I can only hope leaders learn the lessons of Tunis

I’ve been watching the events in Tunisia with interest, as I think any politics watcher worth their salt has, and all I can say is that it was expected. The business of any government is twofold and forget all the other stuff.

I’ve been watching the events in Tunisia with interest, as I think any politics watcher worth their salt has, and all I can say is that it was expected. The business of any government is twofold and forget all the other stuff.

A government has to make sure that their people are fed and employed. And if you can’t do either, at least don’t flaunt your excesses. Sadly in Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s case, he couldn’t ensure a full belly and work for his citizens and as a result he is doomed to call Saudia Arabia his home for probably the rest of his life, as did Ugandan strongman Idi Amin Dada.

I will not call myself a prophet, a seer or anything like that; I didn’t see it coming. The only thing that I knew about Tunisia was that it was the home of the African Development Bank, was the place where the Rwandan national football team, the Amavubi Stars, strut their stuff a few years back in the African Cup of Nations and that it was a pretty peaceful place, with none of the headlines of its neighbors Egypt, Libya and Algeria. Only now, after this so-called Scarlet Revolution (as it is being called now) have I found that the former president, effectively, ran a one-party state for the last twenty odd years.

With his ousting I’m hearing on Al Jazzera and BBC that the people of Tunisia rose up because of some democratic ethos that they had. That’s a load of tosh. 

If we look at the genesis of this ‘Revolution’ we’ll see that it was a result of one man’s action. Everything was moving along swimmingly for Ben Ali until a 26-year-old unemployed graduate in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, sets himself on fire in an attempt to commit suicide after police had confiscated the fruit and vegetables he was selling, because he lacked a permit. Mohammed Bouaszizi on December 17th hammered the first nail on Ben Ali’s coffin.  Graduates all over the world are the most optimistic section of a nation’s population, save for children, as any graduation photograph proves.

The smiles on their faces are an expression of the hope that the four year slog that they had to endure is coming to an end as employment beckons. When this optimism is dulled to such a degree that a young person believes that suicide is the only way out, there is a huge problem.

I can only wonder how he felt as his only manner of survival was taken away from him because of a simple document. Five days later Houcine Falhi a 22-year-old committed suicide by electrocuting himself in the midst of another demonstration over unemployment in Sidi Bouzid, after shouting out “No to misery, no to unemployment”!

The primary instinct of mankind is survival and self preservation. If a nation has a spate of young people killing themselves, maybe they ought to do something new.
Along with the underemployment of Tunisians, food prices rose to levels that had been unheard of in the region. French General Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “an army marches on its stomach”. Well, so does a country.

You can march soldiers to their doom, as the Frenchman did quite often, but as long as they were fed they didn’t complain that much.

Mr. Ben Ali should have seen this situation coming; you didn’t have to be a genius to realize that he was in a world of trouble. To think that you can control people with tear gas and live bullets, people who feel dead inside already, is ludicrous. The western media is excitedly talking about an Arab-wide people’s revolution, ousting their leaders and ushering in a democratic era. I hate to be a spoilsport but all I can see is that leaders will learn from this event.

They’ll concentrate on making sure that their people can afford to eat and have job prospects. Funny enough, I believe that these very initiatives will usher in a more people-centered kind of rule. Which I guess is everyone’s wish. In Tunisia’s case, I’m sure that the interim government has learnt its lesson, “More Food, Less Unemployment”.

sunnyntayombya@newtimes.co.rw

 

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