AEGEE International Politics Journal

by Armenak Minasyants (Yerevan, Armenia)

The beginning of April and the political developments of this last ten days could be described as a direct continuation of the processes which we have seen during March. Once more we could notice democratization processes, but in comparison with last 3 months, that processes have enlarged their geography. Firstly, a new wave of political violence took place in Syria, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. In Syria at least 19 people were shot and killed on 07.04.2011 by the authorities as protests against the government continue. The clashes came when security forces opened fire on people throwing stones. State television in Syria has until now ignored the unrest, insisting that the country was calm. But for the first time it has now broadcast film of people lurking behind a hedge, who were described as “vandals”. Human rights groups estimate that around 115 people have been killed in the Syrian violence so far. At least for me it is difficult clearly to state who is a real “vandal”, but the fact that Syria is on the edge of revolution, like the ones’ we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt, is obvious.

You may find more updates on Syria here

Now, let’s turn to Ivory Coast. As it is known late last year, the people of Ivory Coast hoped finally to turn their back on years of civil war and conflict and turn a new page via the ballot box. During Laurent Gbagbo’s decade-long rule, Ivory Coast effectively became partitioned between north and south. His presidential run-off with Alassane Ouattara was seen as a chance to reunite the West African country democratically, under one leader. But instead, the use of force would determine the course of events. Step by step, the political stand-off after the contested election descended into violence. Once again, Ivory Coast is in a state of virtual civil war. At least 1,500 deaths have been reported. Once again, the principal victims caught up in the fighting have been civilians. One of the worst atrocities took place around a week ago at Duékoué in the west of the country. Crowds reportedly looked on as people were burned alive. Estimates differ as to how many people were killed. The International Committee of the Red Cross said at least 800 died; the Catholic organisation Caritas put the figure at over 1,000. The UN said fewer people, at least 330, had been killed. But, pointedly, it accused pro-Ouattara forces of being mainly responsible for the bloodbath. At the UN in New York, Youssouffou Bamba, Ivory Coast’s ambassador representing Alassane Ouattara, rejected the accusations. Whatever the outcome, the clashes of the last few months between pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara supporters have potentially sewn the seeds of long-term chaos.
In particular, Gbagbo’s heavily armed “young patriots” make the outlook, in Abidjan especially, dangerously unpredictable.

For Ivory Coast reports updates please follow this link

The presidential elections even have not taken place in Nigeria, but already during this last week we’ve got critical reports from that African state. A number of people have been killed in a suspected bomb blast at a Nigerian election office in Suleja, on the northwestern edge of the capital Abuja. There are also reports that four others were shot dead at a police station in Shani in Borno in the north east, as they prepared to distribute election leaflets.The violence is a futher blow to hopes of an orderly election in Nigeria, already a week late because of poor organisation. Human Rights watch estimate that as may as 85 people have been killed in political violence linked to the election campaign. Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect is being blamed for the upsurge in violence in the north east. Yet, some analysts believe their name is being used as a front to cover UP general political intimidation.

Everything about Nigerian elections could be found here –

The presidential elections also have been organized in Haiti and the winner was former pop star Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly who even after is triumph in elections still seems an unlikely choice to lead one of the world’s most challenged countries. He is, after all, a singer and anti-establishment entertainer with a reputation for exuberant on-stage antics. But after decades of poverty and misrule and last year’s crippling earthquake, Martelly tapped into the aspirations of Haitians yearning for change. His promises to deliver swept aside a second- round challenge from his older, more experienced rival, former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

You may get more information on Haiti here

But in any case the revolutionary states were under the focus during last week, particularly Libya, Egypt and Yemen. The fighting is continuing in several Libyan cities between rebels and forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi. The battle for the control of the eastern oil town of Brega has seen some of the fiercest combat over the past four days. The insurgents claimed to have re-captured the town on Saturday, but fighting is still going on around the eastern side of the settlement. Rebels have been fleeing back and forth along the coast road, coming under fire from what they say are rockets fired by Gaddafi’s men. There have also been reports of more shelling of Misrata, Libya’s third biggest city, and of nearby Zintan, where local people say they have been bombarded by tanks. The rebels are reportedly deploying heavier weapons against Gaddafi, and attempting to bring more discipline into play with a firmer line of command. They have admitted that it could have been their own forces that fired into the air on Friday, bringing a response from a coalition plane that killed at least 13 people. Roadblocks have also been set-up in an attempt to keep inexperienced volunteers away from the front line. NATO airstrikes are reported to have hit weapons depots belonging to pro-Gaddafi forces at Zintan, 160 kilometres from Tripoli. But it has also had to apologise after it accidentally killed five rebels when it targeted tanks near Misrata on Thursday. NATO says it did not know rebels were using tanks but opposition leaders claim the body had been informed. Their anger was clear at Friday prayers in Benghazi. Our reporter, Mustafa Bag, says thousands gathered for prayers in the city’s re-named Tahrir Square. They usually fly the flags of all nations supporting their cause but to express their feelings over the killings only the Libyan flag was being flown yesterday.

In Cairo, Tahrir Square has once more been the scene of massive protests, this time calling for ex-president Mubarak to be put on trial.
An estimated 100,000 people filled the square, demanding accountability of the old regime.
The Youth Groups which organised the demonstration called it ‘The Friday of Purification and Accountability‘. The army led by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi has said that parliamentary elections will be held in September, to be followed by presidential polls in October or November.

Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh is under increasing pressure to step down as protests both for and against him continue with no resolution in sight. It is clear he still has his supporters but former allies appear to be at best distancing themselves from his regime. Specifically the United States, and Gulf Arab countries, including its key financial backer and neighbour, Saudi Arabia. Anti-government demonstrators gathered in the capital Sanaa on Friday, and in the southern city of Taiz, where a number of protesters were shot dead earlier this week.The pro-democracy protests were dubbed the ‘Friday of Firmness’ by organisers.

Full map of Middle East protests: Country by country could be found here



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