I have to admit that the resignation of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali caught me by surprise, despite being a bit of a news junkie. Who could have foreseen in mid-December of last year that a young man’s act of desperation in a public square of a town in the Tunisian countryside would lead to the end of an administration that has been in power since 1987?
I was firmly among those who believed Tunisia to be a stable and prosperous North African nation that we should all aspire to emulate. The African Development Bank shared this opinion when it relocated its headquarters from Abidjan in Ivory Coast, following the outbreak of a civil war in 2002.
Events of the last week have proven all of us wrong. There are also interesting parallels to be made between Tunisia and the Ivory Coast beyond their hosting of the African Development Bank.
Perhaps the now “retired” President Ben Ali should counsel his counterpart in Ivory Coast on how to slip out of power quietly rather than clinging on at all costs. It was particularly heartening that the Tunisian people, once they felt like their concerns on inflation, unemployment, income inequality and high levels of corruption were not being adequately addressed, were able to rise up and force out the administration they felt had failed them.
While there has been the chaos that such popular expressions bring with them, as well as protesters killed by the violent police reaction, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that there was none of the civil strife of armed conflict or indiscriminate targeting of any group.
It brings to mind the East European uprisings of 1989 and 1990. Already some protests are being staged in neighbouring Algeria for the same purpose. No longer will the people remain silent in the face of government indifference to increasingly difficult living conditions.
All authorities in North Africa have been served notice, people power is alive and well.
On the home front, the Under-17 Junior Wasps made history as they qualified for the world cup to be held in Mexico, later this year.
While this world cup is not level in terms of sporting profile with the FIFA World Cup, it’s a welcome boost in the self esteem of local football.
None of the youngsters played for a fancy club in Europe and were, until now, relatively unknown. They were just a group of teenagers with a passion for the game of football who had access to a good training regime.
In fact, I am not sure that there was a good training regime, it is only an assumption made basing on their performance. One has to hope that the good performance this far was not a freak occurrence owing to home ground advantage, but rather a product of the youth sports programs in place.
If this is true, there is a lot that can be learnt by the other sporting federations in the country with specific regard to youth development and preparation for major sporting competitions.
Let’s hope that our Olympic team that is scheduled to participate in the summer games of 2012 is taking note.