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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults 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.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


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