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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs