Our revolution was led by the young people, through social media, driven by unhappiness and unemployment. But now the country is being led by dinosaurs.
Our new prime minister, Beji Caid Sebsi, is 85-years-old. It is true that he is respected – he defied former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in the past – but the perception remains that there has been no real change. Most of the people are not happy with the transitional government.No ex-ministers have been arrested – one is even starting his own political party – and there have been no obvious attempts to bring Ben Ali or his family to justice. Finally, this week, the authorities finally said they want to try him on 18 different charges, but we haven’t seen any convincing efforts. Everyone is talking about the huge amounts of money that Ben Ali’s family had all over the world, but when are the authorities going to bring this money back to help the country?
The secret police has been disbanded but the same people who were responsible for the snipers who killed protestors during the revolution, the same people who carried out acts of torture, are still free. Instead of bringing these people to justice, the transitional government seems more concerned with forming committees to observe what people are expressing on Facebook.
Recently, a couple of people were briefly arrested for setting up Facebook pages calling for another revolution and accused of promoting violence and chaos in he country. All of these small details add to a sense of discontent.
And it is also clear that our economy is in real trouble. Tourism has not even begun to recover. There are some foreigners here but they are mostly journalists or aid workers, not people on holiday. Some roads here in Tunis are still blocked, army vehicles can still be seen everywhere. Shops close by eight or nine in the evening, not because there is still a curfew but because people are simply afraid of being out late. You hear stories everywhere of people being robbed. When I take a taxi, the drivers complain that even they don’t dare to go out on the streets too late. Everyone is still afraid.
Now the EU has now offered us extra funds to help rebuild the country. Some people welcome that money because we really need help to recover the resources lost by the lack of tourism. There needs to be investment in more disadvantaged areas here, too. Some people think these offers don’t go far enough, and argue that our international debts should be cancelled, or at least postponed for five or 10 years until we have recovered a little. Others, again, emphasise the importance of tracing the finds stolen by Ben Ali and his cohorts.
Nonetheless, the EU offer is helpful, especially because tensions are already emerging with Europe, especially France, because of the number of Tunisian emigrants. Our army’s attention is focused on the border with Libya, and we aren’t able to easily prevent people from leaving. There are some 22,000 Tunisians living in France already and there are worries elsewhere in Europe about more Tunisian refugees continuing to escape the problems here. The Italians too are getting concerned over illegal immigrants – tens of thousands have landed on the island of Lampedusa – and even offered to help us patrol our borders, which we were not happy about. But it is in Europe’s interest to treat us as a favoured nation and ensure that there is stability here.