Foil­ing a re­volt: Tale of two ap­proaches

Daily Trust - - OPINION - Mo­ham­mad mo­ham­mad­sidq@gmail.com

This piece is in­spired by an anony­mous short Ara­bic Face­book post on the re­cent foiled mil­i­tary coup in Turkey as quoted by the Turk­ish-based ex­iled for­mer Iraqi Vice Pres­i­dent Tariq alHashimi on his Face­book page I trans­lated it into English as hereby quoted “*AlAs­sad (the em­bat­tled Syr­ian Pres­i­dent) and Al-Ma­liky (for­mer Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter) con­fronted protest­ing masses with mil­i­tary tanks in their re­spec­tive coun­tries, whereas Er­do­gan (Turk­ish Pres­i­dent) con­fronted **the tanks of re­volt­ing army with the masses. Er­do­gan tri­umphed whereas AlAs­sad and Al-Ma­liky failed”*. Notwith­stand­ing the lead­ers men­tioned in this com­par­i­son, I found it very in­ter­est­ing in­deed, for it high­lights two con­flict­ing ap­proaches to foil a re­volt, with, of course, two dif­fer­ent out­comes ac­cord­ingly.

Though even be­fore the be­gin­ning of the se­ries of the mass protests that swept across the Mid­dle East and North Africa (MINA) re­gion, start­ing from 2011, there had been mass protests in a few coun­tries in the re­gion, which were bru­tally sup­pressed e.g. the 1982 Hama protest in Syria, which the then Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Hafez AlAs­sad ruth­lessly quelled by mas­sacring forty thou­sand peo­ple ac­cord­ing to Syr­ian Hu­man Rights Com­mit­tee, the 2011 mass protest phe­nom­e­non in the re­gion would re­main par­tic­u­larly his­toric due to its ex­ten­sive ge­o­graph­i­cal reach and its fun­da­men­tal, al­beit largely coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, so­ciopo­lit­i­cal out­comes across the re­gion.

In Tu­nisia where it be­gan, the then coun­try’s un­pop­u­lar Pres­i­dent Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the coun­try in the face of per­sis­tent mass protests.

Like­wise, the then in­creas­ingly dis­liked Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak of Egypt equally suc­cumbed to the un­bear­able pres­sure of mass protests against his regime and stepped down hav­ing ex­hausted all his po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vres to cling to power di­rectly or in­di­rectly.

Though both Ben Ali and Mubarak had used con­sid­er­able force to con­tain the protests, which re­sulted in ca­su­al­ties, they never re­sorted to ex­ces­sively dis­pro­por­tion­ate use of mil­i­tary force hence their rel­a­tively smooth po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tions that also pro­duced their rel­a­tively sta­ble post-rev­o­lu­tion elected govern­ments, though in Egypt, the mil­i­tary over­threw the elected gov­ern­ment af­ter­ward and re­stored the sta­tus quo al­beit with new faces.

How­ever, in other coun­tries where their re­spec­tive lead­ers were or are hell-bent on cling­ing to power at any cost, the protest­ing masses were cru­elly con­fronted with mil­i­tary tanks, and soon the sit­u­a­tions es­ca­lated into fullscale civil wars. Mean­while, dif­fer­ent re­gional and in­ter­na­tional pow­ers and other vested in­ter­ests flocked to the coun­tries un­der var­i­ous pre­texts and hid­ing be­hind dif­fer­ent smoke­screens to pur­sue their dif­fer­ent agen­das at the cost of the coun­tries’ in­ter­ests. The sit­u­a­tions in the war-torn Libya, Ye­men and Syria where fierce civil wars have been rag­ing are the most ob­vi­ous in­stances in this re­gard.

Yet, there have been few in­stances rep­re­sent­ing the other way round i.e. when pop­u­lar lead­ers proved their pop­u­lar­i­ties by de­pend­ing on the masses to foil re­ac­tionary civil­ian re­volts and even mil­i­tary coups. The 2002 foiled mil­i­tary coup in Venezuela, for in­stance, would re­main one of the re­mark­able in­stances in this re­gard. Some re­ac­tionary vested in­ter­ests within the mil­i­tary and their civil­ian ac­com­plices al­legedly linked to the US Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency (CIA) had taken ad­van­tage of in­dus­trial ac­tion by the coun­try’s fed­er­a­tion of trade unions to protest against some ap­point­ments made by the then coun­try’s oth­er­wise ex­traor­di­nar­ily pop­u­lar Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez, and staged a mil­i­tary coup against him, and, in fact, cap­tured him.

How­ever, as soon as the masses and the loyal el­e­ments within the mil­i­tary re­al­ized how some vested in­ter­ests ex­ploited the in­dus­trial ac­tion to achieve their self-cen­tered po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions, they rose up against it, con­fronted the mil­i­tary with their sheer will power and de­ter­mi­na­tion to peace­fully re­sist the coup. They soon over­whelmed the mil­i­tary, tri­umphed and even­tu­ally brought Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez back to power within 47 hours.

Sim­i­lar or per­haps even more dra­matic in­ci­dent also hap­pened re­cently in Turkey where the mil­i­tary had al­most suc­ceeded in over­throw­ing the coun­try’s equally pop­u­lar Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip *Er­do­gan. How­ever, while the coup was un­fold­ing, the *Pres­i­dent, who had been va­ca­tion­ing in a ho­tel out­side the cap­i­tal Ankara and was whisked away to safety be­fore the coup plot­ters ar­rived the ho­tel, he sub­se­quently man­aged to com­mu­ni­cate to the Turk­ish peo­ple through a Smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion and urged them to re­sist the coup. The masses* in­stan­ta­neously* *took to the streets, *con­fronted the re­volt­ing mil­i­tary who killed many civil­ians and loyal po­lice of­fi­cers, nev­er­the­less the masses even­tu­ally forced them back to their var­i­ous bar­racks thereby foil­ing the coup within a few hours.

In­ter­est­ingly, in the af­ter­math of the foiled mil­i­tary coup in Turkey, Al­jazeera Ara­bic’s most pop­u­lar jour­nal­ist Dr. Faisal Al-Qasim wrote on his Face­book page that one day late Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez proudly told him that, “*Amer­i­cans had over­thrown me, but the (Venezue­lan) masses brought me back to power within 47 hours*.” Dr. Faisal added that, “*I wish he (Mr. Chavez) were there to wit­ness how the Turks brought Er­do­gan back to power within two hours*.”

Any­way, while this un­mis­tak­ably clear dif­fer­ence be­tween th­ese two ap­proaches of han­dling protest­ing masses or re­volt­ing mil­i­tary, and their re­spec­tive out­comes fur­ther prove the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of govern­ments that seek to cling to power through co­er­cive or de­cep­tive means, they equally fur­ther em­pha­size the fact that the ac­tual dy­nam­ics of sur­vival of a gov­ern­ment and its re­silience po­ten­tials in the face of any ex­is­ten­tial threat de­pend on the ex­tent of its abil­ity to live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions of the masses, af­ter all.

How­ever, while the coup was un­fold­ing, the *Pres­i­dent, who had been va­ca­tion­ing in a ho­tel out­side the cap­i­tal Ankara and was whisked away to safety be­fore the coup plot­ters ar­rived the ho­tel, he sub­se­quently man­aged to com­mu­ni­cate to the Turk­ish peo­ple through a Smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion and urged them to re­sist the coup

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