Tunisia, home to the first and arguably most successful of the 2011 Arab uprisings, appears to be backsliding in its transition to democracy. In mid-2021, President Kaïs Saïed consolidated powers in the executive through a series of steps widely regarded as unconstitutional. Opposition is growing though the president retains a strong social base. The polarisation could threaten stability, particularly as it intersects with persistent budgetary woes and popular discontent over economic and other inequality. Crisis Group works to help resolve these tensions in a country that remains critical for security in North Africa as a whole.

CrisisWatch Tunisia

Unchanged Situation

Rare prison break prompted govt to dismiss top intelligence officials; crowd torched Jewish mausoleum amid escalation of violence in Gaza Strip.

Five Islamist convicts broke out of prison. Five Islamist prisoners convicted of killing policemen and two secular politicians 31 Oct escaped from Mornaguia prison near capital Tunis. Interior ministry announced dismissing two top officials in intelligence services, while justice ministry sacked director of Mornaguia prison.

Crowd rampaged through Jewish site. As violence escalated in Gaza amid Israel-Hamas war (see Israel/Palestine), thousands 17 Oct gathered in centre of Tunis to condemn Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip and denounce bias of French and other Western media in favour of Israel, demanding departure of French ambassador; rioters same day burned down 16th century El Hamma Jewish mausoleum near Gabès city (south). President Saïed hours later summoned National Security Council, said “the battle today is against international Zionism”, not Jewish people. As protests continued, parliamentary committee 24 Oct approved draft law criminalising normalisation of relations with Israel.

Repression of dissent continued with detention of prominent opposition leader. Presidential guard and police 3 Oct arrested Abir Moussi, president of Free Patriotic Union opposition party, in front of presidential palace as she tried to file appeal against recent presidential decree related to local elections; judge 5 Oct ordered her imprisonment on suspicion of “assault intended to cause chaos”. Around 1,500 supporters of Moussi 15 Oct took to streets of Tunis to demand her immediate release.

Tunis handed back EU money, dealing a blow to controversial migration pact. After European Commission late Sept announced €127mn for Tunisia in support of implementation of “strategic partnership” on economy and migration signed in July, Saïed 2 Oct rejected funds, dismissing “derisory” amount running counter to July agreement. Commission 12 Oct confirmed that Tunis had returned €60mn in budget support. Meanwhile, 2024 draft budget released 16 Oct made no mention of International Monetary Fund deal, and Saïed 17 Oct dismissed economy minister.

Continue reading

In The News

19 Maio 2023
The Europeans feel that they are on the front line of instability in North Africa and in the Mediterranean. Euronews

Riccardo Fabiani

Project Director, North Africa

Latest Updates

Our People

Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.