Tunisia. According to Countryaah, two murders of high-ranking opposition politicians threw the country into a political crisis where the government, led by moderate Islamists, was increasingly crowded by the secular opposition. Chokri Belaïd, leader of the People’s Front Alliance (FP), was shot dead on February 6 outside his home in Tunis. The suspicions fell on jihadists within the Ansar al-Sharia group, but accusations were also directed at the government, which was believed to have been released against the jihadists. Thousands of people demonstrated against the government. FP and other opposition parties broke out of the Constituent Assembly that worked on writing a new constitution.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of the Islamist party al-Nahda resigned and dissolved the government, where on February 22, President Moncef Marzouki appointed Interior Minister Ali Laarayedh from al-Nahda as new prime minister. He formed government together with two secular parties, CPR (Collection for the Republic) and Ettakatol.
The situation worsened on July 25 when MP Mohamed Brahmi, leader of the Nationalist Party People’s Movement, was shot dead in Tunis. The government announced the day after the same weapons were used in both murders. Large demonstrations followed and the powerful trade union UGTT announced a general strike in protest against “terrorism, violence and murder”.
The murders polarized the population as the younger and less religious became increasingly frustrated by the increased influence of Islamism, unemployment and rising food prices. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in August and September against the new government, and the government promised to resign as soon as an agreement with the opposition was reached during mediation by the UGTT. In December, the parties agreed to appoint Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa as new acting prime minister. A major problem was that in practice the country lacked constitution. In April, the Constituent Assembly presented a draft new constitution, but important parts were missing.
Struggles raged between government forces and Ansar al-Sharia, especially in the Chaambi Mountains near the border with Algeria. Dozens of men were reported killed during the year on both sides, but transparency was minimal.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave the go-ahead for a $ 1.75 billion loan to help Tunisia recover financially.
A 35-year-old Tunisian was arrested on October 8 in Italy on suspicion of organizing the Libyan refugee trip which ended with at least 350 people drowned near the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Promises of jobs to the south
Oil and gas plants in southern Tunisia will start operating again after an agreement is reached with protesters in Tataouine, the government states (see 13 July 2020). For months, people in the marginalized desert region more than 400 km south of Tunis have demanded that promises of new jobs be fulfilled, promises made in connection with previous protests. This time, the government has promised that several hundred people will get jobs and that an investment fund will be set up. The oil industry in Tunisia is small, it produces about 40,000 barrels per day, of which just over half in Tataouine. Many live off more or less illegal cross-border trade, which has declined as a result of restrictions on the corona pandemic.
Terrorist threats focus on North Africa
The terrorist network al-Qaeda in North Africa (Aqim) poses threats against anyone who insults Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Several recent acts in France have been motivated by President Emmanuel Macron attacking Islamism and defending satirical cartoons, including those aimed at religious figures such as the Prophet (see October 29).