Dictatorships have generally withstood the test of time as a result of a series of myths perpetuated amongst the populations of their countries. These myths revolve around the unchallengeable power of the dictator and the futility of resistance. However, the Arab Spring is playing a key role in falsifying these beliefs, creating a watershed moment in history which will be remembered as the beginning of the end of dictatorship.
Tuesday 22 November 2011 saw the controversial and much dreaded Protection of State Information Bill (POIB) tabled before the South African Parliament. Spearheaded by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), its original objective appears to have been to replace the apartheid-era Protection of Information Act of 1982, so as to bring South Africa’s state information legislation more in line with the country’s Constitution and democratic principles.
Zimbabwe’s Vice President, Joice Mujuru, recently called for a thorough probe to be conducted into a fire that killed her husband, Solomon Mujuru, at his farmhouse in Beatrice, just south of the capital, Harare, on the evening of 15 August 2011. Despite this, little – if any – independent investigation into the matter has taken place. Solomon was one of the most feared kingpins within President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF and was Zimbabwe’s most decorated post-independence army general. The circumstances surrounding the fire remain suspicious, yet Mugabe has failed to order a special inquiry into Solomon’s death.
The existence of heavily armed civilians, remaining supporters for the Gaddafi regime, and a political system in chaos make for a difficult road ahead as the National Transition Council (NTC) seeks to gain legitimacy and control in Libya. Chatham House’s 18 August 2011 report Libya: Policy Options for Transition examines possible solutions including calling for the return of the skilled diaspora, restoring services and supplies and diversifying Libya’s oil-dependent economy. When the Chatham House held this discussion on the transition options for Libya, it was apparent that Tripoli would be key. It was unclear then whether it would be a quick triumph for rebels or an extensive, bloody battle. Just six days after, Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli was seized. But what looked initially to be a speedy takeover, has exposed deeper challenges for the transition ahead.
Education and development go hand in hand. Educated individuals experience superior personal fulfilment and contribute positively to societal development. Education, as Dr. Florian Kapitza put it, is a crucial “building block”. For Sandy Balfour, it is “liberating”, both for individuals and societies. But the problem facing many African countries is that the resources to provide such education aren’t readily available – at least not locally. Furthermore, many highly qualified professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and academics leave in their thousands every year to advance their careers in the West. This is where aid plays its part.
In early September, South Africa’s Judicial Services Commission (JSC) interrogated President Jacob Zuma’s nominee for the position of Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, in an effort to establish his suitability for the top judicial post in South Africa. The JSC’s interviewing of Chief Justice nominees is a procedure provided for in South Africa’s Constitution. It is a crucial element in South Africa’s exemplary system of checks and balances and is designed to preserve the independence of the judiciary. Theoretically, the President is unable to appoint his choice of Chief Justice until he has consulted with the JSC and leaders of opposition parties, receiving and considering their comments.
The Algerian government is walking a tightrope. With Libya engulfed in conflict, Tunisia and Egypt in the midst of uncertain political transitions and the monarchy in Morocco seemingly intent on relinquishing some its executive powers, Algeria is the only North African country not been directly affected by the Arab Spring. Popular protests did erupt in Algeria at precisely the same time as they were enveloping neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, but the demands of the protesters never coalesced into a unified movement calling for the demise of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999.