Tunisia – USA: French fries on the line, but business as usual

We have never in the history of Tunisian-American relations witnessed such a large number of visits by high-ranking American officials to Tunisia as since the anti-democratic drive that followed the proclamation of extraordinary provisions on July 25, 2021 by the President of Kais Saied. Republic. There is a feeling of discomfort or even a misunderstanding that we try in vain to remove.. Decryption…

By With Bahri

The fact that all these visits focused on two specific and almost exclusive themes, the democratic process and rights and freedoms, is in itself very significant for a sentiment shared in Washington, whether it is justified or not, that the process of democratic Tunisia, the only survivor of the 2011 Arab Spring, may be under threat.

The most recent visit is the visit made from 14 to 16 October 2022 in Tunis by the Deputy Under-Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Christopher Le Mon. The latter, and the delegation he led, met the Minister of the Interior, Taoufik Charfeddine, at the Ministry’s headquarters on Friday, October 14.

According to the Tunisian official press release, the cooperative relations between Tunisia and the United States and the means to strengthen them, especially at the level of the ministries of interior, were discussed.

Focus on the fight against corruption

The meeting, which took place in the presence of the Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Tunis, Natasha Franceschi, as well as the Deputy Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for the Middle East, Megan Doherty, “was an opportunity to highlight the Department’s commitment to fighting corruption, upholding the rule of law and engaging in the global fight against terrorism”the interior ministry said in a statement released on Monday, October 17, three days after the meeting.

However, there is something new in this statement: the fight against corruption is now placed at the top of Tunisia’s official concerns ahead of the fight against terrorism, which since 2001 has always been at the top of the axes of cooperation between Tunis. and Washington, and which is now downgraded to third place.

The US Embassy, ​​for its part, reported that the Deputy Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor met “representatives of Tunisia’s vibrant civil society, advocating an inclusive democratic political process that protects fundamental freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assemblywhile underscoring the continued commitment of the United States to support the Tunisian people at this critical time.

Christopher Le Mon meets the members of Isie.

A transparent and responsive democratic government

The embassy added that Mr Le Mon also met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior and the Independent High Authority for Elections (Isie). “to emphasize the importance of a transparent and responsive democratic government as Tunisians prepare for the upcoming legislative elections amid growing economic challenges.”

We will not insist here on the content of certain expressions that have become frequent in statements by high-ranking American officials about the political transition in Tunisia, and which readers have undoubtedly already noticed. These terms have already been used in recent statements by the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, which insist on the need for Tunisia to return to the path of inclusive democracy, provoking angry reactions from senior Tunisian officials, starting with President Saïed.

If we add to all this the fact that the new US ambassador to Tunisia, Joe Hood, whose candidacy was approved by Congress several weeks ago, is still taking time to take up his post in Tunis, we can judge that he is there serious friction on the line between Washington and Tunis.

It should also be noted in passing that, in terms of the statements made by the officials of the two countries, these frictions seem to bother the Americans much more than the Tunisians, the former seeming more keen than the latter to maintain excellent relations with a historic partner to the south Mediterranean Sea. It’s still surprising…

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