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The African Union Must Take A Stand On Tunisian President's Racist Tactics

Tunisia's president has risen to power on the back of populism that suggests black people are trying to replace Arabs. The African Union has not intervened, begging the question of what is its purpose.

Demonstrators in Tunis holding a banner saying "I'm an African, arrest me !" in a fight against racism in the country and against President Kais Saied

Demonstrators in Tunis protesting against racism and against President Saied's latest comments about the urgency to tackle illegal immigration in the country, on February 25, 2023.

Adama Wade


DAKAR — Habib Bourguiba led Tunisia to independence from France and led the country for over 30 years. The continent remembers Bourguiba the African, and the title of Supreme Fighter was awarded to him posthumously by the Mandela Institute in 2017.

The father of independence had time to embrace the African and Mediterranean dimension of his country and assimilate the three isms (pan-Africanism, pan-Arabism, and pan-Islamism) that constitute the Tunisian identity.

But the difference between Habib Bourguiba and the country's current President Kaci Saïed could not be more stark.

From Africanist to populist

Unlike Bourguiba the Africanist, Kais Saied was propelled to power by the populism of a drifting post-revolutionary Tunisia before locking down institutions in his favor by suspending parliament in July 2021.

Saied rose to the top of the hierarchy by exalting nationalism. The “hordes of illegal migrants" in his view with a "criminal plan" that wanted to "modify the demographic composition" of the country and breaking its "Arab-Islamic belonging".

The new strongman has awakened the basest instincts of the crowd by pulling on the rope of racism.

Democracy drowning in tyranny

The anti-black pogrom taking place in Tunisia today demands a structured response from the African Union. Beyond the mobilization of funds for repatriation, African countries must engage in a profound introspection on the usefulness of an organization that, 60 years after its creation, does not allow citizens to enjoy the freedom to move and settle wherever they want.

It's a prime example of the tyranny of a pseudo-majority.

Who would have thought that this country long considered stable and good for investment would see its fortunes shift so much?

Today's Tunisia shows the world a prime example of the tyranny of a pseudo-majority (a turnout of 88% was recorded in the last legislative elections) the outright absence of intellectual freedom .

Image of Tunisian President Kais Saied, wearing a navy suit and staring ahead, on his inauguration day as President of the Republic of Tunisia

Tunisian President Kais Saied on his inauguration day as President of the Republic of Tunisia on October 23 2019

Houcemmzoughi via Wikimedia Commons

Arab Spring legacy

In reality, behind the president's discourse is the tragic failure of a revolution based on just moral principles and legitimate economic frustrations. Let's dare to say it, the Arab Spring shattered the foundations of the Tunisian administration and vilified its social achievements.

With its current disdain for black people, it's easy to forget that this country abolished slavery in 1841, well before France.

Beyond the indignant reactions, beyond Europe's silence, which outsources its anti-migrant phobia to the southern shore of the Mediterranean , this unfortunate Tunisian situation should prompt the African Union to act.

We have had enough of signed but unimplemented treaties.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

After Abbas: Here Are The Three Frontrunners To Be The Next Palestinian Leader

Israel and the West have often asked: Where is the Palestinian Mandela? The divided regimes between Gaza and the West Bank continues to make it difficult to imagine the future Palestinian leader. Still, these three names are worth considering.

Abbas is 88, and has been the leading Palestinian political figure since 2005

Thaer Ganaim/APA Images via ZUMA
Elias Kassem

Updated Dec. 5, 2023 at 12:05 a.m.

Israel has set two goals for its Gaza war: destroying Hamas and releasing hostages.

But it has no answer to, nor is even asking the question: What comes next?

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the return of the current Palestinian Authority to govern post-war Gaza. That stance seems opposed to the U.S. Administration’s call to revitalize the Palestinian Authority (PA) to assume power in the coastal enclave.

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But neither Israel nor the U.S. put a detailed plan for a governing body in post-war Gaza, let alone offering a vision for a bonafide Palestinian state that would also encompass the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers much of the occupied West Bank, was created in1994 as part of the Oslo Accords peace agreement. It’s now led by President Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat in 2005. Over the past few years, the question of who would succeed Abbas, now 88 years old, has largely dominated internal Palestinian politics.

But that question has gained new urgency — and was fundamentally altered — with the war in Gaza.

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