By Ali Ibrahim
This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 22/02/2011
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, spoke on Monday about fighting until the last bullet, and resorting to arms to confront the protests, which have been ongoing for days. His words carried with it a number of implications and subsequent questions.
Libya has become the focus of the mass anger and storm of change that is currently sweeping Arab states. It began in Tunisia, and everyone reassured themselves by saying: We are not Tunisia. Then came the revolution in Egypt, prompting Saif al-Islam to say several times during his speech: We are not Tunisia, and we are not Egypt.
Certainly, there are differences between one community and another, and the demands [of the protestors] may be different. However, it seems several Arab republics share one condition, which is a major cause of the current revolutions and protests, namely the leader standing in the background, preparing to bequeath power to his son. This fundamentally contradicts the idea of a republican system, and the social contract. It spawned the idea of the "republarchy", and led to the discontent that has been evident for years in several Arab republics, regarding the inheritance of power.
While the revolution in Tunisia overthrew a family ruling a republic, the January 25th Revolution in Egypt overthrew the notion of the "republarchy" or the inheritance of power in a republican system. This had implications not only for Egypt, but for the rest of the Arab republics that are guilty of such practices. Take Yemen for example, where the country has witnessed over a week of widespread protests, although the goals of the demonstrations may vary from one region to another. The Yemeni President confirmed that there would be no inheritance of power in the country, and also pledged that he would not run for office again. It has become clear that the succession of power, even if was once possible, has now been prevented from happening again.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's speech was both angry and threatening at the same time, regarding the uprising taking place in Libya. However, the question that the demonstrators must ask themselves is: Why did [Saif al-Islam Gaddafi] come out to address the people, when he does not hold an official post? Normally in these situations the Head of State, the Prime Minister, or even a minister would come out to address the people.
Many Arab republics in the post independence and liberation era were founded on the principles of social justice, national liberation, and numerous revolutionary slogans. They embarked on foreign adventures under the premise of "freeing the world", squandering huge amounts of money in the process, only to end up with what now resembles a ruling family, remaining in power through inheritance. This is what angered the people, because such regimes have prevented any hopes for change. Thus the aspiring children ultimately contributed to the overthrow of their parents.
It did not take a genius to observe the restlessness which was present for many years in Arab countries, now ravaged by the winds of change. However, by submitting to the status quo, it seems that the older generation helped to conceal the size of anger and discontent emerging amongst the younger generations. They realized that if their country was to gain international respect, it must first gain internal respect from the populace, through the government.