It was like the fabled butterfly which fluttered its wings, stirred a breeze and thereby spawned a tempest. In mid-December, a modest fruit vendor from an obscure town in Tunisia, apparently humiliated by a female government inspector, set himself alight outside the local governor’s office.

The act of self-immolation quickly sparked flames of unrest across the country, as protesters chaffed at the heavy-handedness of Tunisian authorities and their indifference to poverty and suffering. Within days, long-ruling strongman Zine el- Abidine Ben Ali had fled into exile.

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