Posts Tagged ‘North Africa’
“Tunisia anti-terror march kicks off World Social Forum. Activists from around the globe honour victims of museum attack last week that left 21 people, mostly tourists, dead.”
Sunday: A demonstration against terrorism is being organised after the bloody attack at the Bardo Museum. Tens of thousands of people and foreign dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande, are expected to participate.
Adapted from Libération.
People and organisations will gather from about 11:00 local time (1000 GMT) in Bab Saadoun. They will march to the front of the museum. This building, which houses an outstanding collection of mosaics, was the target of the March 18 attack that killed 22 people – 21 tourists and a policeman.
Prominent personalities, political figures and overseas guests will assemble at around 12:00 (11:00 GMT) with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi over a hundred metres along the outside of the museum prior to inaugurating a monument to the memory of the victims.
“We must now show our patriotism” said Minister of Tourism Salma Elloumi Rekik on national television. The attack was “a heavy blow (…) but this time did not kill us, he made us stronger,” she assured.
President Caid Essebsi called Wednesday on his countrymen to massively participate in the march “to express the strength of Tunisia” and “send a message abroad that Tunisia continues its fight against terrorism.”
Tunisia, the pioneer of the “Arab Spring”, despite its internal turmoil has completed its transition to democracy with elections in late 2014. But its stability could be threatened by the rise of Jihadist threat as well as the persistence of the economic and social problems that were the root of the 2011 revolution.
French President François Hollande will be present on the day that France holds the second round of the departmental (regional) elections. Polish and Palestinian presidents Bronislaw Komorowski and Mahmoud Abbas will take part in the march, as will Italian and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Matteo Renzi and the Spanish and Dutch Ministers of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Garcia-Margallo and Bert Koenders.
“From now on, everyone reacts after each terrorist attack as if the attack was carried out in their own country. This is new and it’s important, “said President Caid Essebsi to the French daily Ouest-France.
This march is reminiscent of the one organised in January by President Hollande after the attacks in Paris against the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman and a kosher supermarket.
The Islamist Ennahda party, the second political force in the country in the present coalition government, has called on supporters to participate in the march “to express the unity of Tunisians face this danger and their determination to defend their homeland (… ) preserve their freedom. “
The powerful trade union federation, the UGTT has also invited its members to attend “en masse”.
But the Popular Front ( Front populaire) the left coalition and main opposition party, announced that he would not participate. It accused ‘certain participants’ in the march of “hypocrisy” – a clear reference to Ennahda.
The spokesman of the Front, Hamma Hammami, said that the demonstration was “a way to cover up the issue of the responsibility (…) for the spread of terrorism.”
Many leftist policies accuse the Islamist party of having shown excessive tolerance towards the growing Jihadist groups when in power (late 2011-early 2014). They charge it with responsibility for, or complicity, in the murders in 2013 of two members of the Popular Front, Chokri Belaid Mohamed Brahmi.
Faced with these divisions, the daily La Presse spoke of “an absurd battle”, saying that “the world (…) expects that proves us to show that we deserve their backing, and the wave of solidarity that this event will demonstrate throughout today. “
The attack of March 18 was claimed by the Islamic State Group (EI). But the Tunisian Interior Ministry said the attack was led by a leader of the Falange Okba Ibn Nafaa, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda chased out by the army more than two years ago from in the mountains bordering Algeria.
The Bardo Museum, is preparing to resume normal activity. On Friday, it opened its doors to school pupils, students and members of delegations. It intends to open its doors to the public on Monday.
More on the Front Populaire’s position:
The Popular Front leader Mohamed Jmour said his party refuses to participate in the walk on Sunday, if the parties involved in terrorism are involved.
He added in a statement Friday that components of the old troika (previous government) refuse to this day to take responsibility for what has happened in Tunisia.
Mohamed Jmour also expressed also his refusal to participate in an event side by side with French leaders who are still not apologised, according to his statements, to the Tunisians for all the harm done to them during the period of the protectorate.
Tunisia: Nidaa Tounes Beats Islamists.
Tunisia’s Ennahda party, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 “Arab Spring” revolts, conceded defeat on Monday in elections that are set to make its main secular rival the strongest force in parliament.
Official results from Sunday’s elections – the second parliamentary vote since Tunisians set off uprisings across much of the Arab World by overthrowing autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali – were still to be announced.
But a senior official at Ennahda, which ruled in a coalition until it was forced to make way for a caretaker government during a political crisis at the start of this year, acknowledged defeat by the secular Nidaa Tounes party.
We have accepted this result, and congratulate the winner Nidaa Tounes,” the official, Lotfi Zitoun, told Reuters. However, he repeated the party’s call for a new coalition including Ennahda. “We are calling once again for the formation of a unity government in the interest of the country.”
Earlier, a party source said preliminary tallies showed the secular party had won 80 seats in the 217-member assembly, ahead of 67 secured by Ennahda.
These are some percentage figures.
Nidaa Tounes 38.24% = 83 seats Ennahdha: 31.33% = 68 seats Free Patriotic Union (run by rich businessman and Africa football club owner Slim Riahi), : 7.83% = 17 Seats Popular Front (the left bloc): 5.25% = 12 seats Afek Tounes: 2.3% = 5 seats Congress for the Republic: 1.84% = 4 seats The Initiative: 1.84% = 4 seats
Le Monde reports,
The Islamist party knew he would see a decline in popularity but had not imagined such a setback. Triumphantly elected in 2011, when the first free elections were held after the fall of Ben Ali, the movement had two difficult years in government, marked by economic failure, political assassinations and a rise in terrorism.
On Sunday, voters did not hesitate to say they had voted Ennahda in 2011 and had been then disappointed. So that they had decided to turn to Nidaa Tounès. “We need people who can make the country move forward “, noted a resident of Rafraf, small coastal town in the north, attracted as were many voters by the figure of Beji Caid Essebsi, a former prime minister and leader of the transitional government after the revolution.
While British commentators like the Guardian’s Seumas Milne had described Ennahda as “progressive” and “centre left” critics from Tunisia’s important secular left and labour movement had accused it of harbouring a hard-line Islamist wing, and practising neo-liberal economics.
The assassination of the left leader Chokri Belaïd (February 2013) indicated the existence of a far-right Islamist current prepared to use violence against the progressive movement. It as a key moment in defining the difference between Islamist reaction – including that of Ennahda – and the Tunisian left (see: Tunisie : Le mouvement ouvrier à la croisée des chemins.). At one point it looked as if the fringes of the party would work with the religious hard-liners and establish Islamic ‘mini-states’ based on the Sharia.
This did not happen.
The Parliamentary Islamists recoiled from the terrorism of the Salafist inspired street fighters.
All Tunisian elected parties have since accepted a new (2014) Constitution, unique in the Arab world, which establishes a framework for open decentralised government, promotes gender equality and accepts freedom of religion (that is the right not to be a Muslim), although restricts attacks on faith.
Nidaa Tounes (the حركة نداء تونس Nidā’ Tūnis, French: Appel de la Tunisie, Call of Tunisia), is a secular party, or as Wikipedia calls it “secularist”. “founded by the former prime minister Beji Caid el Sebsi after the post-revolution 2011 elections. It describes itself as a “modernist” party.”
In this context modernist means that the party is dedicated to democracy, gender equality, social openness, and is not prepared to allow movements imposing Islamic rules on daily life. Economic development is seen as a condition of progress.
“The party has patched together former members of ousted president Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally, secular leftists, progressive liberals and Destourians (followers of Tunisia’s “founder” Habib Bourguiba). In addition, the party has the support of many members of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) and the national employers’ union, UTICA. They believe that Tunisia’s secular forces have to unite to counter the dominance of the Islamist Ennahda Movement.”
Nidaa Tounes’ promises increased growth and a reduction in unemployment (currently at 15,20%).
It is believed that the party’s criticisms of the “instrumentalisation” of Islam, experienced candidates (regardless of their Destourian past), and its call for “sécurité et de la stabilité” accounts for its successes.
To their left with 17 seats the Popular Front has achieved Parliamentary representation. It suffered from leftist in-fighting, and the alliance of some trade unionists with Nidaa Tounes. Nevertheless it also remains linked to the left-wing of the powerful Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT).
It is believed that the UGTT and Tunisia’s strong civil society have helped hinder the growth of an Islamist anti-democratic movement.
Nevertheless over 2,400 Tunisian citizens (out of a population of 10,89 million) have joined the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
It is expected that very different social conflicts will result from any attempt by the probable national unity government that the elections are likely to create (led by Nidaa Tounes) to tie a ‘modernising’ economic agenda to neo-liberal policies. Calling themselves “technocrats” is an obvious attempt by politicians to deflect opposition to unpopular measures which could include further austerity.
For the moment minds are concentrated on the defeat of Ennahda.
There are inevitable charges of – marginal – electoral malpractice.
But some things stand out: watching the images of voting in Tunis on the (UK) telly news stations today you could have been excused for simply thinking how ordinary the Tunisians looked – democratic, calm, modern people.
Protest at assassination of Tunisian leftist leader Mohammed Brahmi .
Latest news: Tunisia deal to bring end to Islamist rule.
“Tunisia’s political rivals have agreed on a timetable for the Islamist-led ruling coalition to quit and be replaced by a government of independents.
The Islamist Ennahda party and opposition groups in the country signed a roadmap aimed at creating a new government within three weeks.”
More in Al Jazeera.
The Islamist Ennahda party, which heads the Tunisian government vowed on Saturday afternoon to step down before the end of October to resolve a deep political crisis. This comes two years after their victory in elections following the January 2011 revolution. Libération.
Tunisia Live continues,
The roadmap plan drafted by a group of civil society organizations calls for government and political leaders to meet for direct negotiations, and mandates that the current government resign three weeks from the first session of talks in favor of group of technocratic leaders to be chosen during the dialogue.
Leaders of Ennahdha, the largest party in the ruling coalition, and Ettakatol, one of its governing partners, both signed the agreement at a ceremony today in Tunis. Most opposition parties, including Nidaa Tounes and members of the Popular Front coalition, also signed on. *
The same web site noted on Friday,
The Popular Front opposition coalition confirmed that it will take part in the direct talks between government and opposition parties, scheduled to begin Saturday morning.
“We are going to participate,” Popular Front leader Mohamed Jmour told Tunisia Live Friday. “But all parties have to respect the roadmap. Otherwise, we will leave the dialogue.
Tunisia has been in a political deadlock since the July 25 assassination of Popular Front member Mohamed Brahmi.
The roadmap plan guiding the dialogue was proposed by the UGTT labor union, the UTICA employers’ union, and two other civil society organizations.
This plan calls for direct meetings between political leaders and calls for a new government to replace the current government within three weeks of the first session of talks.
According to the UGTT, the opening session will kick off on Saturday at 9:30 am at the Palais de Congrés in Tunis.
Al Jazeera says,
“I want to thank you for joining this dialogue because you are opening the door of hope for Tunisians,” said Houcine Abassi, whose UGTT trade union confederation was the lead mediator behind the roadmap, at Saturday’s ceremony.
Delegates at the Palais des Congres said the launch of the hard-won dialogue with a symbolic ceremony had earlier been jeopardised by a last-minute dispute.
The UGTT said Ennahda had initially refused to formally sign the text that underlines the timetable of the national dialogue.
The two sides are still divided over issues including the date of elections, the role of a special assembly finishing a draft of a new constitution and composition of an electoral body to oversee the vote.
Libération also notes,
As a sign of prevailing animosity in Tunisia opposition figures this week again accused Ennahda of being involved in the assassination of MP Mohamed Brahmi in July and the killing in February of another opponent, Chokri Belaïd. These crimes, for which nobody has yet to claim responsibility, have been laid at the door of the Salafist movement.
The country remains locked in institutional paralysis, linked to the emergence of armed Salafist groups. This has increased economic difficulties. Investors have become more and more cautious, while inflation and the depreciation of the Tunisian dinar have eroded ordinary people’s purchasing power.
Two suspected killers of Tunisian left-wing Democrat Chokri Belaïd, have been arrested, Libération reports today.
They are both from the Salafist movement.
One of them is active in the Ligue de protection de la révolution (LPR).
L’un de ces sources a précisé que le tueur était actif dans la Ligue de protection de la révolution (LPR) une milice brutale pro-islamiste, du Kram, une banlieue populaire de Tunis voisine de Carthage.
A source adds that the killer was active in the Ligue de protection de la révolution (LPR), a brutal pro-Islamist militia, in Kram, a poor suburb of Tunis, not far from Carthage.
This body is described on Wikipedia as “Soutenue par deux partis de la coalition au pouvoir, le Congrès pour la République et Ennahda, elle est particulièrement proche de ce dernier, ainsi que des salafistes”
It is backed by two parties of the (then) governing Coalition, the Congrès Pour la République and Ennahda. It is particularly close to the latter and to the Salafists.
You will find absolutely no reference to this link with Ennahada in the Guardian’s report on the arrests.
They simply describe the suspects as “hardline Islamists” and “Salafists”.
We wonder why….
Chokri Belaid: Tunisian Patriot, Marxist and Secularist Killed by Islamists.
At the of January Chokri Belaïd wrote, “Official violence and that of the militias is present, with the political assassination in Tataouine, and warnings and calls for the liquidation of political competitors without the authorities responding. The situation that gave birth to December 17, 2010 is still current.” (Hat-tip Paul F)
His party the Mouvement des patriotes démocrates (حركة الوطنيون الديمقراطيون) is Marxist, pan-Arab and Secularist.
It is part of the Front Populaire, (الجبهة الشعبية) ou Front populaire pour la réalisation des objectifs de la révolution (الجبهة الشعبية لتحقيق أهداف الثورة) * which unites left parties in opposition to the Ennahdha, Islamist-led Tunisian government.
Belaid has been described as the “bête noire” of the Islamists, particularly after the lawyer defended freedom of expression, and the film Persepolis.
Yesterday he was shot outside his front door.
Tunisia Live reports,
Leftist politician and leader of the Popular Front coalition Chokri Belaid was shot to death this morning outside of his home.
Shortly after news of his assassination consumed the airwaves and social media, protesters took to the streets to express their indignation over Belaid’s assassination.
Over the course of the day, demonstrators made their way to the Interior Ministry in Tunis’ main thoroughfare, Habib Bourguiba avenue, where they showed solidarity with Belaid and chanted slogans against the ruling Ennahdha party.
The situation turned violent at around 2:30 p.m. with police resorting to tear gas and batons to empty out and lockdown Habib Bourguiba avenue.
Protests have spread across the country, and some of Ennahdha’s regional headquarters have been attacked.
As today’s (Friday) General Strike is underway this is what people have been saying,
They are also crying anti-Ennahdha slogans, such as “Ghannouchi (Ennahdha founder), you are a predator,” “dégage (get out, in
French),” “This will be the last day for this government,” and “Bring down the oppressor of the people, bring down the Brotherhood party.”
Belaïd’s family openly accuse that government of responsibility.
Le Monde reports,
L’assassinat de Chokri Belaïd n’a pas été revendiqué. Mais partisans et sympathisants de l’opposition dénoncent déjà à l’unisson le “premier assassinat politique“ en Tunisie depuis la chute de l’ancien dirigeant Zine El-AbidineBen Ali en janvier 2011 et affirment : “On a assassiné un démocrate”. Tous les regards se portent en particulier contre Ennahda, ouvertement accusé par la famille d’être responsable du meurtre de l’opposant.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the assassination of Chokri Belaïd. But opposition supporters and sympathisers have already denounced, in chorus, the “first political assignation in Tunisia since the fall of the former leader, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. “They have killed a democrat”, they have declared. All eyes have turned towards Ennahda, openly accused by the deceased’s family of being responsible for the murder.
Le frère du défunt, Abdelmajid Belaïd, a ainsi lancé: “J’accuse (le chef d’Ennhada) ached Ghannouchi d’avoir fait assassiner mon frère”, sans plus d’explication pour étayer cette accusation.
The brother of the deceased, Abdelmajid Belaïd, has launched this charge, ‘I accuse Rached Ghannouchi of the assassination of my bother”, he said, without giving details to back up this accusation.
The Islamist Government has denied that this is the case, deeply regretting the murder.
But as, Nadia Chaaban, (left Tunisian deputy) says,
Tout le monde savait que Chokri Belaïd était menacé. Aucune mesure de protection n’a été prise. En laissant se propager des discours violents dans des espaces tels que les mosquées, ce gouvernement laisse faire et cautionne.
Everybody knew that Chokri Belaïd was under threat. There were no measures taken to protect him. In letting violent speeches (Note, by the Salafists) flourish in such places as mosques, the government has let this happen and endorsed it
Others point to Ennahdha’s “ambiguous” relations with violent Salafists (Here)
Nor is Ennahdha completely above suspicion.
Their persecution under the Ben Ali regime should not make us forget that even this ‘moderate’ Islamist party has a past acquaintance with violence, for example, in the bombing of tourist hotels in the 1980s.
Last year opposition trade unionist protester, Lotfi Naguedh, was killed fighting with Ennahdha thugs.
The most that one say with certainty, on the present evidence, is that this murder did not happen in a political vacuum and that the ruling Islamists did not protect its opponent.
In 2011 George Galloway said of this party and of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,
I welcome the imminent victory of the Islamic movements in Egypt and Tunisia, which I think will provide very good governments on the Turkish model.
The once savagely repressed progressive Islamist party An-Nahda (Ennahdha) won the Tunisian elections this week on a platform of pluralist democracy, social justice and national independence.
His paper has frequently offered space to Ennahdha supporters.
The governing coalition of secularist and Islamist parties is now in its second year. Despite their differences, these parties have clearly demonstrated the possibility of reconciliation, co-operation and partnership between moderate Islamists and moderate secularists, an important model for the Arab world.
Others who claim to be on (Western) the left, have, with varying degrees of hostility, judged the Tunisian secular opposition, and left, harshly.
The latest news is that a “technocratic” government of national unity it being formed around Ennahdha.
Many Tunisians seem not to share Milne or Galloway’s assessment of the party.
The coming days will see them out r protesting against Ennahdha in force.
With one death already this promises to be a very serious challenge.
Manifestants à Tunis devant le ministère de l’Intérieur, jeudi 7 février. (Khalil – AFP)
The General Strike is underway and Funeral of Chokri Belaïd is this afternoon.
News en-direct from a variety of sources, including the Nouvel Observateur.
* Front Populaire.
- Parti des travailleurs tunisiens de Hamma Hammami
- Parti du travail patriotique et démocratique, aile menée par Mohamed Jmour
- Mouvement des patriotes démocrates de Chokri Belaïd
- Patriotes démocrates (Watad) de Jamel Lazhar
- Parti de la lutte progressiste de Mohamed Lassoued
- Ligue de la gauche ouvrière de Jalel Ben Brik Zoghlami, trotskiste
- Parti populaire pour la liberté et le progrès de Jelloul Azzouna, socialiste
- Front populaire unioniste d’Amor Mejri, panarabe marxiste
- Mouvement du peuple de Mohamed Brahmi, nationaliste arabe nassérien
- Mouvement Baath d’Othmen Bel Haj Amor, nationaliste arabe baasiste
- Parti d’avant-garde arabe démocratique de Kheireddine Souabni, nationaliste arabe baasiste
- Tunisie verte d’Abdelkader Zitouni, écologiste
Tunisian UGTT: Defends the Workers Against Islamists.
Protests against Islamist rule are not confined to Egypt.
From the Mashriq to the Maghreb people are opposing the ‘parties of god’.
Next Thursday in Tunisia the union federation, the UGTT, has called a General Strike.
The background as described by Gulf News,
On Tuesday, several hundred Islamists armed with knives and sticks charged a gathering of members of the UGTT union in the capital and broke office windows with stones. Police had to intervene to separate the two groups.
“The UGTT decided to go on strike on December 13, after the attack on the central trade unions and trade unionists on Tuesday,” the union said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The UGTT (General Union of Tunisian Workers) has decided that a general strike will take place on Thursday, December 13, across Tunisia,” it told AFP.
It called the strike to protest an attack on Tuesday against a UGTT demonstration blamed by the union on supporters of the Islamist ruling party.
A union leader told AFP the UGTT demands the dissolution of the League for the Protection of the Revolution. It accuses the group, close to the ruling Ennahda party and with a reputation for brutal violence — of Tuesday’s attack.
The nationwide strike call is only the third to be made by the powerful UGTT since its foundation in the 1940s.
The first was in 1978 and the second work on January 12, 2011 — two days before the fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime.
On Tuesday, several dozen assailants attacked members of the UGTT, who were gathered outside the union’s headquarters in Tunis to mark the 60th anniversary of the assassination of its founder, Farhat Hached.
Police intervened to separate the two sides, but 10 demonstrators were wounded in the attack, according to the trade union.
Tunisia Live reports that opposition members of the National Constituent Assembly (المجلس الوطني التأسيسي التونسي, Assemblée constituante tunisienne) have called for a 3 day boycott of its plenary proceedings in solidarity with the UGTT.
It will be interesting to see how the junior member of the Ennahda government, the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (Arabic: التكتل الديمقراطي من أجل العمل والحريات, at-Takattul ad-Dīmuqrāṭī min ajl il-‘Amal wal-Ḥurriyyāt ; Ettakatol – Forum démocratique pour le travail et les libertés) which has observer status to the Second International, will react to this latest act by Islamist thugs.
President Moncef Marzouki has recently called for a smaller Cabinet of technocrats to deal with the crisis.
Ennahada has enjoyed very favourable coverage in the UK .
“The once savagely repressed progressive Islamist party An-Nahda won the Tunisian elections this week on a platform of pluralist democracy, social justice and national independence. Tunisia has faced nothing like the backlash the uprisings in other Arab countries have received, but that spirit is the driving force of the movement for change across a region long manipulated and dominated by foreign powers.”
@georgegalloway George Galloway tweeted before this election,
“Tunisians: Choose An-Nadha in elections. Sheikh Rachid is a wise kind brave man. A lion should lead the lions who began the Arab Revolution!”
Now we know the wisdom and bravery of this ‘lion’.
Video of the attack on the UGTT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZV0PAXzG-A
Tunisian Salafists Firebomb Union Offices Across the Country.
Hat-Tip to Enty.
12 June 2012: Tunisian Islamic fundamentalists unleashed a campaign of firebombing trade union offices around the country today , as the Salafist movement challenges the emerging democracy in the home of the ’Arab Spring’.
Regional offices of the national union centre UGTT in three locations have been burned down by Salafists under the slogan “There is only God and the UGTT is the enemy of God”. UGTT regional offices were main organising points for the revolution to depose former President Ben Ali.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said “Democracy is under attack in Tunisia today, and the Salafists have the union movement as a primary target. There are grave concerns for the safety of trade union leaders, and others who stand for people’s democratic rights and the rule of law.”
The UGTT offices in Bou Salem were destroyed and its bureau in Ben Gardane were burned out in news just received by the ITUC, while union centre’s headquarters in Jendouba in the North West were firebombed at 2am local time this morning. Political parties which have shown support for the UGTT, including the PDP, Republican Party, The Forum, and the Alwatad Movement have also been targetted along with courts, post offices, art galleries and even police.
“The authorities need to move quickly to put an end to this violence, which has been building for some time. The people organising these attacks have been generating a climate of fear and intimidation which threatens the very development of a democratic Tunisia,” said Sharan Burrow.
The fascists have begun a big campaign, (More here)