North Africa on Edge: Public Protest Governments in Egypt and Tunisia

Tunisia and and Egypt have turned into political powder keg. In Tuinisa, citizens have protest the recent re-election of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and the recent revelation by a US Ambassador has led massive protests and rioting on the government for the Presidents lavish lifestyle and the lack of  jobs in Tunisia From The New York Times:

This ancient Mediterranean hamlet, advertised as the Tunisian St.-Tropez, has long been the favorite summer getaway of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his large extended family, many of whom have built vast beachfront mansions here with the wealth they have amassed during his years in power.

But their new and conspicuous riches, partly exposed in a detailed cable by the American ambassador and made public by WikiLeaks, have fueled an extraordinary extended uprising by Tunisians who blame corruption among the elite for the joblessness afflicting their country.

And on Thursday, idyllic Hammamet became the latest casualty of that rage, as hundreds of protesters swarmed the streets, the police fled and rioters gleefully ransacked the mansion of a presidential relative, liberating a horse from its stable and setting aflame a pair of all-terrain vehicles.

That outburst was just a chapter in the deadly violence that flared around the country and in Tunis, the capital, again on Thursday, making the government appear increasingly shaky. The mounting protests threaten not only to overturn a close United States ally in the fight against terrorism but also to pull back the veneer of tranquil stability that draws legions of Western tourists to Tunisia’s coastal resorts.

President Ben Ali gave a hastily scheduled televised address on Thursday night, his second in the past week, and this time he appeared rattled. He no longer blamed foreign terrorists or vowed to crack down on protesters. Instead, he pledged to give in to many of the protesters’ demands, including an end to the government’s notoriously tight censorship, but rejecting calls for an immediate end to his 23-year rule.

“I am telling you I understand you, yes, I understand you,” Mr. Ben Ali, 74, declared. “And I decided: total freedom for the media with all its channels and no shutting down Internet sites and rejecting any form of monitoring of it.

Since the original article President Ben Ali resigned and fled with is family Somewhere in Saudi Arabia says France 24:

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has taken over as interim president after Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali (pictured) left the country in the wake of weeks of protest against his 23-year rule. Ben Ali arrived in Saudi Arabia early on Saturday.

By AFP / FRANCE 24 (video)

Meanwhile Tunisia forms a coalition government. Reuters:

The ousting of Tunisia’s president after widespread protests could embolden Arab opposition movements and ordinary people to challenge entrenched governments across the Middle East.

Speaker of parliament Fouad Mebazza, sworn in as interim president, asked Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi to form a coalition government and the constitutional authorities said a presidential election should be held within 60 days.

The French government called on Tunisia to hold free elections as soon as possible and said it had taken steps to block suspicious movements of Tunisian assets in France.

Ben Ali has taken 1.5 tons of Gold equal to 4.5 million Euros  according to CNBC Report.

How one man Started a Region-wide  revolution. From London Daily-Mail:

It all began with the despair of one man, a young graduate unable to get a job, like so many others in his country.

Mohammed Bouazizi turned to selling fruit and veg illegally to earn some money for his family, but when the police confiscated his produce last month because he had no permit, it was all too much. He poured petrol on himself and set it alight in an unusually public protest.

The 26-year-old died earlier this month, but today he is a hero. Not just to his nation, but across the ‘gendarmerie’ states of north Africa.

For that agonising act of self-immolation sparked something remarkable: a wave of protests that, for the first time in recent memory, felled a leader in the Arab world.

Courageous protesters withstood bullets, beatings and bloodshed to oust a loathed president who had made their lives a misery while growing rich at their expense.

The people of Tunisia struggle with poverty, joblessness and a greedy presidential family. From the Daily Mail:

Tunisia’s angry protestors are shedding no tears for the downfall of ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s greedy wife Leila.

The former hairdresser was likened to the Philippines’ Imelda Marcos of the Arab world because of her love of wealth and its trappings.

While Ben Ali, 74, was granted refuge in Saudi Arabia, his wife,  more than 20 years her husband’s junior, was at first thought to be holed up in Dubai –  a destination she is said to know well through shopping trips.

The woman who came from a humble background, was branded ‘The Regent of Carthage’ for her power behind the throne and her love of money, luxury cars and opulent homes.

This is why so much of the anger on the streets was directed at the family who were known as ‘The Mafia.’

Looters sick of the family’s nepotism filmed themselves on mobile phones destroying  the family’s expensive cars at one of their villas and riding motorbikes across the manicured laws.

Their two daughters have fled to the Disneyland Hotel in Paris, where they are holed up in £300-a-night VIP suites.

Nesrine Ben Ali, 24, and her sister Cyrine are under guard there while their father Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali is being given sanctuary in Saudi Arabia

Soon after protesters in  other Arabic nations join in including Algeria, Yemen. Toronto Globe and Mail:

Tunisia’s revolution spreads as other countries inspired to protest against authoritarian regimes

Protesters clash with police in Algers

The Glob and Mail have an extensive online galleries of the protests across the Middle East and North Africa.

Also from Yahoo News:

Two days after Yemen’s political opposition called for a national uprising against the leadership of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, thousands of protesters took to the streets in the capital city of Sanaa, calling for the removal of what they view as a persistently corrupt regime.

A crowd of men, wearing pink bandanas in support of Tunisia’s recent revolution, flooded the streets in four different locations in Sanaa. They waved Yemen’s red, white, and black flag and carried posters that read, “We’ve had enough suppression,” “We’ve had enough corruption,” and “We are next” – written above a picture of the Tunisian flag.

I am here today to express that we need a change in the president, that we refuse corruption, and that we are against constitutional changes that will allow the president to be president for life,

But while protesters have drawn inspiration from Tunisia’s revolution, the real effect of Yemen’s protests is likely to be more modest than regime change. Rather, Yemen’s coalition of opposition parties seeks to tap the post-Tunisia revolution energy in Yemen to pressure the ruling party to make reforms that they had sought months before the Tunisian uprising began.

Now Egypt the largest Arabic nation in the Middle East protests against President Hosni Mubarak. From AP via My Way News:

Thousands of anti-government protesters, some hurling rocks and climbing atop an armored police truck, clashed with riot police Tuesday in the center of Cairo in a Tunisia-inspired demonstration to demand the end of Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30 years in power.

Police responded with blasts from a water cannon and set upon crowds with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas to clear demonstrators crying out “Down with Mubarak” and demanding an end to the country’s grinding poverty.

Tuesday’s demonstration, the largest Egypt has seen for years, began peacefully, with police showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a concerted government effort not to provoke a Tunisia-like mass revolt.

As the crowds in downtown Cairo’s main Tahrir square continued to build, however, security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent.

Demonstrators attacked the police water canon truck, opening the driver’s door and ordering the man out of the vehicle. Some hurled rocks and dragged metal barricades. Officers beat back protesters with batons as they tried to break cordons to join the main group of demonstrators downtown.

To the north, in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, thousands of protesters also marched in what was dubbed a “Day of Rage” against Mubarak and lack of political freedoms under his rule.

In another parallel with the Tunisia protests, the calls for rallies went out on Facebook and Twitter, with 90,000 saying they would attend.

By Saturday Egyptian President Honsi Mubarak  spoke out againstt the protests. Them he dissolved his cabinet during a speech as riots intensifies. From CNN:

President Mubarak’s announcement that he was going to dissolve the government Saturday did not sit well with some protesters.

“Mubarak just blamed the government. We will continue our demonstrations until we get our full demands. We want him to leave. His time is over,” said Ahmed, a 19-year-old law student demonstrator in Central Alexandria’s Raml Square.

“We are one of the richest Arab countries and we want to live. Let a new government form but if we don’t get what we ask for, we will go back to the streets again and again,” said Mohammed, a 20- year-old student.

US President Barack Obama calls on the violence to end om Egypt, restore communications cell phone and internet. and the US Secretly backs the protesting.:

U.S. President Barack Obama called on Egyptian authorities Friday to refrain from violence and to reverse any actions they have taken to limit access to the internet in the wake of protests there.

Obama said he spoke to the Egyptian president after he announced plans to dissolve his government and take steps with a new cabinet to implement reforms that will revitalize the economy and create more jobs.

“I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.”

Outgoing White House senior adviser David Axelrod said President Obama warn Pres. Mubarak that protest are coming. From ABC News

In a network exclusive interview to air on Nightline tonight, we sat down this afternoon with White House senior adviser David Axelrod, the president’s closest aide, whose last day at the White House is today.

We talked about a number of issues in this exit interview, but perhaps most news-worthy were his comments on Egypt in which Axelrod suggested President Obama has for two years “directly confronted” the Egyptian president over human rights issues in order to get ahead of growing discontent among his people – a stronger characterization of President Obama’s discussions with Mubarak than we’ve so far heard from the White House.

The relevant section of the interview is below.

TAPPER: Hosni Mubarak is not a good guy and that government tortures, is repressive, doesn’t believe in the same freedoms we do and they’re also one of our closest allies in the Middle East.

AXELROD: Obviously these are the challenges of the presidency in a very difficult world. And, but the way he’s confronted it, is he went to Cairo and talked about the need, the universal human rights of people. He’s — on several occasions directly confronted Pres. Mubarak on it. And pushed him on the need for political reform —

TAPPER: To get ahead of this.

AXELROD: — in his country. Exactly to get ahead of this. This is a project he’s been working on for 2 years and today the president is working hard to encourage restraint and a cessation of violence against the people of Egypt.

TAPPER: With senior administration officials very pointedly suggesting future US aid to Egypt will depend on how Egypt responds. I mean, that’s a real threat.

Mubarak announces his Vice President to appease his critics. From AP via Yahoo News:

With protests raging, Egypt’s president named his intelligence chief as his first-ever vice president on Saturday, setting the stage for a successor as chaos engulfed the capital. Soldiers stood by — a few even joining the demonstrators — and the death toll from five days of anti-government fury rose sharply to 74.

Saturday’s fast-moving developments across the north African nation marked a sharp turning point in President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule of Egypt.

The appointment of the president’s intelligence chief and longtime confidant, Omar Suleiman, as vice president.

The appointment of Suleiman, 74, answers one of the most intriguing and enduring political questions in Egypt: Who will succeed 82-year-old Mubarak?

Another question is whether his appointment will calm Egypt’s seething cities.

Mubarak appointed Suleiman shortly after the U.S. said he needed to take concrete action to achieve “real reform.” Suleiman is well known and respected by American officials and has traveled to Washington many times.

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