- HASSAN MASIKY
The security situation in Tunisia is fast evolving toward complete chaos and mayhem. As of Thursday afternoon, news agencies are reporting the death of at least 4 more civilians, which increase the toll from the violence to 66 deaths (a figure unconfirmed by the Tunisian authorities). The Tunisian military has been deployed in several Tunisian cities including the capital Tunis where riots and clashes between the police and protesters continue unabated. The New York Times is reporting that “protesters swarmed HAMMEMET, a beachfront tourist destination near the newly restive capital on Thursday, overwhelming the police and ransacking businesses as well as the luxurious mansion of a member of the president’s family.”
Despite a curfew, fresh clashes broke out with troops deployed in the capital and the city of Sfax as the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali struggled to deal with the worst unrest in the country.
Among the dead are French and a Swiss citizens putting pressure on the France, Switzerland along the United Nations to pressure the Tunisian officials to use restrains in their attempts to quell the violence. The disproportionate use of violence by the Tunisian police is a source of concern to several European governments and the United States. The loss of life in Tunisia has raised serious questions about the ability of Ben Ali to manage the crisis.
This unprecedented violence has revealed deep anger against the rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's government coloring this social unrest with a political tone and making a resolution of the crisis more difficult to formulate. As the political impasse continues in Tunisia, the world community is sitting on the side unwilling to frame a political resolution to a crisis that has claimed too many lives.
In fact, it is Ben Ali 23 years of absolute power which crashed all forms of political opposition that has made finding an exit plan from the current crisis hard to materialize. With the annihilation of all possible political opponents, Ben Ali has, today, no major political figure who can come to the negotiations table as a partner representing the view of the protesters. Currently there is no clear leader speaking on behalf of the protesters, which leave the door open to a possible civilian-Military take over as the only feasible intermediary and temporary solution to this impasse.
In the absence of a clear message from the Tunisian leadership on how to end the social unrest, some observers are hoping to see either France or the United States attempt, at least in private, to formulate an exit strategy to put an end to the violence. The absence of France and the US as honest broker in the Tunisian predicament is sending the wrong message to the young “Arab” democrats. For now, it looks as if the Western powers view the Arab people undeserving of democracy, human rights and freedom. The silence of Paris and the meek American denunciations are alarming and reinforce the impression that the West rather appease autocrats who serve their agenda than support democrats who may disagree with them on certain issues.
The Facebook generation who is behind the current revolt in Tunis has been critical of the western powers silence and indifference to the plight of the protesters. In Tweets and Facebook postings, young North Africans are taking note of the apathy of certain European government namely France. The United State and France are missing an important occasion to show the young people of the Middle East the commitments of the West to democracy and the rule of law in the region.