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Top 10 similarities between Tunisia, Ethiopia ruling parties

The ongoing unrest and regime change in Tunisia, which is now named Jasmine Revolution because it is the national flower, has occurred as a result of conditions that are similar to current realities in Ethiopia. Two decades of misrule by the ruling parties of Ethiopia and Tunisia is the primary cause of the terrible economic and political conditions that exist in both countries.

The following are top 10 similarities between the leaders of Tunisia’s ruling party, RCD, and Ethiopia’s ruling party, TPLF:

1. The president, Zin el-Abidine Ben Ali, had been in power for 23 years. Meles has been in power for 20 years.

2. Like Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Ben Ali was known to conduct fake elections. In a recent poll, he won by 83 percent. Meles won by 96 percent.

3. Ben Ali arrested opposition politicians, and attacked opposition parties, denying them space in the country’s politics. Meles is doing the same thing in a larger scale.

4. Ben Ali’s party, RCD, was involved in nepotism and massive corruption, like Meles Zenawi’s TPLF.

5. Tunisia’s ruling RCD favors one ethnic group, the Trabelsi clan, over other Tunisian clans. TPLF favors the Tigray region over other regions of Ethiopia.

6. Ben Ali had curtailed freedom of speech and press. Similarly in Ethiopia, opposition media, including web sites, are banned. “Although officially denying any intention to meddle with the Internet, the government exercises censorship in practice. The OpenNet Initiative, a collaboration between several universities, found that 10 percent of the 2,000 Web sites it tested in the country were blocked.” – CPJ

7. Like Meles, Ben Ali has forced many of his opponents out of the country.

8. RCD bosses have amassed enormous personal wealth while the country remained poor. TPLF bosses, including the wife of the prime minister, have become among the richest people in Africa over the past 20 years.

9. Like Meles Zenawi’s wife Azeb Mesfin, the wife of Ben Ali, Laila, diverted tens of millions of dollars to the couple’s bank accounts in Western countries. The hijacking of Tunisian state funds by Laila and Ben Ali led to inflation, and a constant rise in the price of basic necessities, followed by an increase in unemployment. “People are now convinced that the [Tunisia] First Family is an insatiable economic animal bent on gratuitous enrichment and unchecked influence-wielding.” – a U.S. diplomatic cable recently posted on

10. Ben Ali used to be a “dependable” an ally of the U.S. and Western government. “Not many people in the West noticed that it was only a very small minority that enjoyed the benefits of the economic reforms and revenues brought in by tourists. Corruption was rampant and the Ben Ali family, and that of his second wife Laila, were the principal beneficiaries.” – Jerusalem Post

The following is an analysis by Deutsche Presse-Agentur’s Clare Byrne

Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution: a work in progress

By Clare Byrne

Paris (dpa) – Tunisia’s ‘Jasmine Revolution’ achieved what many thought unthinkable in the Arab world: an autocratic leader, backed by the world’s major powers, shown the door by his country’s youth, without them firing a shot.

Tunisians themselves seemed taken aback at how quickly things unravelled in the end as Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, president of 23 years, crumpled in the face of demands by protestors countrywide for him to ‘degage’ (meaning ‘get lost’ in French) and scurried off to Saudi Arabia.

‘A revolution! We didn’t believe it could happen,’ Samir Khiari, a Tunisian political scientist, who celebrated the news at a rally in Paris Saturday, told France’s Mediapart news site in tears.

‘We are the first Arab people to stage a revolution and topple a dictator,’ a demonstrator in Tunis told Mediapart news site proudly.

‘We will long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their voices heard,’ US President Barack Obama praised, saluting the courage of tens of thousands of protestors who continued to stare down the regime, even after dozens were shot dead by police.

And yet in Tunisia itself, there were no scenes of wild rejoicing, as army tanks rumbled through the streets to contain an orgy of looting and a game of musical chairs played out at the top.

From elation, the mood quickly turned to consternation as the reins of power passed from the prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, to the speaker of parliament, Foued Mebazaa, within 24 hours.

Ghannouchi had initially declared he would take over after Ben Ali fled – in violation of the constitution, which states the speaker of parliament takes over if the presidency is vacated.

By Saturday, the constitutional council had weighed in and Mebazaa was instated as the rightful interim president, promising to create a inclusive government embracing all Tunisians ‘without exception.’

It was hardly an auspicious start to the new dawn hoped for by ‘Ben Ali generation’ of educated young Tunisians, who grew up chafing under his censorship and a lack of opportunities for those who weren’t politically connected.

As negotiations between the ruling RCD and the opposition on the make-up of a unity government got underway, the list of reforms required for an truly democratic, pluralistic Tunisia ran long.

General amnesty for political prisoners, the dismantling of laws curtailing freedom, the organization of free elections are among just some of the opposition’s demands.

‘We want to see the whole Ben Ali system called into question,’ Samir Khiari insisted.

The opposition itself also needs time to regroup, after years of harassment under Ben Ali, during which several key figures fled into exile.

Even if the country’s electoral laws are changed, the opposition faces an uphill battle against decades of RCD nepotism and patronage.

Most of country’s resources are in the hands of RCD faithful – particularly the Trabelsi clan of ex-president Ben Ali’s wife, Leila.

As Tunisia takes it first wobbly steps to democracy, the international community is also keeping a close watch for attempts by Islamic extremists to try fill the power vacuum.

For years the country of 10 million has been seen as a bulwark of stability and secularism in a region – North Africa and the Middle East – where autocratic governments have driven people into the arms of Islamists.

The Tunisian revolt was devoid of any Islamist symbols but Western governments fear that a prolonged period of uncertainty could play into the hands of extremists.

5 thoughts on “Top 10 similarities between Tunisia, Ethiopia ruling parties

  1. What happened to the Christian Church in North Africa, Tunisia?

    Let us read the following reliable document very carefully and patiently:


    “Often called the Maghreb, North-West Africa is today divided from west to east into three countries, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Two thousand years ago the area was inhabited by a people called the Berbers, but when the region was conquered by the Roman Empire, it was also colonized by Roman settlers.
    “Following settlement by the Jewish Diaspora and then the preaching of the Gospel, by the second century the area had started to become a centre of Latin-speaking Orthodoxy. Gradually, both Roman settlers and Romanized Berbers became Christian. In this way the region was to produce figures such as the Church writer Tertullian (c 155 – c 202), the martyr St Cyprian of Carthage (+ 258), the Righteous Monica, her son the philosopher Blessed Augustine, Bishop of Hippo I (+ 430) (1), the martyr St Julia of Carthage (5th century) and many other saints of God.
    “In the early centuries the Church here was also to be much shaken and divided by various heresies and schisms. There was fanatical Donatism from the fourth century onwards, Manicheanism which so tempted the pagan Augustine, and then Arianism brought by the invading Germanic Vandals in the fifth century. This dissidence and the ensuing schisms were much coloured by ethnic tensions between the wealthier Roman settlers and the poorer native Berbers, some of whom for ethnic and social reasons wished to differentiate themselves from the colonists.
    “Thus, the heresies and schisms of the region were much conditioned by politically-motivated nationalism. The process here was therefore similar to the rise of the ethnic heresies of Monophysitism and Nestorianism of the Copts in North-East Africa and the Semites in the Middle East. Nevertheless, in those areas Orthodoxy survived, whereas in North-West Africa, where there were once hundreds of Orthodox dioceses and bishops, today there are none. What happened? Let us look and see what we can learn from this tragedy for today.
    “The beginning of the end of Orthodoxy in North-West Africa came in the year 647 with the arrival from the east of the first Arab invaders, bringing Islam with them. The capture of St Cyprian’s great Christian Metropolia of Carthage in 698 and the gradual Islamization of dissident native Berbers followed. For the Orthodox, Islam was (as it still is) a Christian heresy, or rather a heresy of a heresy. Therefore, for political and ethnic Berber dissidents, Islam was just another opportunity to be independent of Roman colonial administration. However, this still does not explain why here in North-West Africa, Orthodoxy did not survive, unlike in Egypt and the Middle East, where native Orthodox Christianity has survived to this day. When and why then did Orthodoxy disappear in North-West Africa?
    “Undoubtedly, the main cause was the progressive emigration of Christians of colonial origin, who sought refuge from Islamic taxes elsewhere. Many of them had interests, property and family in other countries of the Western Mediterranean. In a word, they had somewhere else to go. Thus, on the capture of Carthage in 698, there was a huge exodus to Sicily, Spain and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. This exodus especially affected the educated elite, including churchmen, many of whom were not of native Berber origin, but were descendants of the Latin-speaking settlers of Roman times. This emigration continued in the eighth century. Some were even to settle as far north as Germany, as is mentioned in a letter of Pope Gregory II (715-731) to St Boniface.
    “Nevertheless, many Christians stayed on in North-West Africa throughout the eighth century and relations between Muslims and the remaining Christians, who by now often belonged to the same Berber race, were mainly cordial. Letters from the Christian Maghreb to Rome from the ninth century prove that Christianity was still a living faith at that time too. Although in the tenth century a reference to forty episcopal towns must be more historic rather than real, nevertheless Orthodoxy continued and several bishops and dioceses were active (2). Relations continued with the Patriarchal See in Rome and towards the end of the century, under Pope Benedict VII (974-983), a certain priest called James was sent to Rome to be consecrated Archbishop of Carthage. However, it is from this end of the tenth century that we hear that Christians are abandoning even the local form of Latin, and as in the Middle East, are using Arabic to communicate.
    “Unlike in North-East Africa and the Middle East, it is in the eleventh century that Orthodoxy finally begins to disappear in the Maghreb. Communities become isolated and ever smaller. For example, the church in Kairouan in Tunisia disappears from history in 1046 with the victory of militant Muslims. A second exodus occurs now, further weakening the Christian presence. In a letter from the Pope of Rome dated 17 December 1053, we hear that there are only five bishops left in all the Maghreb and that they are to recognize Thomas, Archbishop of Carthage as their Metropolitan. Two other bishops, Peter and John, perhaps of Tlemcen in Algeria or Gafsa in Tunisia, are mentioned, but we do not even know the names of the other two bishops at this time. By 1073 the Archbishop of Carthage is called Cyriacus, and there are now only two bishops left in all of North-West Africa. By 1076 he was alone and another bishop, Servandus, for Tunis, had to be consecrated in Rome.
    “These are the last communications that we have between the Christian Maghreb and Rome, which was by now in any case undergoing its own Gregorian Revolution. From this time on it is clear that surviving Christian communities are ever smaller and fewer, as emigration continues. With the capture of the Christian centre of Tunis in 1159 by the militant Muslim leader Abd al-Mu’min, who in 1160 also chased the Normans from what is now Tunisia, there was a further weakening. Without the protection of the Normans, a third exodus of Christians, following that of the end of the seventh century and the mid-eleventh century, now occurred.
    “Without monastic centres and writers, the Christians of the Maghreb faced assimilation. Unlike in the Middle East, where there were great figures like St John Damascene, there was no-one to argue the Orthodox cause with understanding of Islam, its culture and its language. There are no literary monuments, no Patristic figures, writing in either Latin or Arabic, from this period. The old Orthodox culture of North-West Africa was disappearing. True, even after the eleventh century, isolated survivals continued. Thus a Christian community is recorded in 1114 in Qal’a in central Algeria. In the mid-twelfth century an Africanized Latin was still being spoken by Orthodox in Gafsa in the south of Tunisia – at a time when Latin was nowhere spoken in Western Europe. And in 1194 a church and community dedicated to the Mother of God is recorded in Nefta, in the south of Tunisia (3).
    “In the thirteenth century, the apogee of Papal power, Spanish and Italians tried to conquer North-West Africa for Catholicism, as the Spanish had done in the Iberian Peninsula, and convert the Arab-speaking Muslims. However, importing Dominicans and other Catholics and setting up tiny chapels on the coastal fringes of the Maghreb led them nowhere. Not only did they fail to convert Muslims, but some of these imported Catholics within a few years themselves became Muslim (4). Moreover, these new religious imports had no contact whatsoever with the few remaining native Christians of the far older Orthodox Tradition. The latter were faithful, not to the new medieval Catholicism, but to the ancient Orthodox life of North-West Africa.
    “Thirteenth and fourteenth century Catholicism came from a different planet from that of historic Maghreban Orthodoxy. Thus, even though Berber Christians continued to live in Tunis and Nefzaoua in the south of Tunisia up until the early fifteenth century, they did not recognize the new Catholicism. In the first quarter of the fifteenth century, we even read that the native Christians of Tunis, though much assimilated, extended their church, perhaps because the last Christians from all over the Maghreb had gathered there (5). Moreover, this is the last reference to native Christianity in North-West Africa. Tunis seems to have been the last citadel from over twelve hundred years of Orthodoxy in North-West Africa. With assimilation in the sea of Islam, native Christianity now died out all over the Maghreb.
    “Enfeebled by ethnic and social division, weakened by the emigration of their elite and deprived of monastic life, not persecuted as such but nevertheless reduced by Islam to second-class citizens, isolated from the outside world, the Orthodox of the Maghreb were over seven centuries assimilated into the Muslim universe. In about 1400, after 700 years of faithfulness, the lamp of Orthodoxy in North-West Africa went out through lack of oil. It left vestiges only in folklore and language. For example, to this day the Touareg word for ‘sacrifice’ is ‘tafaske’, derived from the Latin word for Easter ‘Pascha’.
    “From their tragic history, we can learn various lessons for today:
    “Firstly, we can learn of the need for Christians of different nationalities to work together in justice, without treating each other as second-class citizens. Whether they are Roman or Berber, Greek or African, Ukrainian or Romanian, Russian or English, they must treat one another as Orthodox Christians, avoiding divisions, putting their Faith, and not their ethnicity, first.
    “Secondly, we can learn of the vital importance of monastic life and the spiritual and intellectual training given there for clergy, thus ensuring the future survival of the Faith. A local Church can survive even with emigration, providing that it has a monastic basis. Whether, it is in North-West Africa or modern Western Europe, the United States or Australia, a Church without monastic life is a Church destined to close.
    “Thirdly, we can learn that to oppose the heterodox counter-culture surrounding us, we must first understand it and explain our views in terms and language which it can understand. Whether it is in Arabic or English, French or German, Spanish or Portuguese, a Church which does not speak the local language and understand the local culture, is a Church whose young are doomed to assimilation.
    “Finally, we can learn that it is vital for Orthodox not to become isolated from one another. If Orthodox have contact with other Orthodox, especially in other countries, they are more likely to remain Orthodox, remaining faithful to the Tradition, resisting local assimilation through uniatization and other forms of secularism.
    “May the Saints of North-West Africa, led by St Cyprian, protect us!”

    1 Now called Annaba. In 1963 Matushka was the last Christian to be baptized in St Anne’s church in Blessed Augustine’s City of Annaba, before it was destroyed the very next day by Muslim bulldozers.
    2 See P. 332 of Le Christianisme maghrébin (LCM) by Mohamed Talbi in Indigenous Christian Communities in Islamic Lands, M. Gervers and R. Bikhazi, Toronto, 1990. I am indebted to this valuable article, which is largely based on Arabic sources, for much of this article.
    3 LCM, Pp. 338-9
    4 LCM, Pp. 342 and 346
    5 LCM, Pp. 344-45”

  2. Dear Elias,
    What I read above represents a dramatic change in the profile of Ethiopian Review.Yourself seem to appear one of the champions of ” Jasmine Revolution.”What a lovely name!We used to say “Orange Revolution” in the case of Ukraine and others.
    I would like to thank President Obama for praising the Revolution and Secretary Clinton for warning dictators every where to take necessary reform or changes before “They are consumed by their own people.”
    I strongly support Mrs.Clintons’View.I dont want to see any bloodshed to happen in any country.I had seen enough in my life.
    If countries in every continent are backed by Western countries especially by U.S,the archbearer of democracy dictaters will be forced to vacate their offices.Economic sanctions,severance or a complete cut of diplomatic relations with countries under dictatorship can serve best.Ethiopia is not exception in this respect.

  3. Who was it that said “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty?”

    The people of Tunisia seem to have received the memo: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive…, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” It is especially inspiring to see the people were armed with the slogan “Yes we can (Yichalal)” and using the Internet as an organizing social tool. “The people have woken up and revolted against you,” a post on Facebook told President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. “We’ve said our opinion: We hate you. The Tunisian people will not be oppressed. Resign immediately!”

    What is the lesson here for Ethiopia? I thank ER for its instructive list of ten similarities between the ruling parties of the two countries. On the fundamental question of good-governance and Democracy, we all know that Ato Meles has put this baby on reverse gear during the May 2010 elections and since then he has been cruising backwards at 100 miles per hour. We all know that we’ve been car-jacked. The choice facing Ethiopians is very simple. We can either put the break on the illegal driver or we can kickback, relax and enjoy the ride over the cliff. I refuse the latter and I chose the former. I want my country back! After all, it is our car that he is driving. Being a leader of Ethiopia is a privilege, not a birthright. “No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another.”

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