On sixth anniversary of 2011 popular uprising 14 Jan, citizens protested high unemployment in several cities including Ben Guerdane (south) and Sidi Bouzid (centre) leading to clashes with police. In Gafsa (centre) some demonstrators reportedly blocked road and stoned convoy of President Essebsi; Essebsi same day announced development projects. Social unrest calmed after 20 Jan negotiations between protestors and political parties. Tensions with Germany emerged following 19 Dec Berlin attack by undocumented Tunisian migrant; after accusing govt 21 Dec of not cooperating in return of Tunisian illegal migrants, Germany 8 Jan threatened to cut development aid to countries that do not take back illegal migrants.
To counter a growing jihadist threat, Tunisia must finalise, publish and implement a viable strategy that prioritises prevention, tackles the roots of radicalisation and appropriately enhances security forces' capacities. Success will require better institutional coordination, the appointment of a new counter-terrorism commissioner on a ministerial level and public consultations to win broader national consensus.
Polarisation over transitional justice after the 2011 fall of Tunisia’s old regime is obstructing basic progress. Accounting for past actions cannot include the early idea of “revolutionary justice”, but can become a tool to reconcile citizens, tackle corruption and give the economy a much needed new impetus.
Tunisia’s security apparatus is dysfunctional, at once fragmenting, asserting authority over democratic institutions, and failing to block significant jihadi advances. Without a comprehensive new strategy including reform of Tunisia’s internal security forces, the country will continue to stumble from crisis to crisis, and to swing between chaos and renewed dictatorship.
Tunisia’s presidential election highlights the multiple divides that trouble the country and region. Unless the winner governs as a truly national leader, representing all Tunisians and not just his base, current tensions could escalate into violence.
The growing link between cartels and armed jihadi militants along Tunisia’s borders with Algeria and Libya, combined with heightened ideological polarisation, could form an explosive mix ahead of Tunisia’s legislative and presidential elections.
To prevent a rerun of last year’s political crisis, Tunisia needs far-sighted political precautions that can preserve the national compromise beyond the 2014 elections.
Originally published in Al Huffington Post