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Fall of the despots

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By Dr Firoz Osman

(source: Citizen Newspaper, thurs 24/02/2011, pg12)

The massive and indiscriminate violence meted out to the unarmed peaceful protesters by the brutal, tyrannical Libyan regime, and the behaviour of rulers in Bahrain, in Yemen and Algeria, has shocked the world. Reports that hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands wounded by mortars, missiles, helicopter fire and aerial bombings is simply outrageous.

The pathetic attempt by Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif to justify these attacks by raising the spectre of the “danger” of Islam in a bid to gain Western support will be in vain, just as the West  failed to protect Egypt’s Hosni  Mubarak.

Mubarak was the lynchpin in American foreign policy for the Middle East, designed primarily to  dominate and exploit the oil-rich region and to protect Israel. If they were unable to save Mubarak, they are unlikely to save Gaddafi’s neck.

The use of a ruthless mercenary force to massacre his own people reflects his fear of being ousted in a coup d’etat. He has shrewdly played the tribal card in pitting one against the other to maintain the regime’s survival.

Other besieged Arab regimes in Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco and even Saudi Arabia are desperately resisting popular revolts.  Many of them will stubbornly cling onto power using brute force and repulse the call for freedom, justice, and dignity.

The South African experience against apartheid demonstrates that the downfall of all oppressive regimes and dictatorships is historically inevitable. Most popular revolutions will eventually triumph. The image of Gaddafi as a dashing young colonel ousting a decrepit king; of training freedom fighters from South Africa, Palestine, Ireland and South America and of defying the hegemonic designs of America and the West have long dissipated. Forty- one years of misrule have tarnished that reputation.

There was a time when South Africans gratefully accepted the support for their liberation against the tyrannical apartheid regime from the  likes of Libya’s Gaddafi and the PLO’s YasserArafat, and then Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. They were acknowledged and embraced. Unfortunately, the heroes of the past are the villains today. They have betrayed the trust of their people and must be denounced.

SouthAfrica cannot remain hostage to the past relationships, issuing feeble calls for “restraint” in the face of such atrocious betrayal and butchery by these despotic regimes.

Many prominent Arab academics,including diplomats, have dissociated themselves from the despicable actions of illegitimate, unelected rulers. The Arab peoples have finallyfreed themselves of the fear complex. They demand change now:  change of regimes and a change of policies that have kept them in a state of repression and injustice for decades.

Firoz Osman represents the  Media Review Network, a Muslim advocacy body based in Pretoria.