Articles > > FIRST WAVE SURPRISE

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-04-17
Source: Oraib Al Rintawi
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

The first wave of the Arab Spring revolutions that broke out spontaneously in 2010 and overthrew two entrenched regimes in Tunisia and Egypt before stopping in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, took the official Arab order by surprise.
 
The Arab order's governments have done their utmost and harnessed all their tools so as to contain the revolutions' repercussions, stop their spread, overthrow them, divert them from their present direction, and convert them from a window of opportunity to a dangerous threat, or from a source of motivation to a source of concern and fear so as to keep the people in check and ensure they stay off the streets and away from the squares. As far as the official Arab order was concerned, stopping the domino effect was a top priority. 
 
Most, if not all, Arab regimes and governments viewed the Arab Spring as a threat rather than an opportunity, although they responded to its challenges in different ways. Some resorted to sovereign funds, withdrawing enough cash to buy the public's silence and the cultural and political elites' support. Others seemed willing to adapt, if only to a certain degree, to the demands on the streets and protest squares, but no sooner had the revolutionary wave receded than they returned to their old habits. 
 
Once these regimes and governments caught their breath, they began to organize a wave of 'counter-revolutions' in countries near and far alike, relying on their financial capacities on the one hand, and deep-state bases in the targeted countries, on the other. Where the 'militariat' did not succeed in leading the counter-revolution, it saw nothing wrong in backing the Salafist movements, some of which were at the forefront of the crackdown against the Arab Spring revolutions, blocking them from reaching the shore of safety and completing the transition to democracy.
 
Although the second wave also broke out at an unexpected time and place, in both Algeria and Sudan concurrently, it did not cause the same shock among the Arab order. It also did not cause a domino effect; the protesters and revolutionaries' chants in Algeria and Khartoum have not traveled to reverberate in other Arab capitals and cities. Despite their inspirational character, the two revolutions have remained confined to the local context, which points to the need to study the substance of this phenomenon and its significance.
 
It may be argued that Algeria and Sudan are not pivotal/central countries in the Arab order, which is typically shaken by events in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. But, in fact, it was Tunisia, the least influential country in the Arab order, that launched the domino effect, and Egypt, the greatest Arab country, was well-situated to receive the Tunisian revolution's aftershocks. I do not believe that Algeria and Sudan, two of the largest Arab states, occupy a less influential position than Tunisia in the Arab order. So what other reason could explain the situation? 
 
I believe that the Algerian and Sudanese revolutions have arrived at a time when all the other Arab regimes are ready and well-equipped to deal with challenges on the domestic arenas. They have a high degree of confidence in their ability to successfully quell the revolutions, destroy communities, and raise the cost of transitioning to democracy. It may even be said that some Arab countries were able to leverage the Arab World's worrisome transitional period as a means of expanding and strengthening their regional role. The countries undergoing ongoing crises have become an arena for 'fighting brothers' to compete for control and influence.
 
The heavy costs paid by the people of Yemen, Syria, and Libya, and before them in Iraq, albeit in a different context, have discouraged and frustrated the people's will, reducing their ability to respond to the Algerian and Sudanese events with hope. They have sought to turn the experience of people demanding freedom, dignity, and basic living into a cautionary tale and their tactics may have partially succeeded, for a while at least.
 
The Algerian and Sudanese revolutions tell us that the Arab Spring train has not yet shut down its engine. It made short pit-stops at certain stations, but has now resumed its journey between the Arab capitals, and will likely continue to pass through and stop among them. The question of when and how should preoccupy the minds of Arab leaders and rulers. Is it possible to make the next stop on the train a welcome visit that comes at little cost, or will it bear a heavy burden for the regimes and peoples alike? 
 
That is the equation and tradeoff that we have learnt from the streets and protest squares in Algeria and Khartoum.