News / Africa

Tunisia Experts Call for US Transitional Help With Limits

Panelists at American University discussion on Tunisia called on the US administration to find the delicate balance between assistance and interference
Panelists at American University discussion on Tunisia called on the US administration to find the delicate balance between assistance and interference

A panel of Tunisia experts in Washington has called for urgently needed U.S. transitional help. But the experts also said the U.S. government should stop short of internal interference. The recommendations were made as demonstrations against a new government continued across Tunisia, just days after former 24-year President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the north African country amid surging civilian protests.

Neil Hicks from the U.S-based group Human Rights First said the U.S. government has had little or no role in the sudden changes taking place in Tunisia.

"It was homegrown. In fact Tunisia was not really a high priority for U.S. foreign policy in the region and to the extent that U.S. policymakers thought about Tunisia, it was regarded as fairly problem-free. It was a well-run, authoritarian state. It had economic growth, it was peaceful and it cooperated on national security and combating terrorism," he said.

Panelists at American University in Washington said Tunisia’s long-time president who came to power in a coup was a long-time U.S. ally, but that when the protests began he received no U.S. support.

The U.S.-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy president, Tunisian-born Radwan Masmoudi urged U.S. officials not to have any favorites or parties they oppose, including those with Islamic leanings or Ben Ali ties. He said this was essential as Tunisia moves toward hoped for elections within six months.

"The United States, I think, should make clear that it does not take sides between parties. I think that would be a terrible mistake for the United States to take sides, and that we should emphasize the basic principle of democracy which is that all political parties must be recognized, must be legalized, and let the people say their final say," he said.

As part of the election process, panelists said Tunisia will need help with international observers and creating a new electoral framework.

A Tunisian professor at Georgetown University, Noureddine Jebnoun, said Tunisians will also need help with constitutional reform.

"What we want is to just throw in the trash this constitution and to move forward from this presidential regime to a parliamentary regime. This is the main goal of the Tunisians now," he said.

He also called for more U.S. help for Tunisia’s army. He said the army had been heroic when it refused orders to continue shooting on protesters.

Daniel Brumberg, an adviser with the U.S.-based Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, says U.S. officials will have to play a balanced but crucial role in promoting stability and democracy, however difficult that will be.

"Subtlety is not exactly something we do very well in foreign policy. Why is this important apart from trying to make things successful in Tunisia? It is important because in Tunisia, the United States supported Ben Ali for many years. I think we have an opportunity now to sort of address this dissonance, and if and when a democratic state, and I mean a pluralist democratic state emerges in Tunisia, we will then be in a better position to be more consistent in our advancing of democracy in the region," he said.

Even though the panelists applauded recent developments in Tunisia as historic within the context of Arab countries, north Africa and mostly Muslim nations, they said they did not believe in what they called a "tsunami effect" of similar popular movements being able, with or without outside help, to topple other corrupt, autocratic governments which dominate the region.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Obama Reaffirms Commitment to Ukraine

Following White House meeting with President Poroshenko, US leader offers additional security assistance to Kyiv, stresses support for diplomatic solution in Ukraine’s conflict with Russia More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20B in India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high-profile visit More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid