Omar Bashir, Bouazizi And Lessons For Sit-Tight African Leaders By Stephen Alemeru


Some years ago, the Arab world was hit by a string of political upheaval of great magnitude at the start of 2011 starting from the Islamic North African state of Tunisia. The revolutionary storm of the time threw much of the Middle East into a chaotic situation. The fact is social injustice and inequality in those Arab states that were hit by the political turbulence had risen to a fever pitch and the masses could no longer bear the heat; they were only awaiting something to trigger either violent or non-violent confrontations between them and the authority. There was a series of political demonstrations and in some places they led to fierce street political brawls between the government and the dissenting voices. The Middle East was so rowdy and dusty that international media turned their journalistic binoculars on that part of the world. Where exactly did the revolutionary storm come from? Could it be from the Mediterranean sea? Or from the ancient Pyramid of Egypt?

Whoever stayed abreast of the events of the Arab Spring as they were unfolding from the very beginning will no doubt subscribe to the fact that the revolutionary storm sprouted and twirled out of the belly of Mohammed Bouazizi of Tunisia, a university graduate-turned-street-fruit-seller, who set himself ablaze in protest against the Tunisian authority’s confiscation of his fruits for licence-related issue. To put it simply, Mohammed Bouazizi was the father of the Arab Revolutions and the moment the overthrow of Bashir hit the headline, I had a recollection of the huge sacrifice that the graduate fruit-seller had made.

All the eyes that gathered to watch him in blaze and all the ears that heard about his emotive sacrifice were moved to take to street and clamour for the resignation of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Each time I think about this period of political uprisings in the Middle East, it always calls to mind three lines from William Butler Yeats’s Poem titled The Second Coming:

“The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy loosed upon the world,”

These lines from Yeats’s The Second Comingunambiguously describe the events of the Arab Spring. As the uncontrollable revolutionary storm raged on for days beginning from the day Bouazizi set himself ablaze; when it became clear that nothing could ever contain it, Ben Ali alongside his family members scrambled out of the chaotic situation in a hurry and headed for Saudi Arabia. In no time at all, the storm spilled over to Egypt and Libya; while Hosni Mubarak quickly saw the little likelihood of him winning the battle and deliberately loosened his 30 year grip on power, stubborn Muammar Gaddafi, without comprehendible alliance with any of the world powers, chose to remain in power or die trying.

What started as a string of non-violent demonstrations by ragtag protesters in Benghazi, Libya later degenerated into an all-out civil war, which eventually swept away Gaddafi’s 42 year old repressive regime. In fact, not only did he lose his political power as a sitting president, he lost his life the course of fighting to maintain his grip on power. Gaddafi’s case was identical to that of the obdurate little boy, so possessive of his ball, who must choose between the ball and afternoon nap. He had the opportunity to choose between his life and his power but he foolishly chose his power and then he lost both in the end. At this juncture, Mohammed Bouazizi posthumously became a 3star General. That’s to say, each case of overthrow is a Posthumous Star for him.
Before the fall of Gaddafi, which was facilitated first by the coalition forces (America, Britain and France) and later by NATO, the storm had spiralled to many more places just like, to borrow from Chinua Achebe’s canon, “harmattan bushfire” —Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Yemen. Through repressive strategies and sham political/constitutional reforms, it was contained in some of the countries above. However, in Yemen, when Ali Abdullah Saleh returned from Saudi Arabia where he was flown to for medical treatment after sustaining shrapnel wounds in an attack on his presidential palace, he agreed to a peaceful exit deal brokered by the Gulf states and stood aside. His toppling made Bouazizi 4-Star General.

In Syria, the revolutionary storm raged on and on and deteriorated into a bloody civil war until the two nuclear-armed rivals (Russia and the USA) hijacked the revolution and metamorphosed it into a war laboratory to further experiment their Cold War, and unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians paid with their dear lives. In my view, their revolution didn’t achieve its aim and objectives. If anything, it had simply unleashed wanton killing and destruction on the masses with full blessings from the two nuclear-wielding states.

As every faction in Syria looked back to count their losses in the devastating war, the storm reared its head in Sudan. Left for Bashir, he would have loved to see armoured tanks destroying lives and property. Since his own military were already sick and tired of his autocratic style of leadership, just like what in Egypt and not long ago in Gambia, they decided to ally themselves with the people. Today we see a Sudan without Omar Bashir. Today we see an Egypt without Hosni Mubarak.

In conclusion, the fall of all long-serving African/Arab leaders, Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gaddafi, Saleh and Bashir, speaks clearly and unequivocally about the tentativeness of power and the transitoriness of human glory. That’s to say, power is not permanent and human glory is ephemeral. The overthrow of each of these men is a clear signal of warning to other long-serving African leaders who are still peeping from their revolving chairs, pretending not to the rain clouds of shame gathering over their heads. A day is coming soon when we shall see an Equatorial Guinea without Obiang Mbasoro; A day is coming soon when power will slip off the hands of Paul Biya of Cameroon. Whether Yoweri Museveni likes it or not, Ugandans will one day determine how they want to be governed and who governs them. They can’t hold their respective countries longer.

Alemeru, a student in the Department of English, University of Jos can be reached on, and +2347081079888