Monday, February 11, 2013

France, get out!

Jeune Afrique reports that more than three thousand pro-Islamist anti-French demonstrators protested in Tunis against the French presence:

(The demonstration took place) during a gathering called by Ennahda, the Islamist Party in power, as Tunisia is plunged into uncertainty over the assassination of an opposition leader.

"France, get out" and "the people want to protect the legitimacy" of the ruling party, shouted the protesters parading along Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the main thoroughfare of the capital where the French Embassy is located. They brandished many signs in French: "France, that's enough! Tunisia will never again be a French colony". Salafists were in the crowd, waving signs calling for the unity of the different Islamist parties.

Note: It would be interesting to see what would happen if the French people brandished signs saying "Tunisians, go home!"

According to English-language France 24, much of the anger was directed at French Interior Minister Manuel Valls:

The ruling Ennahda party had called for a show of support for the constitutional assembly, whose work on a new constitution suffered a severe setback after the killing of Chokri Belaid on Feb. 6 - when leftist parties withdrew their participation. It said the demonstration would also protest “French interference” after comments earlier in the week by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who denounced Belaid’s killing as an attack on “the values of Tunisia’s Jasmine revolution.”

Protesters denounced Valls’ remarks, claiming they showed that France is interfering in Tunisia’s internal affairs. Demonstrators gathered in front of the National Theater on Tunis’ main street, Habib Bourguiba Avenue, epicentre of the 2011 revolution that toppled ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. (…)

Valls had said on Europe 1 radio on Thursday that Belaid was “one of the democrats and we must support these democrats so that the values of the Jasmine Revolution are not betrayed. There is an Islamic fascism rising everywhere, but this obscurantism must, of course, be condemned because it denies the democracy for which the Libyan, Tunisian and Egyptian people have fought.”

Valls was clearly pointing the finger at Salafists, with their strict interpretation of Islam, who have come to the fore, and smeared Ennahda’s moderate image. At least one black Salafi flag was spotted in the sea of white Ennahda flags at the demonstration, which took place several hundred meters from the well-guarded French Embassy.

Fathi Rhayem, a teacher, said the demonstration “shows the Tunisian people’s desire to show that it is sovereign, it is independent and is no longer under French protection.”

Note: It is difficult to grasp the situation, since I know little about Tunisian politics. The man killed was a leftist, a member of the Front Populaire opposition party. The ruling Ennahda party is Islamist, but apparently not as extreme as the Salafists who are, as the article said, coming "to the fore." Ennahda did not participate at all in the Jasmine Revolution. It is probably just a front for the salafists, or at least it provides an easy entry into the government for the most extreme elements.

Valls remark, though characteristically naive, does not sound terribly inflammatory, but the attitude that any remark from a French minister is "interference" indicates that these people are still a long long way from knowing how to govern themselves. Ousted dictator Ben Ali was the only one, so far, who came close to managing the country.

Mansouria Mokhefi, director of the Maghreb/Middle East program at the French Institute of International Relations, writing an op-ed in Le Figaro (subscription may be required), sums up the disastrous consequences of the Ennahda Party's incompetence:

Besides its inexperience in governing and its incompetence in the management of political and economic affairs, Ennahda is perceived today as an accomplice in this climate of terror that the salafists and other Protection Leagues of the Revolution have created, with wide-spread violence (women, professors, artists, forced closing of bars, attacks against the American cultural center in Tunis, destruction of mausoleums). So many acts which, though denounced, were rarely followed by prosecutions or conviction, thus engendering a feeling of impunity that has led to today's climate of insecurity. It continues to aggravate the economic crisis forcing the flight of tourists on whom this small country based a large part of its economy and of foreign investors…

Final note: As bad as the new government is, as chaotic and violent as the "new" Tunisia is, there was real interference from France and the United States in their support of this "Jasmine Revolution". Here is a January 2011 quote I found from Elliott Abrams, a George Bush appointee, on Tunisia:

“Tunisia, whose literacy rate has long been the highest in Africa at nearly 80% and whose per capita GDP is about $8,000, should have the ability to sustain a democratic government — once the Ben Ali regime collapses.”

Another example of our blind belief in "democracy". As if literacy were some kind of guarantee… And a complete ignorance of the true nature of the Islamists who would fell Ben Ali's regime and all the "literacy" along with it.

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At February 15, 2013 11:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent observation. Finally someone from the West said it out loud that 'moderate' islamist Ennahda is an accomplice to Salafists and other radical islamist groups.


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