It is almost been four years have elapsed since a Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, triggered the biggest social and political upheaval of modern times in the Arab world by setting himself on fire. This turmoil, which would afterwards lead to rulers being forced out of power in Tunisia, opened a cataclysmic reaction in other states across North Africa and surrounding countries. The fall from grace of North African rulers continued in Egypt and Libya whilst tensions and protests were found in Algeria, Sudan, Mauritania, Djibouti and Western Sahara with Mali experiencing ‘fallout’ of what was called the ‘‘North Africa Spring’’ or “Arab Spring,”.
The spring brought many promises to the people of these regions. However, if it did help score some progress with regard to freedom of speech, it failed to deliver on peace, stability, and most of all on democracy. The Arab revolutions in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt brought to power Islamists who soon proved that they did not have the same economic DNA as their Turkish cousins of the AKP
The theme, ‘North Africa Spring’ will look at the impact of the spring from a social, economic and political perspectives. It will explore how communities living in these countries have managed to adapt to new structures, giving a microscopic lens to issues and situations they faced before, during and after the spring. From the use of social media during the spring to highlights of key individuals involved in the fight for freedom; rediscovering of old culture and traditions and stories that are coming out related to previous regimes. The theme will look at changes in these dynamics which will retrospectively lead to changes in how citizens go on their day to day basis. For example Berber communities, who were once suppressed and experiencing human rights violations are now being recognised as citizens in most of these states; there is greater emphasis of freedom of speech which creates room for arts and social dialogue and many of these regions have experienced internal transformations and policy shifts in an attempt to recover from the spring.
There has been external policy shift, especially of the two countries of its western facade, Morocco and Algeria. Algeria and Morocco, which have both escaped the “Arab spring” unscathed-although for very different reasons- have both embarked on strategy shifts to magnify their leadership. For example, it has been noted that Morocco is clearly using the economy as its major vector of influence. The North African country is heading southwards, trying to design a new economic partnership with Africa, as clearly evidenced by the Moroccan King’s numerous journeys in West Africa.