Tunisia's Political Violence Shakes Confidence in Government

Article Summary
A spate of politically motivated attacks and the failure of government crackdowns have shaken the confidence of Tunisians in politicians who continue squabbling in public, Noureddine Hlaoui reports.

Following the murder of lawmaker Lotfi Nagdh in Tataouine — a murder deemed political by the Nidaa Tounes movement — political violence is still ongoing.

The second victim of this violence was Salafist Douar Hicher [a suburb of Tunis where a police station was attacked], and a third succumbed to his wounds during the same incident.

Irrespective of whether it is a Nidaa Tounes [aka Nidaa Tunis, or Call of Tunisia party] leader or a person belonging to the Salafist movement — and for whatever justifications provided — Tunisian blood flowed once again. This is unfortunate and condemnable.

Add to these two tragedies the heavy atmosphere plaguing the political landscape and the country, where everyone accuses everyone, where attacks are increasing and violence is spreading. The problem is that the perpetrators of these violent acts seldom get arrested. When they are apprehended, they are either quickly released or given very light and consequently non-deterrent sentences.

Meanwhile, public opinion gets lost in all of the voices raised across the country. No competent authority dares, or even shows willingness, to speak with clarity and transparency about the identities of those arrested, when there are known.

They simply trot out a cliché: An investigation has been opened, but it is too early to tell. Justice will straighten things out and delineate the responsibilities.

However, with few exceptions, one has to admit that in cases where journalists or lay people were accused, few investigations were opened and few sentences were pronounced.

Where is the investigation into the tragic events of April 9, 2012 at the Avenue Habib Bourguiba, given that there are videos, photos and testimonies by credible people?

Where is the investigation into the attack against the Tunisian-born French official in Bizerte? Where is the investigation into the acts of vandalism against the Mausoleum of Saida Manoubia, a monument of great historical value that is part of the national heritage of Tunisia?

Where is the investigation into the murder of Nagdh in Tataouine? Where are the investigations into the riots in Gabès, Jendouba, Bizerte, Sijoumi and the northern suburbs? And the list goes on! Now, the tragedy of Douar Hicher pits the agents of the National Guard against Salafist groups.

The multiplication of these increasingly bloody confrontations has led Slaheddine Jourchi, an analyst known for his moderation, to sound the alarm.

According to Jourchi, these violent acts went beyond an isolated and individual framework, thus turning into a genuine phenomenon with the emergence of numerous well-organized groups that are not armed with weapons, but with dreadful white arms (heavy swords and knives, large sticks and Molotov cocktails).

Some do not hesitate to say that the fault lies with the selective approach adopted by the decision-makers at the Ministry of Interior who work at great speed in certain cases but black out in others.

For his part, Interior Minister Ali Laârayedh stated that daily patrols have led so far to the arrest of nearly 300 people, all the while guaranteeing that "there will be more breakthroughs in the coming days" and that acts of violence are unlikely to stop anytime soon, calling on all political and social parties to play their role in the fight against terrorism and stop accusing the police of being the sole responsible party.

It is worth recalling that, according to the version of the security sources, the clashes erupted in Douar Hicher following the announcement of the arrest of one of the Salafists who attacked the commander Wissem Ben Slimane.

In other words, they clearly accused the Salafist groups which, in turn, accuse "Kamel Letaïef of being behind this tension, with the support of several officers at the Ministry of Interior who are in his pay and the pay of foreign intelligence services."

The only people responsible for the escalation, according to a Salafist leader, "are the counter-revolutionaries of Nidaa Tounes who want Salafist blood to be the fuel of an electoral battle."

This case is still too vague and the first elements suggest that some want to destroy businessman Kamel Letaïef. The latter declares his innocence of any charges, saying this is a conspiracy.

Who to believe? It is difficult to decide when the two main concerned departments, namely the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Justice are not offering any accurate and substantiated information that could help enlighten public opinion.

But it should be said that politicians have a heavy responsibility to assume in this unhealthy atmosphere in Tunisia. When citizens see and hear all day long leaders of political parties and members of the Constituent Assembly engage with absolute impunity in accusations and denigration, which are often not supported by arguments, then this will set a bad example.

Let us not forget the detrimental role played by the committees tasked with protecting the revolution. These showed that they are with the authorities and attacked anyone who opposes them, especially Nidaa Tounes and its members, ever since its creation.

Hearing that members of the ruling troika are defending tooth and nail these committees, as these clearly turn into militias attacking anyone who opposes the Troika, and knowing that these have theoretically no point in existing anymore following the elections of Oct. 23, 2011, are two factors which prompt us to think about the nature of the relationship between these committees and the three components of the government.

All of these developments should encourage all stakeholders to display a minimum level of wisdom and restraint, because at this pace, Tunisian blood is unfortunately at risk of flowing more and more.

Found in: salafist, islamist, call for tunisia

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