- Language Tips
Going by the developments of the past two years in the Middle East and North Africa, it seems someone has opened a Pandora's box in the region. Worse, it appears there is no end to the region's woes as crises in countries like Syria get from bad to worse and threaten to spill over into other places.
Peace and stability remain a luxury in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia despite the change in governments there even two years after the so-called Arab Spring. Continued instability, violence and economic stagnation in these countries are forcing people to question the rationale of forced regime change and imported democracy.
In Syria, where the situation is akin to a civil war, bloodshed and deaths have become a daily affair, worsening the humanitarian crisis. This month, the drawn-out, bloody crisis in Syria has become more combustible. With NATO deploying Patriot missiles along the Syria-Turkey border and Israel launching an air attack inside Syria, targeting a convoy believed to be carrying anti-aircraft weapons for Hezbollah in Lebanon, fears of Western intervention against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have increased.
In contrast to NATO's and Israel's military maneuvers, the international community seems to be at a loss about what to do. So far, international mediation aimed at reaching a ceasefire deal between the Syrian government and the opposition has borne little fruit. This has stoked fears of more bloodshed in Syria and encouraged those keen on ousting Bashar al-Assad to proceed with their forcible regime change plan.
Neither approach to deal with the Syrian crisis, however, touches upon the root of the problem. There has not been enough soul-searching in the international community, especially the West, about why social stability has evaded countries like Libya and Egypt.
Seizing this vacuum, al-Qaida-linked groups have expanded their influence across the region. The result: Trouble has been exported from the Middle East and North Africa to West Africa. For the past three weeks or so, France has been leading a coalition to drive out al-Qaida-linked militants from Mali. The year-old Mali conflict is a spillover from the Middle East. The nightmare in the West African country began last year when militants fighting for Muammar Gadhafi in Libya returned to Mali and joined others.
The Mali conflict mirrors the plight of many countries in Africa. Years of tribal rifts, religious feuds and abject poverty have made them the world's least developed countries.
But there is some good news for the continent, too. Six of the world's 10 fastest growing economies of the past 10 years are in Africa. That explains why participants at the 20th Arab Union Summit, which concluded in Addis Ababa on Monday under the theme of "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance", continue to be optimistic about the region's economic development this year.
The stark contrast between instability in West and North Africa and robust economic growth south of Sahara provides much food for thought. Once African countries learn to tackle their ingrained problems and maintain social stability, they can give full play to their potential.
Now that France says it has driven the Malian rebels into the desert and mountains in the country's north and claims its "mission" to be a success, the military intervention should end as soon as possible so that the peace-building process could begin.
While the United Nations mulls plans to deploy a new peacekeeping force in Mali in the next few days to help pacify the country's north, the international community should take measures to help the Malian government establish lasting peace. The world community's efforts, however, should not be restricted to Mali; it should extend to other countries in the region. If the world community fails to do so, it could soon have another "scar" on its conscience.
The author is a senior writer with China Daily. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily 02/02/2013 page5)