An Arab-uprising or Just an Awakening
At the end of February 2011 the Sultanate of Oman saw a ripple of the social unrest that initiated in Tunisia; sweep through North Africa, and onwards to the Middle East. Oddly, the Sultanate of Oman is one of the few Middle Eastern countries in which freedom of speech is not only permitted, but actively encouraged.
With news of unrest in the Northern city of Sohar, the BBC’s website reports the demands of the disgruntled were listed as; more jobs, greater political change (constitutional reform), and an end to corruption. These petitions underline a lack of economic equality that is beginning to erode trust, leading to social instability.
Yet with over nineteen years personal knowledge of the country and people, one can’t help feeling that the real issue is likely to be ‘Fear of the Future’.
In trying to placate the demonstrators, Oman’s leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said, of the ruling tribe that has ruled Oman since 1744, dismissed a number of so called Ministers, who in reality, are mere Advisors, and Gofers, unable to do anything without the seal of approval from above.
Additionally, 10,000 jobs were reported to be generated, as opposed to seeking to create a situation in which such jobs would grow out of an emerging local market, jobs that could be earmarked for the indigenous population. These actions appear hastily conceived, short term knee-jerk reactions.
But this should never have been the case in a country with a small population, of around three million, in which almost all are educated and able to communicate their thoughts; a fact that was alluded to in the book ‘taSauwur Sultanate of Oman – Modern Oman’, along with insights into things to come.
So if Oman’s protests have nothing to do with any so called ‘Arab-Uprising’, at least; not at this stage; could it be that the rallies in Oman were a subconscious wish to discuss a country’s future, whilst awakening the Sultan to the fact that they, the people, are now ready to achieve his goal of active political participation, and realise that, they, have a collective voice?
Sultan Qaboos is recognized, both nationally and internationally, as having been the right choice for modernizing Oman. He is well loved and respected by Omanis for his achievements and benevolent leadership, nevertheless; given that none of us will live forever, and it appears Oman wishes to discontinue tribalism in government, which accounts for much of the perceived cronyism; the recent disturbances are at worst, a sign of increasing concern for the future political landscape of Oman. A concern that is also shared by external investors, stemming such investment.
This is said with real-estate projects such as the ‘Wave Muscat’ in mind, which mimic those in the UAE, and on reflection are nothing more than ill-advised purchases, exemplified by their off-shore placement; a disingenuous attempt to profit from homes built as tsunami wave-breakers for those living inland. The story of ‘The Wise and Foolish Builder’ (Matthew 7:24-27) comes to mind.
The steps taken by Oman’s Sultan will not address the core issues. In fact it is possible that he (Sultan Qaboos) cannot address such issues; as the goal-posts are constantly changing, and will continue to do so. Furthermore, it is his success that has now made him part of the present and future problem. But all of this is just what he wanted to achieve, isn’t it?
With an untimely demise of the Sultan, all of his, and Oman’s recent achievements could be undone. Furthermore, given the amount of persons from the subcontinent now posing as Omani, and the influx of displaced former benefactors’ of Apartheid finding Muscat to be, ‘their kind-of-town’, the time for Oman’s Sultan to act in setting up a political system to succeed him, and ensure that Omanis, don’t become second or third class citizens in their own country, is now.
Read more on Oman in taSauwur Sultanate of Oman