For the purposes of this text, we will pretend that a revolution is the change of government that is removed, by any means, on the basis of it being unjust (noting that justice is not universal). We will further pretend that a coup is an opportunist, and unjust, removal of a legitimate government by a faction of society and/or military for its own narrow ends.
All the country information that appears after each country heading have been copied from Wikipedia as is. I, therefore, take no responsibility for its accuracy or lack thereof; nor its objectivity or lack thereof.
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Aristide was re-elected in the Haitian presidential election, 2000, an election boycotted by most opposition political parties, now organised into the Convergence Démocratique. Although the US government claimed that the election turnout was hardly over 10%, international observers saw turnout of around 50%, and at the time, CNN Election Watch reported a turnout of 60% with over 92% voting for Aristide. Only later did allegations surface mentioning the above figure of a 10% voter turnout.
In September 2003, Amiot Metayer was found dead, his eyes shot out and his heart cut out, most likely the result of machete-inflicted wounds. He was, prior to his death, the leader of the Gonaives gang known as “The Cannibal Army.” After his death, his brother Buteur Metayer swore vengeance against those he felt responsible for Amiot’s death—namely, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Buteur took charge of the Cannibal Army and promptly renamed it the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti.
On February 5, 2004, this rebel group seized control of Haiti’s fourth-largest city, Gonaïves, marking the beginning of a minor revolt against Aristide. During their sack of the city, they burned the police station and looted it for weapons and vehicles, which they used to continue their campaign down the coast. By February 22, the rebels had captured Haiti’s second-largest city, Cap-Haïtien. As the end of February approached, rebels controlled the capital, Port-au-Prince, fueling increasing political unrest. Haitians fled their country on boats, seeking to get to the United States. Haiti was called an “economic basket-case”, beset by a brain drain of its intellectual talent, a population boom and widespread corruption.
On February 25, 2004, the U.S. lawyer representing the government of Haiti claimed that the rebellion was supported by the United States and lead by a former death squad member; he said, “This is clearly a military operation, and it’s a military coup.” After a three-week rebellion, Aristide voluntarily or involuntarily left Haiti on a US plane accompanied by US security personnel as the rebels took over the capital and was flown, with or without knowledge of his route and destination, via Antigua to Bangui, Central African Republic.
Many international politicians, including members of the U.S. congress and the Jamaican Prime Minister, expressed concern that the United States had interfered with Haiti’s democratic process by removing Aristide though its use of more excessive force than necessary. According to Rep. Maxine Waters D-California, Mildred Aristide called her at her home at 6:30 a.m. to inform her “the coup d’etat has been completed”, and Jean-Bertrand Aristide said the U.S. Embassy in Haiti’s chief of staff came to his house to say he would be killed “and a lot of Haitians would be killed” if he refused to resign immediately and said he “has to go now.” Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York expressed similar words, saying Aristide had told him he was “disappointed that the international community had let him down” and “that he resigned under pressure” – “As a matter of fact, he was very apprehensive for his life. They made it clear that he had to go now or he would be killed.” When asked for his response to these statements Colin Powell said that “it might have been better for members of Congress who have heard these stories to ask us about the stories before going public with them so we don’t make a difficult situation that much more difficult” and he alleged that Aristide “did not democratically govern or govern well”. Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson released a statement saying “we are bound to question whether his resignation was truly voluntary, as it comes after the capture of sections of Haiti by armed insurgents and the failure of the international community to provide the requisite support. The removal of President Aristide in these circumstances sets a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere, as it promotes the removal of duly elected persons from office by the power of rebel forces.”
The Iraq War or War in Iraq, also referred to as the Second Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom, was a military campaign that began on March 20, 2003, with the invasion of Iraq by a multinational force led by troops from the United States under the administration of President George W. Bush and the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Prior to the invasion, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom asserted that the possibility of Iraq employing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threatened their security and that of their coalition/regional allies. In 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1441 which called for Iraq to completely cooperate with UN weapon inspectors to verify that it was not in possession of weapons of mass destruction and cruise missiles. The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) was given access by Iraq under provisions of the UN resolution but found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Additional months of inspection to conclusively verify Iraq’s compliance with the UN disarmament requirements were not undertaken. Head weapons inspector Hans Blix advised the UN Security Council that while Iraq’s cooperation was “active”, it was not “unconditional” not “immediate”. Iraq’s declarations with regards to weapons of mass destruction could not be verified at the time, but unresolved tasks concerning Iraq’s disarmment could be completed in “not years, not weeks, but months”.
Following the invasion, the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had ended its nuclear, chemical, and biological programs in 1991 and had no active programs at the time of the invasion but that Iraq intended to resume production once sanctions were lifted. Although some degraded remnants of misplaced or abandoned chemical weapons from before 1991 were found, they were not the weapons which had been the main argument to justify the invasion. Some U.S. officials also accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of harboring and supporting al-Qaeda, but no evidence of a meaningful connection was ever found. Other reasons for the invasion included Iraq’s financial support for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, Iraqi government human rights abuse, and an effort to spread democracy to the country.
The political situation in Madagascar has been marked by struggle for control. After Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960, assassinations, military coups and disputed elections featured prominently. Didier Ratsiraka took power in a military coup in 1975 and ruled until 2001, with a short break when he was ousted in the early 1990s. When Marc Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka both claimed victory after presidential elections in December 2001, Ratsiraka’s supporters tried to blockade the capital, Antananarivo, which was pro-Ravalomanana. After eight months of sporadic violence with considerable economic disruption, a recount in April 2002 led the High Constitutional Court to pronounce Ravalomanana president, but it was not until July that Ratsiraka fled to France and Ravalomanana gained control of the country.
Internal conflict in Madagascar had been minimal in the years that followed, and since 2002 Ravalomanana and his party, Tiako-I-Madagasikara (TIM), have dominated political life. In an attempt to restrict the power and influence of the president, the prime minister and the 150-seat parliament have been given greater power in recent years.
Tension since was generally associated with elections. A presidential election took place in December 2006 with some protests over worsening standards of living, despite a government drive to eradicate poverty. Calls by a retired army general in November 2006 for Ravalomanana to step down were said to have been ‘misinterpreted’ as a coup attempt.
A series of protests against then-President Marc Ravalomanana in 2009, backed by Andry Rajoelina, former mayor of Antananarivo, became violent with more than 170 people were killed. Rajoelina mobilized his supporters to take to the streets of Antananarivo to demand Ravalomanana’s ousting on the grounds of his alleged “autocratic” style of government. After losing support of the military and under intense pressure from Rajoelina, President Ravalomanana resigned on 17 March 2009. Ravalomanana assigned his powers to a military council loyal to himself headed by Vice-Admiral Hyppolite Ramaroson. The military called the move by Ravalomanana a “ploy” and said that it would support Rajoelina as leader. Rajoelina had already declared himself the new leader a month earlier and assumed the role of acting President, appointing Monja Roindefo as Prime Minister. Rajoelina announced that elections would be held in two years and that the constitution would be amended.
The European Union, amongst other international entities, refused to recognize the new government, due to it being installed by force. The African Union, which proceeded to suspend Madagascar’s membership on 20 March and the Southern Africa Development Community both criticized the forced resignation of Ravalomanana. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon‘s spokesperson said he is “gravely concerned about the evolving developments in Madagascar”.
Protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election against the disputed victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in support of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi occurred in major cities in Iran and around the world starting June 13, 2009. The protests were given several titles by their proponents including Green Revolution, Green Wave or Sea of Green, reflecting presidential candidate Mousavi’s campaign color, and also Persian Awakening. The events have also been nicknamed the “Twitter Revolution” because of the protesters’ reliance on Twitter and other social-networking Internet sites to communicate with each other. Islamic politician Ata’ollah Mohajerani blasted the election as “the end of the Islamic Republic”. In response to the protests, other groups rallied in Tehran to support Ahmadinejad.
Some called the controversial election results a coup. Widespread editorial analyses assert that the 2009 election marks the official end of the Islamic Republic and the beginning of the Abadgaran Regime. All three opposition candidates claimed that the votes were manipulated and the election was rigged, and candidates Mohsen Rezaee and Mousavi have lodged official complaints. Mousavi announced that he “won’t surrender to this manipulation” before lodging an official appeal against the result to the Guardian Council on June 14.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared the unprecedented voter turnout and coinciding religious holidays as a “divine assessment” and urged the nation to unite, but later ostensibly ordered an investigation into the claims of voting fraud and irregularities as per the request of the Green movement leaders. Mousavi is not optimistic about his appeal, saying that many of the group’s members “during the election were not impartial”. Ahmadinejad called the election “completely free” and the outcome “a great victory” for Iran, dismissing the protests as little more than “passions after a soccer match”.
Police and the Basij, a paramilitary group suppressed both peaceful demonstrating and rioting using batons, pepper spray, sticks and, in some cases, firearms. The Iranian government has confirmed the deaths of 36 people during the protests, while unconfirmed reports by supporters of Mousavi allege that there have been 72 deaths (twice as many) in the three months following the disputed election. Iranian authorities have closed universities in Tehran, blocked web sites, blocked cell phone transmissions and text messaging, and banned rallies.
The 2010–2011 Tunisian Revolution is a series of street demonstrations taking place throughout Tunisia since December 2010. The demonstrations and riots were reported to have started over unemployment, food inflation, corruption, freedom of speech and poor living conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades and have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries. The protests were sparked by a self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on December 17 and led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 28 days later on 15 January 2011, when he officially resigned after fleeing to Saudi Arabia, ending 23 years in power. The protests inspired similar actions throughout the Arab world, most notably in Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan.
Following Ben Ali’s departure, a caretaker coalition government was created, including members of Ben Ali’s party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), in key ministries, while including other Opposition figures in other ministries, with elections to take place within 60 days. However, five newly-appointed non-RCD ministers resigned almost immediately, and daily street protests in Tunis and other towns around Tunisia continued, demanding that the new government have no RCD members and that the RCD itself be disbanded. On 27 January Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi reshuffled the government, removing all former RCD members other than himself. On 6 February the new interior minister suspended all party activities of the RCD, citing security reasons.
The 2011 Egyptian protests are an ongoing series of street demonstrations, marches, rallies, acts of civil disobedience, riots, and violent clashes that began in Egypt on 25 January 2011, a day selected to coincide with the National Police Day holiday. The protests began with tens of thousands marching in Cairo and a string of other cities in Egypt. While localised protests had been common in previous years, the 2011 protests have been the largest demonstrations seen in Egypt since the 1977 Bread Riots and unprecedented in scope, drawing participants from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and faiths.
The demonstrations and riots, part of the 2010–2011 Arab world protests, started in the weeks after the Tunisian Revolution, with many protesters carrying Tunisian flags as a symbol of their influence. Grievances for Egyptian protesters have focused on legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws,lack of free elections and free speech, and corruption, as well as economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation, and low minimum wages. The primary demand from protest organisers is the ouster of the Hosni Mubarak regime, and a new government that represents the interests of the Egyptian people, and respects rights of freedom and justice.
As of 29 January, at least 105 deaths had been reported, and those injured number 750 policemen and 1,500 protesters. The capital city of Cairo has been described as “a war zone,” and the port city of Suez has been the scene of frequent violent clashes. The government imposed a curfew that protesters defied and that the police and military did not enforce. The presence of Egypt’s Central Security Forces police, loyal to Mubarak, has been gradually replaced by largely restrained military troops. In the absence of police, there has been looting, and in response civilians have self-organized watch groups to protect key sites.
International response to the protests has been mixed, though most have called for some sort of peaceful protests on both sides and moves toward reform. Mostly Western governments also expressed concern for the situation. Many governments have issued travel advisories and begun making attempts at evacuating their citizens from the country.
Mubarak dissolved his government and appointed military figure and former head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate Omar Suleiman as Vice-President in an attempt to quell dissent. Mubarak asked aviation minister and former chief of Egypt’s Air Force, Ahmed Shafik, to form a new government. Opposition to the Mubarak regime has coalesced around Mohamed ElBaradei, with all major opposition groups supporting his role as a negotiator for some form of transitional unity government. In response to mounting pressure Mubarak announced he would not seek re-election in September.
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Using the deifinitions outlined at the beggining of this text, it is difficult to easily categorise each of the events that took place in the above countries as either a revolution or a coup, notwithstanding the unique features of the Iraqi invasion. As a result, the foreign policy responses of countries vary often not based on the principle of democracy and justice, but on the economic or political relation of the country with the subject country.
As an activist, or a rational human being, how do you decide your support for a revolution and your disdain for a coup across these countries and many others. Is the repeated re-election of a leader in a country for many successive terms a sign of confidence in his leadership or does it automatically make him a repressive dictator? How thin is the line between a progressive revolution and an anarchist coup? Can a variance of democracy be sustainably imposed on a people like in Iraq? Is it just to remove a democratically elected President as in Haiti and Madagascar? Can the freedom of speech/media go as far as WikiLeaks goes, how far should the restriction be so as to avoid being characterised as repressive?
Having followed most of the reports of these events as they happened, what has been missing is a deeper analysis of the world government systems. It is conventional that democracy and justice are desirable principles and practices. Increasingly, there could be a possibility that such principles may not neccesarily be one-size-fits-all as generally assumed.
Perhaps, rather than the excitement of the success of social networks, or lack thereof (as in Iran), in propelling modern uprisings, it may be time for the world to have the Platos, Socrates, Confucius, Aristoles or even the Karl Marx of our times. The world needs great thinkers who would redefine our collective future and earn respect of future generations.