2011-01-16 Protests in Egypt

 

Al Jazeera reports from Cairo, Egypt, where some are hoping to follow Tunisia’s example and have an uprising of their own. “Down with corruption, Down with autocracy, Down with dictators!” they chant.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit downplayed any risk of a Tunisian style uprising in Egypt.

“The talk about the spread of what happened in Tunisia to other countries is nonsense. Each society has its own circumstances,” Abul Gheit told reporters in Sharm el-Sheikh.

 

Egypt is not Tunisia, But … is the headline of an article from uruknet which debates the differences and the likelihood of sudden regime change in Egypt. Many agree that revolt is less likely in Eqypt. But,

They are alike in that nobody wants them and nobody likes them,” says Ibrahim Issa, editor of the online daily Al-Dostor and one of the main critics of the regime in Egypt.

 

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2011-01-17 Tunisia’s new government

 

After one month (to the day) of turmoil, Tunisia has announced a new interim government. Mohamed Ghannouchi, the Tunisian prime minister, has announced that the former defense, foreign affairs, interior and finance ministers will keep their key posts, and a number of opposition members will be assigned to ministerial posts

 

Najib Chebbi, founder of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), will be minister of regional development, Ahmed Ibrahim, leader of the Ettajdid party, will be minister of higher education, and Mustafa Ben Jaafar, head of the Union of Freedom and Labour, will be the minister of health. The ministry of information, formerly devoted to suppression of information, is abolished in the new government. There is now a separation of the state from political parties, so the collection of parties will not fall under the control of a ruling party.

 

The government has committed to releasing all political prisoners and a ban on the activities of human rights groups will be lifted. Anyone with great wealth or suspected of corruption will face investigation. Internet and social media restrictions have been dropped and the government has promised “total freedom” for the media.

 

Al Jazeera reports:

 

Fouad Mebazza, Speaker of parliament sworn in as interim president, had asked Ghannouchi to form a government of national unity, and constitutional authorities said a presidential election should be held within 60 days.

 

 

 

Reaction:

 

Protests were still going strong prior to the announcement of a new government. Security forces used water cannon and tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse the protest. Many have vowed to oppose any government that contains any of the old ministers, and the new government announced is primarily old ministers. The protesters want the old CDR party completely abolished, and new members appointed from within their ranks. From Al Jazeera:

 

About 1,000 people gathered in the capital’s main boulevard in a demonstration against the ruling RCD party, chanting: “Out with the RCD!” and “Out with the party of the dictatorship!”

One demonstrator, Monji Amari, said: “We are here to say ‘No’. We have had enough of this party of power. We do not want to see them any more. Together with Ben Ali they are responsible for the situation that we are in now.”

One of Tunisia’s best known opposition figures, Moncef Marzouki, on Monday branded his country’s new government a “masquerade” still dominated by supporters of ousted strongman Ben Ali.

“Tunisia deserved much more,” the secular leftist declared. “Ninety dead, four weeks of real revolution, only for it to come to this? A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of the party of dictatorship, the RCD,”said Marzouki on France’s I-Tele.

He complained that, despite Ben Ali having fled the country to escape a popular revolt, his supporters in the former ruling party had retained key government posts, including the interior ministry “which is supposed to organise elections”.

(In fact, according Ahmed Friaa, Tunisia’s interior minister, 78 people have been killed in the country during the recent turmoil, almost quadrupling the official death toll. He also estimated that the unrest had cost the country’s economy $2.2 bn as a result of disruption of economic activity and lost export revenues.)

Rachid al-Ghannouchi (no relation to Mohamed Ghannouchi), the exiled leader of the Nahdha Movement party, told London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper that leaders of his party had not been invited to participate in the negotiations in forming the new unity government.

Ghannouchi said he believed there was “deliberate alienation to Islamists in Tunisia”. But he added that “If we were invited in the future for taking part in the government, we would consider the offer”.

 

2011-01-16 Early reports of unrest in Libya [UPDATE 1]

EA World View is reporting protests in Darna on the northeast coast of Libya, in Beida, the third-largest city, and at the Press Syndicate in Cairo, supporting the rising in Tunisia and calling for a change in Egypt’s politics: “Revolution, revolution until victory, revolution in Tunisia, and revolution in Egypt!”

More news is appearing under the hashtag #Libya including the following:

http://twitter.com/Cyrenaican/status/26704179925880832

al-bab.com has some perspective. Colonel Gaddafi has been in power for almost 42 years, compared with a mere 23 for Ben Ali.

Contrary to what many people imagine, protests and even large-scale riots are not uncommon in the Arab countries. They occur mostly in marginalised regions or among marginalised sections of the population and, normally, they pose no great threat to the regime.

Last month – one day before the trouble started in Tunisia – there was a Sunni-versus-Shia riot in the Saudi city of Medina. Eight hundred people are said to have taken part; windows were smashed and dozens of cars damaged or destroyed. Outside the kingdom, hardly anyone noticed.

The tricky part is judging the significance of such protests when they occur. One test is whether they are outside the norm for the country concerned: ten dead in a tribal battle with the Yemeni army would be no big deal, but the same thing in Oman, next door, would be hugely significant.

Applying the “Tunisia test”, the following are also useful pointers for distinguishing minor from major protests:

1. Disturbances sustained for more than a few days.

2. Disturbances steadily growing in strength and spreading to other areas, especially those areas not traditionally regarded as marginalised.

3. Focus of protests shifting strongly from the original grievances to a more generalised critique of the regime.

4. Regime starting to show signs of inability to reassert control.

 

UPDATE 1:
Al Jazeera (Arabic) reports people in several Libyan cities have broken into thousands of housing units after an interview in Sabha with Muammar Gaddafi. Thousands of citizens stormed a project containing 800 residential units in the city of Benghazi in Aguarcp. [Very bad translation: if anyone has a better, please post in the comments. Thank you.]

More youtube video

 

2011-01-14 Tunisia: Ben Ali Out, Mohamed Ghannouchi Out

Today marked the end of a 23 year rule by Tunisian president Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia after police in the country killed at least 23 protesters. “What happened here is going to affect the whole Arab world,” said protester Zied Mhirsi. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced his intention to serve as interim president, and protesters immediately refused to have him.

Fadhel Bel Taher, whose brother was one of dozens of people killed in protests, said: “Tomorrow we will be back on the streets, in Martyrs Square, to continue this civil disobedience until… the regime is gone.

“The street has spoken.”

 

Protesters had gathered on Twitter under the hashtag #sidibouzid, named for the city where an unemployed college graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, burned himself to death in frustration and anger at being ordered to buy a license to sell fruit. The Tunisian government attempted to shut down social media gathering by blocking access to Twitter accounts, bloggers and Facebook pages, but were circumvented and attacked by online activists world wide. Al Jazeera is also widely commended by protesters for getting their story told.

2011-01-01 The Internet and the State Cables

For all those who felt that the world would never wade through 251,287 United States embassy cables, once more, they have underestimated the internet. Presenting, the US State Cables:

Cablegate Comix

Cablegate Chronicles

Haïkuleaks

And to warm up:

So why is Wikileaks a good thing again?

Leaky World

Wikileaks: The Game

Real-time Wikileaks Twitter search results set to the Beatles

It’s going to be a great year.

2011-01-11 TVOntario: The Agenda: Livestream interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, member of the Icelandic parliament and former WikiLeaks volunteer, in Toronto to speak at the first Samara/Massey journalism seminar, will be interviewed by Steve Paikin of Television Ontario’s The Agenda at 2 p.m. EST today. The interview will be livestreamed and will be archived on the program’s website.

From Samara:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, now a member of Iceland’s Parliament, has led a movement in her country to take the most far-reaching steps towards advancing free speech, freedom of the press and transparency in government of any country in the world. This initiative, the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI) aims to bring together transparency laws from multiple jurisdictions to create the strongest media freedom laws in the world, with the goal of improving democracy and Iceland’s standing in the international community.

In her talk, Birgitta Jónsdóttir will describe how and why she decided to help transform Iceland into the world’s safe haven for transparency, and what the impact has been to date, including her reflections on WikiLeaks’ ongoing revelations.