Young Arab Spring Blog

Arab Spring, Africa and Terrorism

Abdoul Yoro Diallo*

It is primordial to mention that the Arab Spring, which promised to mark a new era conferring the authoritarian regimes in the Maghreb and the Middle East a higher level of democracy, did not simply bring such outcomes as expected. Although it was thought that the Arab Spring would institute justice, equity, development, and prosperity, the reality was that these ideals turned out to be nothing more than a utopian dream that failed to be realized as ethnic minorities and political dissidents continued to be degraded within these countries.

The most negative aspects of this disillusion points to the violation of the principle of self determination and the willingness of leading a world that should obey the Western view concerning the debate on international law. Starting from such point of view, the tentative of regime change that took place in some countries in Africa and the Middle East can be referred to as a “reset of terrorism.”

It is important to clarify the meaning and outcome of the Arab Spring by referring to the Libyan case, which led to the collapse of an ancient authoritarian regime, as well as the ongoing Syrian conflict. For both, although the situation seems to be different, it can be foreseen that these cases could have more or less the same outcomes: a regional conflict or “sovereign disruption” throughout the entire Middle East.

If poverty and misery were among the causes of the Arab Spring, the increase of terrorism, insecurity, and harsh economic conditions were the corollaries of these causes. It is hard to believe that NATO contributed to vulgarize terrorism in Africa. After the intervention of French and British NATO troops in Libya, Africa has continued to suffer the consequences of inequality of state power in the international sphere Western civilization and its incommensurable scepticism of African democracy has disrupted the dignity and the acknowledgement of human values, by trying to impose their own values to the rest without understanding their cultures and beliefs.
What is obvious from the change of government in Libya was that it clearly damaged the security of the whole region by propagating violence and tribal conflict to handle domestic issues. Terrorist groups operating in different countries need an unstable situation to be effective. Prior to the Arab Spring, with the undeniable leadership of Qaddafi reigning throughout the African continent, terrorism was not an issue. However, Qaddafi’s fall from power has provided the situation and circumstances terrorists have been looking for to siege power in the region.

Furthermore, the Arab Spring has cast doubt on the effectiveness of modern systems at the state, regional and international level, because the principal of non-intervention into domestic issues was violated by Western powers. The vulnerability of some states vis-a-vis others shows the imbalance of sovereignty between African countries and Western hegemony. The consequences of war and armed conflict negatively affect several generations on their conception of peace, and destroying this is somewhat easier than rebuilding the same peace which took generations to be established.

The Arab Spring has divided the whole state system within these countries. Today, Libya is considered a failed state, functioning without the government authority to control the small armed factions operating within its borders. Most of the civilians who were strongly affected by the tough economic situation in the country after the fall of the Qaddafi regime are now ready to raise arms again. However, instead of being seen as revolutionaries of the Arab Spring, these fighters are now known as terrorists. Having no other alternative than to fight, steal, and plunder to survive, they continue to contribute to violence in the region. However, it is important to note that they differentiate themselves from others who fight for ideological or religious reasons.

At the beginning, if more attention was paid to the economic reasons that ignited the Arab Spring instead of to the ideological ones, many argue that the Arab Spring would not be synonymous with anarchy and the deterioration of social, political, and economic conditions in some countries. After the September 11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the youth in many Arab countries, mainly people who have a different understanding of the authentic Islam, saw the West’s war on terror as a war against Islam. Even for those who did not participate in it, psychologically, however, the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa were deeply affected by the violence that both the West and Islamic reactionary movements precipitated. Somehow this liberation against dictatorship regimes was the decisive moment in which these radical Islamist groups imposed their strong ideology, obstinately declaring political Islam is the only way that can prevent population from difficult situations. This pressure to join or die has pushed many civilians who are less fight to try and escape their homeland by using seaways (i.e. illegal immigration across the Mediterranean).

It was naïve of Western countries to believe that the Arab Spring would facilitate a smooth democratic transition across the Middle East and North Africa. The wish of democratic countries to democratize the rest of the world is futile. Although many politicians, philosophers, and internationalists have personified our increasingly global world as a group of civilizations functioning under a common humanity, this is a senseless opinion that excludes the fact that all people do not have the same desires, aspirations, or dreams, much less a common reality or history. While many still believe that history should be written by the strongest, in our modern world many also win political favor by playing the role of the victim. In the African continent, the rise of terrorism is principally a result of bad economic conditions. Many people are disappointed to see the failure of the Arab Spring and now believe that terrorism is a lucrative means to satisfy their needs. Other people say also that the problems of the Middle East and Africa should be solved through economic growth, not through an arm conflict. Indeed, if economic growth is the answer to the problems precipitated by the Arab Spring, then this would truly benefit all people of the world.

The international powers should apply this following instruction: Africa for Africans, without doubt, should be the ultimate way to engage a victorious battle against ignorance. Democracy cannot be imposed by outside actor—it should be wanted by the people and for the people.

* Undergraduate Student at the Department of International Relations, Yalova University