Washington / Morocco Board News -- Now that Mubarak is gone and Egypt enters the post-Mubarak period, foreign policy pundits are trying to predict the next revolt. However, at this stage of the Egyptian uprising, American and Arab observers are calling Obama’s handling of the Egyptian crisis into question. As Washington kept changing its messages trying not to give up on Mubarak while sounding sympathetic to the democratic demands of the demonstrators, human rights and democracy advocates grew inpatient and disillusioned with the American reluctance to support the legitimate demands of the crowds.
Eventough it is still early to draw final lessons from the Egyptian “revolution”, several developments that happened in Tunisia and are transpiring in Egypt must be analyzed, summarized and implemented in several countries in the region, including Morocco and Algeria, to avoid further unrests and to meet the basic demands of the people in the Middle East and North Africa.
What are the first lessons for the rest of the countries in the region? Of course it dependents on the country. For Morocco, the authorities are familiar with the “Moroccans’ demands” that can be recapitulated in fighting corruption and nepotism in government agencies, leveling the field for all citizens to apply for jobs based on qualifications and not connections, and improving education and health services. On the political level, a reform of the judiciary system in Morocco and an overhaul of the press code are overdue. The talk of constitutional reforms is a newly debated subject for the Moroccans. The political scene is full with different views coming from a variety of political entities pondering the merits of a change to the Moroccan constitution.
Moroccans have been asking for an independent judiciary that is free of interferences from “officials” for sometimes now. A speedy and effective restructuring of the judicial system will send the right political message. Furthermore, A more open and transparent government is a “must change” to keep social peace in Morocco. The Moroccans are asking for a deep cleanup of their house, hoping and praying that it would happen hastily and without recourse to social unrests.
With all the talk of the “Morocco exception”, Moroccan officials will be complaisant to assume and believe that business as usually is the answer. In fact, now it is the time for the authorities to be aggressive and proactive in implementing reforms that were promised to the people in the ”near past” but never delivered, and to coin new plans to address the average citizens valid concerns. Morocco, like the rest of the countries in the region, will be affected by the Egyptian revolution. To think otherwise will be political suicide.
One of the questions that observers and officials in the region will be examining once the dust settles in Cairo is: How did Egypt arrive at this conjunction? Moreover, what could past and present the American administrations have done to prevent the chaos and bloodshed in Tunisia and Egypt and how to help friendly government to deliver reforms in the future?
The Egyptian people have endured under a repressive regime for 30 years while the free world ignored their plights. As Amnesty International’s (AIUSA)representative covering Egypt and Tunisia in the 1990’s, I had little success in convincing major press organs in Washington to cover human rights abuses, independent press restrictions and police brutality by the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes. Few in the US Congress wanted to hear about the cruelty and rights abuses by the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes. The White House and the State department, while understanding and sometimes documenting the ill-treatment of political oppositions figures in the two countries, rarely acted to “effectively” pressure Cairo and Tunis to improve their human rights records, fight corruption and open up the political scene for opposition groups.
Washington knew in details the dark secrets of the Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes and had the tools to address the abuses, and yet American officials chose to overlook the violence, manipulation, and mistreatment of Egyptian and Tunisian human rights and democracy advocates for the sake of stable and friendly relations with two dictators.
In lights of the current developments, some observers are wondering what would have been the results if Washington pressured Mubarak and Ben Ali to clean up their acts and implement basic reforms. Would the US had lost the backing of Mubarak’s Egypt and Ben Ali’s Tunisia? The answer is no. A more “open and democratic” Egypt and Tunisia would have kept the two regimes alive and thus protecting American interests in the regions.
The lesson here is friendly but firm pressures on friendly regimes to implement democratic reforms are in the best interests of the local people, the “friendly regimes” and the national security of the United States.
By HASSAN MASIKY