By: Jide Osuntokun
Recently, US Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump said he admires Saddam Husain the late president of Iraq who was judicially lynched by the successor Shiite government of Iraq during the American occupation of the country.
People were aghast at his comment. He also said he sees no reason for America to be an eternal enemy of Russia and that even if the USA does not like Russia, it should cooperate with Russia to defeat ISIL (Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant) and that the USA fought along with the brutal dictator Joseph Stalin during the Second World War to defeat the axis powers of Japan and Germany.
One may disagree violently with Trump on almost everything but in this particular instances cited, I can see some sense in his usual madness.
I am convinced that the likes of Saddam Husain maintained some kind of peace in the Middle East in spite of the brutality of his regime.
Even though he came from the minority Sunni population and treated all opposition Shiite or Sunni with brutality, he ensured that there was peace which was what the generally apolitical ordinary people of Iraq wanted.
The mistake people in the West made was wanting to graft democracy on a traditionally autocratic conservative Arab environment.
When people in the West were hailing the so called Arab Spring, I had the sneaky feeling that things will not turn out well.
This was when I listened to the ambassador of Syria to the UN sometime in 2010 at the plenary of the UN General Assembly pleading for understanding of his country’s problem. He had argued that Syria was a delicately balanced country of Alawites, (Shiite) Sunnis, Christians, Kurds, Armenians and Aramaics and that backing Sunnis who want to overthrow the Bashar -al-Asad regime would bring all sorts of external forces and complications which will not augur well for the future of Syria and the Middle East.
After more than a decade of warfare and a whole country with an old civilization destroyed, there has neither been democracy nor peace in Syria; rather a murderous group calling itself a caliphate has emerged bridging the frontiers of Iraq and Syria and imposing its draconian rule and will on a helpless and hapless people leading to the largest migration of a destabilizing horde of people since the end of the Second World War.
But for the tenacity of the Sharifian dynasty in Morocco and the FLN government led by the old and infirm Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria who were able to resist the forces of the dissidents particularly FIS (Front Islamique de Salut), the so-called Arab Spring would have engulfed the whole of the Maghreb.
The situation in Libya was unfortunately not the same for several reasons. NATO wanted Muamar al Ghadafi to be removed from power because of what was considered as his dangerous ambitions in the past especially wanting to develop nuclear and chemical weapons on the other side of the Mediterranean which Europe considers a European lake.
Even though he had given up the ambition, he was never trusted. So when the occasion for his removal presented itself, NATO was not going to allow it to slip from its hand. Their forces instigated a local rebellion which it joined to murder without trial an incumbent head of state.
But what has replaced the years of stability in Libya is chaos and the take-over of part of the country by forces pledging allegiance to the Caliphate.
The situation in Libya is like the case of Humpty Dumpty and everybody is waiting for which forces will secure the vast country of Libya. Whatever anybody may say about Ghadafi, he secured the country for decades after the overthrow of King Idris -al-Sannusi .
Egypt is back in the hands of the military after the initial hoopla of getting rid of President Mubarak. He was replaced by Mohammad Morsi for about a year before he was overthrown by General Muhammad -al-Sisi.
It appears that the Egyptians would rather have stability than some wooly democracy or chaotic rule by the Islamic brotherhood of Morsi.
The effendiyyah in Egypt is just too sophisticated for that. It is only in Tunisia where the Arab Spring has brought in some form of constitutional regime albeit under an 82 year old president! Yemen is in turmoil and the Saudi army is there fighting a proxy war with Iran that is backing the Houthis who are Shiites.
Oman and the other Gulf States including Saudi Arabia are maintaining some precarious peace with their Shiite subjects cowed down by overwhelming Sunni forces.
Iran continues to pose existential challenge to the gulf Arab states and even far afield to Sunni domination or threatened domination in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Egypt which could have provided Sunni counterweight to Iran is held down by a collapsed economy and terrorist challenge in the Sinai.
The chaos in North Africa and Middle East has reverberation in Africa where the Al Qaida in the Maghreb and West Africa, Boko haram in Nigeria, Niger and the Cameroon and al Shabbab in Somalia and Kenya constitute variants of the same Middle East Islamic terrorism.
The direct effect of this is the proliferation of weapons of precision that are fuelling insurgency all over Africa.
One common denominator to the Middle East and Africa is their sit-tight presidents in Museveni’s Uganda, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Bashar’s Sudan Paul Kagame’s Rwanda and other dictators in the inter-lacustrine state of Burundi as well as virtually all the Francophone states of the two Congos , Central African Republic and the Spanish speaking Equatorial Guinea.
Even the new state of Southern Sudan is torn by ethnic war because of the sit-tight syndrome.
While this goes on, there is neither growth nor development of the economy. On top of this is the rising population of young people who have no hope of employment.
Even countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Tanzania to mention a few are also afflicted by unimpressive economic performance and joblessness of their ballooning youthful population.
This a time bomb in both Africa and the Middle East. The situation is so bad that young people are ready to die crossing to Europe by leaky dinghies and boats across the Mediterranean Sea.
What is to be done? It seems to me that Africa has largely accepted that the democratic way is the way forward. There may be debate about what style of democracy.
It is obvious that the western model may have to be modified to suit the peculiar condition of each African state. This is not the same as supporting any bastardized democratic contraption called home grown democracy which is a euphemism for dictatorship.
The market-driven economic prescriptions of the West may not work because of paucity of foreign and local investors.
The state would have to intervene through direct investment by state corporations side by side with private investors like it happened in South Korea.
The enforced orthodoxy of market economy will have to give way to practical solution that would also generate employment for the teeming masses of the people.
But as for the Middle East and North Africa, democracy may not work there for long time to come. The Middle East will only survive if a way is found to satisfy its young people who are suffering from unemployment.
This problem would worsen with the decline in the price of gas and oil which will make it impossible for the gulf countries to continue to bribe young people with generous perks because sooner or later they will run out of cash.
The future of the almost 350million Arabs is uncertain unless realistic solution is found to the economic and political conditions of those countries.
There will also have to be reconciliation between Iran and the Arab states as well as between Sunni and Shiite sectarian traditions in Islam.
Finally the question of war and peace with Israel must be resolved by accepting the existence of two states, Israel and Palestine, in old Palestine. Inability to solve this problem may drive Arab youth to extremist tendencies which would not augur well for peace in the Middle East an absence of which could pose a threat to global peace.