DOMINOES FALL ALL OVER THE MIDDLE EAST by CAMERON DUODU
The Ghanaian Times 22 February 2011
So now, it is Libya’s turn. After Tunisia and Egypt, it is Libya that is feeling the pinch of massive people’s anger.
The Libyan situation is less clear to the outside world than either Tunisia’s or Egypt’s or even Bahrain’s has been. This is because live satellite TV broadcasts from Libyan soil have been much rarer than from the other three places. Gaddafi’s censorship has been very effective so far.
But even so, enough footage has escaped on to the Internet and been recycled on TV — usually captured by shaky, frightened hands with nothing better than mobile telephones and amateur digital cameras – as to leave no doubt that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, which has been in power since 1 September 1969 (a good 41 years and five months!) is in deep trouble.
At the time of writing, Benghazi, Libya’s second most important city, is reported to be in the hands of Gaddafi’s enemies.
Unconfirmed reports add that as many as 200 protesters have been gunned down in the city by Gaddafi’s troops. 1,000 others are said to have been injured.
Some of the casualties have been inflicted, it is claimed, by soldiers from other unspecified “African countries” who are being used as “mercenaries” by the Gaddafi regime to suppress the Libyan people, because some Libyan military units are refusing to fire on their fellow-citizens.
There was one instance when an aircraft was shown flying over a military barracks in Benghazi that is alleged to have been captured by rebels. The aircraft was trying to prevent the rebels from getting hold of the arms kept in the barracks.
The firmest confirmation of the seriousness of the situation has been given – almost unwittingly – by Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam. In a callous-sounding emotional outburst on TV, Saif – said Libya was “sliding towards civil war.” He warned that the streets would run with “rivers of blood” if the protests continued.
Saif accused opposition and Islamist groups of trying to break up the country and said the conflict would “burn Libya’s oil wealth” and lead to years of violence – “worse than Iraq”. He reports of hundreds dead were “a huge exaggeration”. The “opposition elements” causing trouble, he added, were those “living abroad” who were trying to stir up “an Egyptian-style Facebook revolution.”
But Saif admitted that protesters had seized control of some military bases – and stolen tanks and heavy artillery. He said that “drunkards and thugs” were driving tanks about the streets, and many rioters were fuelled by drugs.
Libya’s rapprochement with the West appears to be in jeopardy. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Mr Hague, has called in the Libyan ambassador and read him a sharp note criticising the use of inhumane methods in suppressing the protests in Libya. Meanwhile, Libyan diplomats at the UN in New York have accused Gaddafi of “genocide”, after he used jets to strafe unarmed civilians. Other Libyan diplomats have been deserting the Gaddafi regime in droves. BP, which has a huge contract in Libya, is reported to be pulling out its staff. And there have been noises from the European Union headquarters in Brussels, warning Libya that future business relations between the EU and Libya will depend on how Gaddafi treats opposition demonstrators.
In the wake of what had happened earlier in Tunisia and Egypt (and the relatively minor instances if unrest recorded in Morocco, Algeria, Yemen and Jordan), the “domino theory” that held sway in American political thinking during the Vietnam War in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, has gained a new lease if life. The theory then was that if South Vietnam was allowed to be overrun by the North Vietnamese neighbouring Cambodia and Laos would also be lost to the Communists.
There is some validity in applying the “domino theory” to the Arab situation. This is because, Africa has also experienced a version of the “domino theory” Of course, not all the dominoes are constructed by the same people with the same techniques. So time warps and other distortions do occur in them when they are compared. But basically, the principle remains constant: the fall of a set of dominoes [may, or may not] trigger others.
In realpolitik, what the fall of dominoes does is to create an atmosphere in which plotters get psychologically emboldened, and some plotters may even be inspired to advance their coup-plot dates.
These reminders, from the work of the Nigerian military historian, Nowa Omuigui are relevant to the African situiation:
“Tanganyika became independent [from Britain] on December 9, 1961. Just off its coastline, the island of Zanzibar, [also] became independent on December 10, 1963. But barely one month later, tensions between the majority indigenous working class African population and the dominant minority Arab land-owners, exploded into a violent anti-Arab revolt which took place on Sunday, January 12, 1964. Abeid Amani Karume and Abdul Rahman Mohammed led it.
“Like a “domino”, the fever of revolt soon spread to engulf Dar es Salaam, in neighbouring Tanganyika (as well as Kenya and Uganda). On Monday, January 20, troops of the Tanganyika Rifles deposed their British Commander, seized the capital, and began rioting, looting and killing, demanding more pay. News reports claim 20 people died with at least 100 others injured.
“President Julius Nyerere initially played along, avoiding any direct public criticism of the soldiers, but eventually, made an urgent appeal to Britain for help…
“Kenya had been self-governing since December 12, 1963 barely two days after Zanzibar gained independence. It, too, was affected by the wave of revolts. In response to a plea by Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta, troops from the Royal Horse Artillery were initially mobilized. Using 6 Ferret scout cars, they launched an armoured car assault on the 11th battalion of the Kenya Rifles in Lanet Barracks near Nakuru where there was a sit down strike by 150-armed Kenyan soldiers who had taken over the parade ground. As the ferrets arrived, rebellious snipers fired at them from rooftops. To shake up the rebellious troops, one of the ferrets [destroyed] an empty hut in the barracks – in the full view of the soldiers. This action seriously affected the fighting spirit of the mutineers who promptly gave up their weapons…
“Like his other East African colleagues, Prime Minister Milton Obote requested British military action [when he faced a rebellion in 1964]. . .Thirty handpicked soldiers of the Staffordshire Regiment supported by Scots Guards attacked and overwhelmed 300 rebels at Jinja on the northern edge of Lake Victoria.”
It only remains to be pointed out that when a military coup occurred in Nigeria on 15 January 15, 1966, it took only nine days for a coup to occur also in Ghana –on February 24 1966. Of course, only the principal actors could, if they wished, tell us exactly how the two events affected each other. But their contribution to the “domino theory” of political events cannot be easily dismissed
Therefore, neither can the “dominoes over Arabia” be consigned exclusively to the realms of fantasy.