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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid