Arab countries need new people agendas

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By Zuhair Al Harthi

Twenty per cent of Arab countries have endured bitter experiences, and some of them are classified as failed states

After colonial forces withdrew from several Arab states, the nationalists at the time rose to power and raised powerful slogans to show their devotion to land. They called for freedom and autonomy. This, however, swiftly turned into a repressive movement that terrorised people as leaders failed to fill the post-independence political void. They were financially and administratively corrupt, and they entrenched tyranny and dictatorship in governance through their militaristic culture. Racism, corruption, sectarianism, and discrimination became rampant.

The value of citizenship was not appreciated, and civil conflicts and wars ensued. Arab states might have gotten rid of colonial powers but they became dependent on it in different and more severe forms. What followed was local colonialisation by leaders, who took charge under the pretext of offering better governance. But all they did was abuse the system, and use it largely for their own gains. They failed to establish a state of law and institutions to support development. People suffered. The age of Arab Enlightenment was all but a vain hope.

Twenty per cent of Arab countries have endured bitter experiences, and some of them are classified as failed states, which includes Sudan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen. Lack of governance, discontent have led to the rise of forces such as Daesh, Hezbollah, and the Houthi movement.

When will Arab societies break away from their vicious circle of crises to become modern societies? They cannot do so as long as political elites are weak, political and cultural awareness is lacking, ideological and tribal affiliations dominate social identity. Thinker Hisham Jaait notes that a transformation can only happen when the foundation has been laid through religious reforms, industrial and technological modernisation, and intellectual and social enlightenment.

There have been revolutions, coups, transformations, peaceful elections, and ballot boxes. Yet, some Arab countries continue to struggle with crisis, and disputes have remained. Monarchies have proven more effective and successful.

They are closer to the people while many republican systems are failing at this. Beginning a political and economic reform process in the Arab world is not a luxury but the only way out. Arab states need to be grounded in political realism, free enlightened thought, and a political will for reform. —Asharq Al Awsat

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