Tunisia citizens call for compromise

Tunisia’s Ennahda-led government failed to agree with the opposition on how to end the weeks-long political deadlock.

The General Labour Union (UGTT), which has been playing the role of mediator, announced that no agreement has been reached yet to end the political stalemate.

The ruling coalition on Sunday (September 1st) rejected proposals from the opposition, but announced that the door was still open for a dialogue.

“The suggestions made by representatives of opposition parties to exit the political crisis in Tunisia were not received in a satisfactory way by the ruling coalition, including Ennahda and the Congress for the Republic (CPR),” said Mouldi Riahi of ruling coalition member party Ettakatol.

“The need for all political parties to meet around one table is paramount, and the role of organisations sponsoring the dialogue must be transformed to one that guarantees consensus and compromise reached by both sides,” Riahi stressed.

The ruling coalition approved in principle the dissolution of the government, but only after the draft constitution is ratified, the Independent High Authority for the elections is formed, and the electoral law put in place by October 23rd.

The resignation of the government has been a source of uncertainty for weeks, following unrest triggered by the assassinations of opposition politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi.

Due to the failure to reach a consensus over whether the government will stay or go, Tunisians say more concessions should be made for the people’s sake.

Mohamed Ajroudi, a professor at the University of Tunis, stressed that the economic and security situation in the country can no longer permit more wasted time by the country’s political actors.

“Everyone must be aware of the importance of the stage that we are going through and offer more concessions to reach a solution in order to get us out of this ordeal,” Ajroudi said.

“We don’t want more troubles for our country. They all must get back to their positions as soon as possible and resume their duties,” he added.

Samira Rabaoui, a Ben Arous housewife, expressed fears that the continuing crisis will lead the country to an unknown path full of dangers: “We fear that the country due to the intransigence of the political parties will become a space of conflict for positions. The situation is worsening by the day and I expect a social explosion soon.”

“It is necessary that parties in the conflict make concessions, agree on one position, and find solutions as soon as possible,’ said Moetaz Ben Romdhane, an economics student from the province of Nabeul.

Maghrebia http://magharebia.com/en_GB/articles/awi/features/2013/09/02/feature-01

Algerian tourists return to Tunisia

Cars with brass yellow license plates from Algeria are once again roaming the streets of Tunis and coastal cities.

The Tunisian tourism ministry has been monitoring the return of Algerian tourists after the end of Ramadan on August 8th. Their numbers are below expectations compared to 2010. Back then, 7 million Algerian tourists visited the country, according to statistics National Office of Tunisian Tourism (ONTT) statistics.

The number of Algerian tourists dropped by 28% and the number of arrivals to the Tunisian territory did not exceed 29,000 people before July 10th, according to tourism figures.

unknown photographer

unknown photographer

Tourism Minister Jamel Gamra paid a visit to the city of Tabarka along the Algerian border on July 16th, where he met a group of Algerian journalists and operators in the sector.

Gamra sought to reassure the Algerians that what was taking place in Jebel Chaambi was under control: “What is certain is that the phenomenon has been limited to the area of Jebel Chaambi and that it did not affect security in the rest of the region.”

“Security authorities have worked in collaboration with Algeria to neutralise terrorists in Jebel Chaambi,” Gamra told Echorouk. “The authorities took maximum measures and pre-emptive steps to ensure the security of its visitors.”

The interior ministry has also been holding training sessions with hotel staff about safety and emergency response all the while ensuring a comfortable stay for tourists, Gamra added.

Algerian tourists expressed confidence about the way authorities are handling the security situation.

“In the beginning, news about the security situation in Tunisia were not reassuring, especially for those like me who have to cross the border on their own cars,” Algerian tourist Mourad Qallala told Magharebia. “We arrived safely and roads adjacent to the borders were protected. We will spend the rest of the summer in Tunisia, which has been our favourite destination for years.”

Newlywed Tariq Ajaj, who is spending his honeymoon in Tunisia, complained about congestion at the border crossing and the multiple security checks: “This is acceptable if we know the threats that our brothers in Tunisia are facing. We in Algeria have tasted the bitterness of terrorism and we hope that Tunisia overcomes this ordeal.”

“At this time of the year my restaurant was extremely active until the wee hours,” Tunis restaurant owner Mokhtar Ben Jannet said. “The majority of my clients are Algerians, but because of the recent news about terrorism, the number of Algerian clients declined.”

“I understand their decision,” Ben Jannet added. “They have suffered from the scourge of terrorism.”

Gamra told the Algerian media that his government is planning to expand border crossings and develop roads leading to them.

“We allocated a budget of 300,000 dinars to expand the Melloula border crossing in order to accommodate a thousand tourists a day,” he said.

The project is expected to be launched next month, the parking lot will be expanded and the crossing border office will be equipped with air conditioning and chairs, he added.

The waiting time at the border crossing will be reduced to a maximum of 10 minutes, according to the minister.




Tunisia, Algeria join hands against terrorism

By Jamel Arfaoui in Tunis for Magharebia

Tunisia and Algeria are working together to eliminate terrorist groups holed up along their shared border.

The Tunisian army has launched a series of attacks in the remote Jebel Chaambi area, while Algeria lined up 10,000 soldiers to monitor the borders and prevent terrorists from escaping the siege.

“The exchange of information between Tunisian and Algerian agencies about the movements of terrorists is very important to the success of the operation,” former defence ministry spokesperson Brigadier-General Mokhtar Ben Nasr said.

Friday night, three terrorists from Jebel Chaambi were killed after crossing the border into Algeria following an exchange of fire that lasted nearly an hour, El Khabar reported.

The terrorists, all Tunisian, were killed north of Bir El Ater. The army would have preferred to capture them alive to obtain more information on the terrorist group hiding in Jebel Chaambi, according the daily.

The Tunisian army also killed 10 terrorists in Jebel Chaambi and arrested three others in the region of Ouled Nasrallah, Kasserine province. A fourth terrorist was seriously wounded in the operation.

On Friday, the army launched a major assault on Jebel Chaambi, where eight soldiers were slaughtered days earlier by al-Qaeda-linked extremists.

“A group of security and intelligence officers from Tunisia and Algeria began the investigation about the activity of terrorist groups across the land border between the two countries,” El Khabar reported on Saturday (August 3rd).

“The on-going operations will be launched in phases on the ground and from the air,” the Algerian daily said. “Tunisian forces will be thrice the forces that participated in the sweeping of the area in the spring of this year, in addition to at least 4,000 Algerian military forces.”

Tunisian and Algerian intelligence services want to know whether al-Qaeda allies Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) has moved from Mali to Tunisia, security expert Kais Ouerghi said.

“It is not unlikely,” Ouerghi added, “that this organisation has taken the Libyan city of Derna as a rear base.”

“They have the best equipment with the proliferation of weapons in Libya after the fall of the Kadhafi regime. This includes weapons of various sizes, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles,’ he added.

The Tunisian foreign ministry has confirmed “bilateral co-operation and continuous field security co-ordination between Tunisia and all countries in the region, especially our sister country Algeria”.

“This is due to the volume of joint security challenges before us today and the gravity of the implications for the stability of our countries,” the ministry said last Friday.

Many social network pages are adorned with both Tunisian and Algerian flags in reference to the security co-operation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.

“The Algerian flag is dear to all Tunisians, and we will not forget this favour,” Sana Wahaibi, a student in her twenties, said.

“There is a shared history between Tunisia and Algeria. They are proud of it as much as we are,” housewife Soumia Hanashi added.

Maghrebia http://magharebia.com/en_GB/articles/awi/features/2013/08/05/feature-01

Tunisia political crisis deepens


By Mona Yahia in Tunis for Magharebia

Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh is refusing to dissolve the government as a way out of the current political crisis caused by the recent murder of an opposition MP, AFP reported. Larayedh on Monday (July 29th) rejected a call by coalition partner Ettakatol for the government’s resignation.

Tunisia has faced anti-government protests following the Thursday assassination of MP Mohamed Brahmi – the second anti-Islamist political figure gunned down in six months.

“This government will stay in office: we are not clinging to power, but we have a duty and a responsibility that we will exercise to the end,” Larayedh said.

قط اضغط جام وأطلب الرحمة

قط اضغط جام وأطلب الرحمة

“We think that the National Constituent Assembly will complete the electoral code by October 23rd at the latest so elections can be held on December 17th,” he added. The date is symbolic for Tunisia.

On that date in 2010, 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze and ignited the country’s revolution.

“The government will continue its work and its efforts in the economic and social areas,” Larayedh continued. “We are ready for dialogue with those who want dialogue.”

“As for the Constituent Assembly, we will avoid proposing laws that take too much time and we are ready for the inclusion of more political parties and organisations during the remainder of the transitional phase,” he added.

Calls for the formation of a new government in Tunisia increased Tuesday.

“Ali Larayedh did not provide solutions,” said Mahmoud Baroudi of the Democratic Alliance party. “His policy is one of escape forward. His discourse contains threats and warnings to those calling for the overthrow of a government that has failed to protect Tunisians.”

On Monday night, the powerful Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) also demanded change.

“The UGTT calls for the dissolution of the government and the composition of a government’s capacity formed by a consensus figure,” UGTT Secretary-General Deputy Sami Tahri said.

A potential national unity government is gaining support from various parties.

“There is openness to all proposals, including the formation of a government of national unity, but the Constituent Assembly is a red line for us,” Habib Hamdi from Ettakatol told Magharebia.

“For us, the Constituent Assembly is a red line in that we must talk about dissolving it,” Mohsen Marzouk from Nidaa Tounes agreed.

The leftist Popular Front also insisted on seeing the government and the Constituent Assembly adjourned.

Constituent Assembly Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar called on independent MPs to return to the assembly and complete the remainder of the transitional phase.



Jebel Chaambi operations continue

Tunisian Interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh acknowledged on Monday (July 22nd) that the terror threat in Jebel Chaambi was not yet over.

“Army and security units are still pursuing through various methods terrorist groups entrenched in Jebel Chaambi in order to monitor their movements,” the prime minister revealed during an interview with four local radio stations.

Larayedh said that no arrests had been made in Jebel Chaambi, though people with suspected ties to the al-Qaeda linked group and others carrying weapons were arrested in various parts of the country.

The prime minister also refused to elaborate on the warnings made by Algeria about the possibility that the Signed in Blood Brigade led by Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar might conduct operations in Tunisia. However he stressed, “Security co-operation between the two countries is continuing, especially in the area of intelligence sharing.”

Tunisia has been suffering terrorist threats in Jebel Chaambi since April, an area adjacent to the Algerian border. Despite great efforts still being carried out by the gendarmerie and the army, the threat remains.

In May, the interior ministry revealed that the militants were associated with al-Qaeda’s Okba Ibn Nafaa brigade.

A poll conducted by EMROD Consulting and released on July 2nd revealed that more than 45 per cent of Tunisians believe that the threat of terrorism still exists in the country.

Former Tunisian Army chief General Rachid Ammar complained about the absence of sufficient information to lay hands on the terrorist group. He resigned last month citing age, but some speculated the unexpected departure was due to events in Jebel Chaambi.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rachid Sabbagh called on July 2nd for the launching of a national security structure in Tunisia in order to meet challenges and changes taking place in the country.

Sabbagh, who was overseeing the handover ceremony of diplomas to graduates of the Institute of National Defence, has promised to develop a legal framework for intelligence as well as for defence and security. He noted the need to connect security with development, and to provide a security plan involving neighbouring countries in border security.

“The launch of a National Security Council is a vital necessity for a country going through major changes, especially in light of the regional conditions that could threaten Tunisian national security,” according to Tarek Ghiloufi, a strategic expert.

Security specialist Mounir Belgaied told Magharebia that “the decision to disband internal security forces after the revolution under the pretext that they were political police was a grave mistake and left a security and intelligence vacuum.”

“This was exploited by a large number of extremists to threaten and terrorise Tunisians. The best proof is the failure of our troops to lay hands on the Chaambi terrorist group,” Belgaied said.

On July 2nd during his supervision of the regular meeting of the security council, Larayedh said that continued vigilance was needed, stressing the role citizens play in the process.

“The security council stressed in its meeting a better distribution of security units, and their full readiness and presence across the territory, particularly at the level of the borders,” TAP quoted Larayedh as saying.

Troubles in the Jebel Chaambi, two more Tunisian Soldiers killed

Jebel Chaambi terrorists claim more lives

By Yasmine Najjar and Monia Ghanmi in Tunis for Magharebia – 07/06/2013

Two Tunisian army officers were killed Thursday (June 6th) in the Jebel Chaambi region, the defence ministry confirmed, calling it “a serious development”.

The home-made bomb exploded during the ongoing military campaign to hunt down terrorists holed up in the mountain forests near Algeria.

This latest incident in Dhogra “targeted all those who use the track, whether citizens, military or security personnel”, the defence ministry said, urging “all citizens to be cautious and deal positively with the military and security forces to protect the country and people against this imminent danger”.

Some 45 suspects have been arrested in connection with the terrorism in Jebel Chaambi. Saber Mechri, owner of the storehouse where a large quantity of weapons was found in Mnihla, was among the detainees.

Members of radical salafist group Ansar al-Sharia are among the militants fighting Tunisian forces in the mountains, the interior ministry said.

“Those involved in Jebel Chaambi events include Kamel Gadhgadhi, presumed killer of prominent opposition leader Chokri Belaid, and Abou Iyadh, leader of Tunisia’s jihadist salafists who is wanted for planning the attack on the US embassy,” the interior ministry said.

On Thursday morning, specialised security units raided the Hammam-Lif home of Abou Iyadh (real name Seif Allah Ibn Hussein) but the fugitive was not there.

Also on Thursday, Defence Minister Rachid Sabbagh confirmed that “terrorist elements holed up in Jebel Chaambi in Kasserine province are about to move”, adding that “they receive assistance from other entities”.

Army forces would soon receive “new equipment and devices to monitor landmines and track these terrorist elements”, he added.

For his part, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said that Tunisia’s “position from terrorism and criminality hasn’t changed, but has even grown firmer”.

“We’ll continue with our efforts until we dismantle this terrorist group and all those who have a proven link to these events. We’ll also develop our counter-terrorism methods and plans,” Larayedh said.

A key part of the strategy to combat the extremists includes revamping the country’s counter-terror laws.

In that vein, a rights committee has been working for months on refining the counter-terrorism law by incorporating respect of human rights and international treaties signed by Tunisia, which provide guarantees for a fair trial.

At a seminar on the topic last week, Human Rights Minister Samir Dilou said that his ministry would speed up the bill drafting and refer it to the government and Constituent Assembly for revision and approval.

The current statute dates back to 2003. But the law has faced criticism for alleged over-reach during the regime of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In a statement released May 23rd, the interior ministry said seven extremists were charged under the law for allegedly killing an officer on May 2nd in Jebel Jelloud, south of Tunis.

But activist groups, including Human Rights Watch, have said that the law carries loose definitions of terrorism and undermines defendants’ rights.



Recovering of the Injured Soldiers from the Jebel Chaami

Jebel Chaambi heroes describe border horror

Mourad Zaidi is looking at his future through one eye. “I wonder what I’ll do after I leave hospital,” the young Tunisian commando officer says.

Everything went dark on May 8th, when Mourad was on a special mission in the Jebel Chaami region, near the Algeria border. His unit was hunting terrorists from the Uqba Ibn Nafaa brigade, a gang tied to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).


First Tunisian Director to win at Cannes Festival

Tunisian film tops Cannes

Tunis-born director Abdellatif Kechiche topped the 2013 Cannes festival “Palme d’Or” for his controversial film “La Vie d’Adele”.


Bourguiba Museum opens to visitors

Bourguiba Museum offers lessons to Tunisians

By Jamel Arfaoui in Monastir for Magharebia – 24/05/2013

With the threat of radical Islamism on the rise, Tunisians are turning to their recent past to learn about President Habib Bourguiba’s life and legacy.


Threats against the interim government of Tunisia

Al-Qaeda threatens Tunisia government

By Monia Ghanmi in Tunis for Magharebia – 23/05/2013

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) warned Tunisia’s interim government not to suppress or threaten Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia.