n Africa Conflict Monthly Monitor - Why upticks in violence should not surprise in post-Arab Spring states - : North Africa - issue in focus

Volume 2013, Issue 04
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On 6 February 2013, Chokri Belaid, a Tunisian opposition leader of the left-secular Democratic Patriots' Movement (DPM), was shot four times in the head and chest while leaving his home in Tunis. Once a poet, and a noted political critic of ousted leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Belaid had become the face of the secular opposition in Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring movement. Belaid was a vocal opponent of supporters of fundamentalist Islam, whose confrontational tactics have recently prevented some plays and musical concerts from being held in Tunisian cities. The night before his death, Belaid had publicly decried the rising violence targeting the opposition in Tunisia, lamenting that all opponents of Ennahda - the Islamist party currently in power in the country - were becoming victims of violent acts.

As evidenced through Belaid's tragic death in Tunisia, the toppling of longstanding authoritarian regimes in North Africa and the Middle East is but the beginning of a long transition to democracy. The turmoil and violence that now plagues many of these unsettled countries is the manifestation thereof. If the recent killing of Belaid is any sign of things to come, the timeframe to a consolidated democracy - at least one reminiscent of Western liberal forms of democracy - runs the risk of being seriously drawn out. Furthermore, it is likely that emerging democracies in North Africa and the Middle East will be inherently different than those democracies to which the West has become accustomed. Nonetheless, it is not yet time to lose all hope, and an historical approach to understanding the tumultuous paths of democratic transitions may prove more useful now than ever.

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