Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wikileaks and the Dawn of the Wiki Revolution

It is said that history repeats itself...that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it...that what goes around comes around. Nowhere can that be more apparent than on the continent of Africa where, time after time, strongmen oust other strongmen, vow to establish democracy, then become the senile, oppressive dictators they accused their predecessors to be.
This past week brought about the ouster of Tunisia's strongman, Ben Ali. The 74-year old leader had been in office for 23 years. Foreigners living in Tunisia had remarked to me how Tunisians are cowardly and would never be able to rise against Ben Ali. So, what really made the people rise up?
There are Wikeleaks cables on Tunisia which showed the extent of Ben Ali's corruption. The US government, however, has denied that those cables were a factor, crediting the masses for initiating and seeing through the rebellion.
There is also the belief that the people were tired and the time was ripe for change. That, as the US claims, the people had simply been pushed too far.
I believe both factors came into play here. Whether the US, and other western powers, realize this or not, their view, made clear in the Wikileaks cable, that Ben Ali was corrupt and "had lost touch with his own people" empowered the people to rise up. They felt that western bullets and force would not be fully behind the dictator...that the losses in the struggle would be meaningful.
And that was the first of the Wiki Revolutions about to sweep the continent. All that people in oppressed, western-backed countries need to know is that their suffering is acknowledged by the West, and they will rise to demand their rights. At the moment, many live in fear because they know they have no chance against American, French, or British might which they see as holding up their oppressors. If the curtain drops, however, and reveals that muscle not to be propping up the dictator, then they can fight. They know they have a chance.
Right now, governments in Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and elsewhere seem to be propped up by western powers, but Wikileaks cables could show otherwise in the next few months. When that happens, look for people to rise up and demand equal opportunities, equal rights, and open political space.
Ben Ali fell because he ended up emulating his predecessor in ruling style and corruption. Most, if not all, of today's dictator's are following, step by step, the paths of those they overthrew, yet they expect different outcomes. They have ears but don't hear, eyes but don't see, and brains but don't think.
So, if the cowardly Tunisians can do it, why can't everyone else???... I say "BRING ON THE WIKI."

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