n Africa Conflict Monitor - Arab Spring report card five years on : regional analysis - north africa

Volume 2016, Issue 02
  • ISSN : 2311-6943


Moving east from Western Sahara, a series of revolts against long-entrenched despot governments swept across North Africa and into the Middle East in early 2011. What came to be known as the Arab Spring actually began the previous winter; in December 2010, Saharawi demonstrators protested against Morocco's occupancy of Western Saharaal most simultaneously with the self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi who was frustrated that corrupt government police were making his livelihood impossible. Setting himself on fire was an extreme act, one that would normally be ignored by the repressive government of Tunisia's dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. However, in this case the act was noticed by political activists. Just as pressure for freedom led to the swift collapse of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe in 1989-1991, a sentiment had been building amongst the people of Africa's northern countries to rid themselves of non-democratic regimes. Bouazizi's sacrifice was seized upon by pro-democracy groups, and within one month Ali was in exile, his government overthrown by a rapid revolution unforeseen by the rest of the world.

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