Former U.S. Ambassador To Romania, James Rosapepe: “History of Romania’s 1990s Repeats Itself in Tunisia”
James Rosapepe, former U.S. ambassador to Romania in the 1990s recounts his Eastern European experience in an editorial for the Baltimore Sun, in which he sees some resemblances between “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia and the Romanian Revolution in 1989.
Truth is that all Romanians who lived the events in 1989 either in the streets or by watching them on TV could see some similarities, not only with the way the things led to the deposing of Ben Ali but also with what happened next, which is almost as important as the overthrowing itself.
Rosapepe listed the main common things: both countries were led by autocrats; the revolution did not start in the elite, but was a reaction of the people who were being treated badly by authorities; soldiers shot among themselves; the people were appalled at the sight of the presidential mansions and riches; French is the second language for both nations, and democracies all over the world have cheered the triumph of both revolutions.
He also notes some discrepancies: one country is Muslim, while the other is Eastern Orthodox, Tunisia was dominated by France, whereas Romania had been under Soviet umbrella; Romania has been a secluded country, whereas Tunisia made 13% of its gross domestic product out of tourism.
One of the most important aspects, of which Rosapepe doesn’t even speak, given that it kind of goes without saying, is that both revolutions are part of a bigger picture: Romania was the last country in Europe to get rid of a Communist regime, while Tunisia is the trend setter for a similar process in the Arab world (weren’t for the 100 dead people in the streets of Tunisian cities, Tunisia would have been comparable to Poland and Czeckoslovakia, where “silk revolutions” occurred first in 1989’s Europe).
Latest reports from Tunisia document cases of people who were shot from close range or from behind, which means they were killed in cold blood. The same thing happened in Timisoara and Bucharest in December 1989.
The main difference begins after the moment the tyrant has left. While Romanian dictator was apprehended while trying to make his escape, the Tunisian counterpart succeeded in fleeing the country toward Saudi Arabia, where he is expecting to see whether he would be extradited or not. Tunisia has already issued a warrant arrest on the Ben Ali family.
The differences run even deeper. When the president of Romania was judged in the city of Targoviste and was convicted at the end of a judicial shameful travesty, on of the counts that brought him the brutal execution inside a military base was that he had deposited some $1 billion, supposed to have been stolen from the people.
No one in Romania ever recuperated the money, or it may have been taken, if it existed, by those who were close to the regime. Later on, Romanian televisions passed on the idea that the money never existed and that the prosecution lied through its teeth to get Ceausescu executed.
The Tunisian authorities have filed demands that the accounts of former president be frozen in France, and in other countries where he had connections. There is a possibility that the money be retrieved and put to some public use.
Ceausescu was killed on the day of Christmas, in what seemed at the time one of the most brutal acts in the last decades. Many Romanians consider that the holy day of the Birth of the Lord was stained by this atrocity. Other think it was on purpose.
If Ben Ali comes back to his country, it is highly unlikely that he will share the same gruesome fate of Ceausescu.
One of the most controversial things about the Romanian revolution in December 1989 was the appearance of what Romanians called “the terrorists.” The shooting continued even after the Romanian army announced it would not shoot on its own nation, which is in itself a difference from the Tunisian revolution.
Most of the dead in the capital city of Bucharest were killed in the aftermath of the presidential deposition. Fires continued to be heard for the next day and people were killed after Ceausescu was no longer president.
No one knows who killed those people, why, and how come the responsible were never brought to justice. At a certain point, those who know about technological warfare said that this part of revolution, when revolutionaries were fired upon was no more than the effect of simulators, that is the sound of guns was not real, it was like in the movies.
How did the Romanian cemeteries were filled with dead bodies of young people killed by movie-like sounds of riffles, and guns, and cannons? No one knows. Few care anymore.
What James Rosapepe may have not been aware of is that some “political” elite was preparing some sort of revolution in Romania before they were caught by surprise by the population’s outbreak, and that after the people put the tyrant on the run the elite practically took over and became the ruling class of the new democratic Romania.
As soon as the revolution in Tunisia resulted in the deposing of Ben Ali, the Prime Minister announced he would be the interim president. People took it to the streets again, and constitutional order was re-established when the speaker of parliament was instated as interim.
In the turmoil of the Romanian revolution a bunch of former ministers of Ceausescu formed some sort of government and were preparing to make the announcement of assuming transitional reign.
They were toned down by those of the elite, led by someone who was posing as a anti-Ceausescu dissenter, and the elite became “legitimate.” Who was behind them? No one knows. How did they become so credible out of the thin air? No one still doesn’t know.
It is the opinion of the author of this article that the most striking resemblances between “Jasmine revolution” and “Romanian revolution” occurred after the revolution in se.
The fact that demonstrations still continue in the streets and that the people are practically protesting against everyone and everything is understandable. The people come out of a drastic regime where they were forced to keep their opinions to themselves and now feel the need to get involved.