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Repressive African Governments Under Siege

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Unpopular and anti-democratic rulers throughout the region are facing new and unexpected pressures from fired-up citizens demanding democracy in the wake of a people power uprising in the northern African nation of Tunisia.

In Yemen, police arrested Tawakul Karman after she led two protests at Sanaa University, criticizing autocratic Arab leaders and calling on Yemenis, using SMSs and e-mails, to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Karman, who heads the Yemeni activist group Women Journalists Without Chains, also called on Yemenis to support the Tunisian people in their political struggle.

Protesters in Sanaa last week held signs reading: "Leave, before you are forced to leave."

In Algeria, helmeted riot police armed with batons and shields were reported to have clashed this week with rock- and chair-throwing protesters who tried to march in defiance of Algeria’s ban on public gatherings.

In the past two weeks, eight people have set themselves on fire in the country to protest unemployment, poverty, social inequality, and government corruption.

The largest protests were reported in Egypt, where thousands of demonstrators demanded an end to President Hosni Mubarek’s decades-old rule.

In Cairo and Alexandria, protestors were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons. The rallies had been called on Facebook and Twitter, mostly by young Egyptians facing the same poverty and oppression that set off Tunisia's unrest.

Emergency laws in place since 1981 outlaw demonstrations without prior permission. Opposition groups say they have been denied such permits, and Egyptian security forces have a track record of dealing violently with protesters.

Writing on the VOA Africa website, Reuben Camara warned: “You can oppress some of the people some of the time - but you cannot suppress the vast majority all of the time. North Africa is about to explode.”

Mamdouh Khayrat, 23, said to Al Jazeera news service: “We want a functioning government, we want Mubarak to step down, we don't want emergency law, we don't want to live under this kind of oppression anymore… Enough is enough, things have to change…”

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