The Know Your City section takes a slight detour from its focus area to talk about Tunisia, a major player in what turned out to be one of the most important events of the last decade- The Arab Spring.

On December 17 2010, when a young Tunisian fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in protest of the systemic oppression that he faced on the streets of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, little did he know, or anyone who witnessed that event for that matter, that it would light the spark that would later engulf North Africa in the flames of revolution. That flame, which the world now refers to as the Arab Spring, gave rise to great unrest in the region; unrest from which countries like Egypt and Libya most notably, have yet to recover. Which brings us to back to the country from where it all started.

Tunisia, a small country with a population of about 11 million sandwiched between North African giants Algeria and Libya on the Mediterranean coast and on the upper reaches of the Sahara desert, is most known for being a port of vital strategic importance and also as the site of the Roman Empire’s once great rivals, Carthage. It has its capital at Tunis, the biggest city in the country, with other major cities being Sfax and Sousse. Tunisia has a diverse economy which deals in agriculture, mining and petroleum trade among other things. Islam is the major religion and Tunisian Arabic the national language with French being an operational language and Berber being spoken by minorities in the South.

For centuries, Tunisia had been under the rule of various authoritarian rules- from the Ottomans to the French to post-independence autocracies which saw the gradual erosion of Democracy in the region. The previous government, under the 23 year old presidency of Zine El Abedin Ben Ali, saw the tipping point which culminated in the Arab Spring which spread to other parts of North Africa. President Ben Ali was forced to flee Tunisia in January 2011, leaving the country in a state of transition- a state from which neighbouring Libya and Egypt have not yet emerged from. Tunisia, however, has managed to rise from the flames to develop into a newly democratic nation.

The tireless action of civil society groups in the region has led to eventual transition to a  a constitutional republic with a president serving as head of state, prime minister as head of government, a unicameral parliament, and a civil law court system. The Constitution of Tunisia was adopted on the 14th of January 2014 and the first democratic elections were held on the 23rd of November 2014, bringing in Beji Caib Essebsi as president and Habib Essi as prime minster.

To add the cherry on the cake, it was known on the 9th of October 2015, that the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, the group of civil society activists that helped facilitate the transition, had been awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, which perhaps closes the chapter which Mohamed Bouazizi started on that fateful December day. Tunisia has truly emerged from it a stronger nation, the undoubted success story of the Arab Spring.

Posted Date: 10 Oct 2015 | Views (1300)