Tunisia: the day after



Hours after President Ben Ali fled the country, the situation appeared to be absolutely out of control in Tunisia, with lootings in all large cities, violent demonstrations, aggressive calls of the trade unions, and worrying statement from the Islamists.


This Saturday afternoon, after a morning marked by fresh violence, the situation seems to calm but it is too early to assess if the worst is over.


The coming days will be crucial for Tunisia: if the situation stabilize, it will be possible to organize a peaceful transition and “fair elections”. If not, more radicals trends could evolve from the dissatisfaction of the people, especially if there is more blood. In this case, the things could rapidly turn out of control.


But even if the transition process is well managed, the question remains: who will run Tunisia tomorrow?


The Prime minister and most of ministers and political leaders in charge could be seen as having been associated for too long to Ben Ali and, thus, rejected by the society. But the legal opposition is very weak and never proved its ability to govern.


The Islamist are not legal in Tunisia and, thus, it is impossible to really assess what support they could get in the society, but as they are usually extremely well organized, as they have a clear strategy and as they were never associated to the power, they could embody the will of change of a part of the society, as it was the case – but in a very different context – 30 years ago in Iran.


Overnight events


-          The night was marked by extreme violence in various cities and in several areas of the capital, Tunis. Mob attacked, looted and destroyed numerous houses belonging to the family of Leila TRABELSI (the wife of President Ben Ali, who is particularly hated by the peoples) as well as public buildings. The central train station, in Tunis, was torched and destroyed.


-          In some parts of the city, the army and police didn’t show up (probably to avoid bloody confrontations) and the local inhabitants tried to organize militias to protect theirs properties.


-          As Al-Jazeera stated, “a wind of panic” was clearly perceptible in Tunis.


-          The situation was even worst in other cities, as troops and security forces converged and focused on Tunis where the authorities tried to re-establish order and safety.


-          During the same night, several trade unions called the Tunisian society to “civil disobedience from this Saturday”. They said that Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi’s power is “illegal”  and “unconstitutional” and accuse Mr Ghannouchi of “betraying” and preparing the return, of President Ben Ali despite the fact that, in a press statement to Al-Jazeera, Mohamed Ghanouchi declared that a return of President Ben Ali « is impossible ».


-          Ennahda (“Renaissance”) the illegal Islamist political party of Rachid Ghannouchi (political refugee for years in London, no links with the Prime minister despite a similar name) called the Tunisians to “destroy Ben Ali regime, dissolve his political party and install a new regime”. Rachid Ghanouchi is a proxy of the Muslim Brotherhood and the party he created with others in the eighties was involved inn terror acts by the end of the 80’s. Even if it is not legal, Ennahda is considered to be one of most organized opposition formation in Tunisia.



Saturday events


-          Tunisian airports reopened in the late morning


-          Riots and looting took place in some parts of the capital (where gunfire were heard) and in other cities like Carthage, Ariana (30 km North of Tunis), Bizerte (50 km northwest of Tunis) , Mornagua (14 km South West of Tunis), Monastir (162 km South of Tunis), Zarzis (South) and Menzel Bourguiba (South). One person is said to have been killed in Tunis, but the sources didn’t precise if this was during the night or this morning.


-          Army called the citizen to stay home, even if the curfew has been lifted for the day.


-          A deadly fire occurred, in yet unknown conditions, in Monastir prison. Dozens of inmates (sources say: 57) were killed and dozens others escaped.


-          Several French supermarkets were looted and/or destroyed but it seems this was not because they were French but because they were easy to loot and that Leila Trabelsi (Ben Ali's wife) family had financial interests in those franchises


-          In the afternoon, the political situation was a bit clarified. Prime Minister Ghannouchi is still the head of government but Parliament Speaker Fouad M’Bazza was sworn in as interim President after the Constitutional Council said the Presidency was “vacant”. This legally ends the 23 years of Ben Ali presidency


-          Mr Ghannouchi will form a national unity government. He declared “all the Tunisian without exception must be associated in the political process”


-          As ever in a chaotic situation, a lot of rumours circulate. For instance: the public water system was poisoned in Tunis by pro-Ben Ali elements or looters are policemen and gangsters united in a “fifth column” to demonstrate that it is “Ben Ali or the chaos”. No one of those rumours proved to be based on real facts


-          A previously unknown Jihadist website, « Chabakat Al-Basra » (« Bassorah network ») called all the « Mujahideen in North Africa » to fight to avoid Tunisia falling in the hands of enemies of the Muslim nation » but similar messages were posted on websites known to be usually used by Global Jihad movement for their propaganda.


-     In the end of the afternoon, Ennhadha leader, Rachid Ghannouchi said he was "preparing his return to his country". 

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