Monday, January 17, 2011

Winds of Change - Mohamed Bouazizi

The 26-year-old university Computer Science graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid in mid-December, after police prevented him from selling vegetables without a permit. He died in early January. Unemployed Bouazizi sold fruits and vegetables from a cart in his rural town of Sidi Bouzid, located 160 miles from the country’s capital Tunis. He did not have a license to sell, but it was his sole source of income.

His action was followed by weeks of increasingly violent protests across Tunisia over unemployment, corruption and high food prices which resulted in the resignation of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali last week. Little did he know through his action of despair he would topple a government.

Side note: 60% of the African population are said to be 24 years old and below. Given the inefficient governance frameworks in place and limited jobs, Mohamed Bouazizi death serves as a clarion call to all African leaders to step and salvage hope for a better tomorrow for their people. Chances are there are many who have gone through such fate and their stories have gone untold for the world to hear.

Brief chronology of events

* 17 Dec: A graduate sets himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid over lack of jobs, sparking protests
* 24 Dec: Protester shot dead in central Tunisia
* 28 Dec: Protests spread to Tunis
* 8-10 Jan: Dozens of deaths reported in crackdown on protests
* 12 Jan: Interior ministry sacked
* 13 Jan: President Ben Ali promises to step down in 2014
* 14 Jan: President dissolves government and parliament, then steps down...word he has left the country after 23 years of dictatorial rule...

There can only be one Mohamed Bouazizi:
Elsewhere in Cairo Egypt Mr Abdel-Monaim set himself on fire outside the parliament building in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. He shouted anti-government slogans before pouring fuel on his clothes and setting himself alight...

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, 2nd left, visits Mohamed Bouazizi, the young man who set himself on fire, at Ben Arous Burn and Trauma Centre, in Tunis 28 December 2010

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