful protests triumphed, albeit
at heavy human cost, while in Libya the result was a slide into armed conflict in
which international intervention tipped the scales against the oppressive regime of
Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi. In Yemen, the President’s obstinate refusal until
almost the end of the year to stand down despite mass anti-government protests
and increasing levels of repression and violence exacerbated the country’s already
deep social, political and economic problems.
Bahrain’s rulers, backed by Saudi Arabia, faced down the protests by force,
again at heavy human cost and deepening divisions, but ended the year
committing to reform, reparation and reconciliation. Meanwhile, Syria teetered
at the edge of civil war as its obdurate President, facing unprecedented demands for change, used relentless brute force to crush the protests, but in
doing so succeeded only in exposing further the rotten nature of his rule.
This report describes the events of this historic, tumultuous year, one which
saw so much suffering and sadness but also spread so much hope within the
region and beyond, to countries where other people face repression and
everyday abuse of their human rights. Amnesty International too was
challenged, as never before, to respond to the events by documenting the
violations that were committed and, most of all, by mobilizing its members and
supporters to extraordinary lengths in support and solidarity with the people in
the streets of Cairo, Benghazi, Sana’a, Manama, Dera’a and elsewhere who
were truly “in the frontline” in demanding reform, accountability and real
guarantees for human rights. This report is dedicated to them, their suffering
and their momentous achievements.
Abstract: Speakers included Robert Fowler, Former UN Special Envoy to Niger, Jérôme Spinoza, French Ministry of Defence, and Dr Knox Chitiyo, Royal United Services Institute. The participants shared their insights on the current political and security situation in the Western Sahel, and discussed the transnational challenges facing the region in the form of radical extremism and drug trafficking.
This is a transcript of an event held on 8 December 2011 at Chatham House.