The populist uprisings which have swept through North Africa and the Middle East will soon be replicated in undemocratic countries across sub-Saharan Africa, the Foreign Secretary William Hague predicted today.
Directly citing the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe and the efforts by former President Laurent Gbagbo to cling to power in Ivory Coast Mr Hague said “demands for freedom” would spread and hinted that the international action against Gaddafi could be copied in other parts of the world.
“Just as Gaddafi is an obstacle to the peaceful development of Libya, there are some others who stand in the way of a brighter future for their countries,” Mr Hague said.
“The action we have taken in Libya, authorised by the United Nations Security Council, shows that the international community does take gross violations of human rights extremely seriously.”
Mr Hague, speaking at a conference of African leaders and businessmen in London, said what had happened in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere were potentially the most significant global events of the 21st Century so far.
“We are only in the early stages of what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East. It is already set to overtake the 2008 financial crisis and 9/11 as the most important development of the early 21st century, and is likely to bring some degree of political change in all countries in the Arab world.
“This is a historic shift of massive importance, presenting the international community as a whole with an immense opportunity.”
Mr Hague added that the West’s response should be “generous, bold and ambitious”.
But in a stark warning to other undemocratic African regimes Mr Hague said such events did “not stop at the borders of the Arab world”.
“One of the emerging lessons of the crises in the Middle East is that the demands for freedom will spread, and that undemocratic governments elsewhere should take heed.
“The desire for freedom is a universal aspiration, and governments that attempt to isolate their people from the spread of information and ideas around the globe will fight a losing battle over time.
“Governments that use violence to stop democratic development will not earn themselves respite forever. They will pay an increasingly high price for actions which they can no longer hide from the world with ease, and will find themselves on the wrong side of history.”
Mr Hague cited the former President of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo who has refused to concede that he lost last year’s presidential election and has sanctioning attacks on civilians in an attempt to cling to power.
He also mentioned Zimbabwe where he said Mr Mugabe’s security forces continued “to act with impunity, ramping up intimidation in order to instil fear in its opponents and to prevent the people of Zimbabwe from expressing their democratic voice”.
“It is clear to us that the opening up of closed political systems to more representative and accountable government is not only the appropriate response in affected countries in the Middle East, but applies to all societies everywhere.
“The foundations of good governance - the rule of law, free media and strong independent institutions - are not a luxury but a fundamental basis for economic long term development and security.”Reuse content