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Mandela and the Arab Spring - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Arab regimes born from the womb of the Arab Spring do not truly understand the great era of the genius leader Nelson Mandela, who emerged from his cell after nearly 29 years of imprisonment without a sense of vengeance, hatred or anger. He was willing to forgive others, and on this simple moral principle the foundations of his genius were built. He acknowledged the mistakes of those who had been at fault, granted them amnesty and allowed them to participate in the new society. When this principle was applied South Africa reaped dazzling results, with stability, coexistence and positive thinking spreading among its people.

However, the political immaturity, sometimes reaching the extent of stupidity, which we have seen many times in the Arab Spring states, regarding the way in which new political regimes deal with political upheavals taking place, is not only a cause for concern, but a cause for sorrow and alarm as well. The practice of dividing the people into “supporters” of the revolution and “remnants” of the former regime with a stroke of a pen is essentially depriving these countries of thousands of experts and professionals. Furthermore, it promotes the misleading premise that one group better than another, only for “presumptive” reasons. What these regimes seem to be forgetting is that presumptions can be wrong, and in this case they are doing a huge amount of damage.

Nelson Mandela the genius had confidence in himself, a vision for the future and an open mind. Hence he appointed a white ruler, who belonged to the political party that ordered his imprisonment for all those difficult years, as his deputy. Yes, the racist ruler F.W. De Klerk became the Vice President of Mandela’s republic, something that De Klerk himself could scarcely believe, but this was a practical application of the idea of tolerance and coexistence. Could we imagine this scene in Egypt, for example? If President Mohammed Mursi had acknowledged the massive split in the vote between the two presidential candidates, and thus realized that the country itself is sharply divided, then he would have appointed Ahmed Shafik as his prime minister or deputy. That would have absorbed the wrath of the street and calmed the absurd conflicts that the country has now sunken into, where we see different political sides betraying one another rather than competing. In Tunisia, the leaders realized this to some extent and a consensus government was formed. As a result, various sections of the state were represented, thus reflecting the political structure of the Tunisian street, but the idea needs to develop and improve. Such steps can help overcome the fear barrier, and without them people will remain worried about exclusivity, hegemony and tyranny prevailing in the interests of one party over another. Ultimately, this could undermine everything that the Arab Spring stands for.

Today in Libya some factions and political parties have begun to realize the importance of this and are trying to create a political structure that provides acceptance, harmony and balance for everyone.

What has been shown by the Arab Spring is that the winning sides often do not like the term “team”, in the sense of working together. Instead they prefer the term “monopoly”, and this policy inevitably generates a sense of preference and superiority, and neglects and undermines the other parties concerned. As a result, communities are becoming spaced apart like islands; they do not trust each other, and the costs of building bridges between them is becoming more and more expensive.

Difficult decisions, even if you are not a “beloved and popular” leader, are usually the “right” decisions. However, there is a skill in the timing of making these difficult decisions, and likewise a skill when it comes to resolving matters. This is something that comes only to those who have truly reconciled. The Arab Spring began with passion but it will not bear the desired fruit without wisdom, and between passion and wisdom there is a huge bridge that can only be crossed by thinking of others. At the moment, this notion seems a far cry from everyone, which means that there is still a long journey before the Arab Spring reaches its desired destination.

Nelson Mandela is still living among us, and we must refer to his experience as much as possible, for the man is a work of genius but the countries of the Arab Spring are yet to benefit.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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