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ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad finally addressed the nation in a televised speech. As with recent pronouncements from Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Bahrain's King Hamad Al Khalifa, Assad's performance contained all the classic elements of the time-tested Arab strongman's harangue

A R A B I C A ارابيكا

By Kristen Gillespie

SYRIAN STRONGMAN

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad finally addressed the nation in a televised speech. As with recent pronouncements from Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Bahrain's King Hamad Al Khalifa, Assad's performance contained all the classic elements of the time-tested Arab strongman's harangue:

*Blaming unnamed, external enemies who are conspiring to destroy your country.Assad: "Syria is the target of a major, external plot, the timing of which has been accelerated."

*Trumpeting the dignity of a great people. Assad: "I belong to the Syrian people, and whoever belongs to the Syrian people will always keep his head held high."

*Pledging reforms that all know he has no intention of implementing. Assad: "There are no hurdles to reforms, but there are delays."

*Blaming unarmed civilians holding peaceful protests for their own deaths. Assad: It is "conspirators' who are behind the protests that have ended in the deaths of scores, if not hundreds, of citizens.

*The government is busy "studying" the demands of protesters.Assad: "The emergency law and political parties law have been under study for a year…We want to speed it up, but not be too hasty."

But though the script from on high is still the same, the context – post-Tunis, post-Cairo – has changed. The twittersphere was panning the speech in realtime:

*@shamnews: "If people stay quiet after a farce like this, they will have no peace until Judgment Day…this is a mockery of the Syrian people and its martyrs."

*@MohamadMS adds, "I am still in shock even though I have learned not to expect much from an Arab leader… but this is the worst speech I have ever heard."

TUNISIAN PRIDE

Yadh Ben Ashour, a member of Tunisia's Committee to Implement the Revolution's Objectives, says the country "will never accept" international observers monitoring upcoming elections on July 24. "No respectable country accepts international observers… the electoral process is completely transparent," Ben Ashour said.

March 30, 2011


photo credit: illustir

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photo of Senegal President Macky Sall coming out of his airplane

President of Senegal Macky Sall arrives Monday at Andrews Air Force Base for the U.S.-Africa summit. Md., Dec. 12, 2022.

U.S. Air Force, Airman 1st Class Isabelle Churchill
Alex Hurst

-Analysis-

Some 100 of the most important political eyes in Africa aren’t turned towards the U.S. this week — they’re in the U.S. For the first time in eight years, the White House is hosting 49 African heads of state and leaders of government (and the Senegalese head of the African Union) for a U.S.-Africa summit. Not invited: any nation that has recently undergone a military putsch, or otherwise not in good standing with the African Union, like Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Sudan.

It’s only the second such summit, after Barack Obama held the inaugural one in 2014. For African nations, it’s a chance to push for trade agreements and international investment, as reports FinancialAfrik, as well as to showcase their most successful businesses. According to RFI, dominant in its coverage of West Africa, on the agenda are: fighting terrorism, climate change, food security, and a financial facility intended to facilitate African exports to the U.S.

These themes are recurrent in national coverage and official diplomatic communiqués, from the likes of Cameroon (whose communiqué pointedly notes the U.S.’s “lack of colonial history” in Africa), which is seeking to regain access to the the U.S. market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, to Madagascar, which as an island nation, is particularly concerned with climate change.

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But is the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and the accompanying nice talk all just cynical cover for what are, in fact, purely U.S. strategic interests in its wider global competition with China? That’s certainly the message from Chinese media — but also a point of view either echoed, or simply acknowledged as matter of fact, by African voices.

“No matter how many fancy words the U.S. uses, the country still sees Africa as an arena to serve its strategic goal of competing with China,” Liu Xin writes for China’s state-run Global Times.

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