Tunisia: A Powder Keg Burning To Its Core?

Geographical Information:

The crisis in this Northern African country continues. Let’s review some basic facts about Tunisia:

Land area is about the size of the State of Georgia in the USA.  Its northern and eastern borders are on the Mediterranean Sea.  It is sandwiched between Algeria and Libya.

It has a population of roughly 10.5 million. 98% are Arab and Muslim. Arabic is the official language with French as the language of commerce since it was a French territory until 1956.


For the current situation:



Speaking to reporters shortly after he was reinstated as interior minister, Ahmed Friaa said at least 78 people had been killed since the start of the unrest. The figure was significantly higher than the last official death toll of 21 issued before Ben Ali fled for Saudi Arabia last week.

Friaa also estimated that the economic cost so far in damaged property and lost business was 3 billion dinars ($2 billion).

In an attempt to introduce what he called “total freedom” for the press, Ghannouchi announced that he was scrapping the ministry for information, an ubiquitous feature in several Arab nations and the bane of many domestic and international reporters.



Tunisian former president’s wife ‘fled country with £38 million in gold’

Tunisian protesters were goaded to new pinnacles of indignation on Monday as it emerged that the former president’s wife, Leila Trabelsi, spirited 1.5 tonnes of the central bank’s gold onto the aircraft that flew her and her family to Dubai.

“Liberty, democracy and justice: these are the three main principles we want,” said Tuoufi Towil, a mergers & acquisitions manager. “We do not think that the government chosen by the prime minister will apply these principles.”

Tunis has experienced days of near anarchy as looters burned shops and members of the presidential guard still loyal to Mr Ben Ali opened fire on civilians and soldiers alike from passing cars and rooftops in the city. A night-time curfew remains in place across the capital.

“This is not the time for demonstrations,” said Amele Bejayou, a woman jostled by angry protesters after she tried to remonstrate with them.

“After 34 years of dictatorship, you cannot build a democracy in 38 hours. What we need now is consensus.”



The protests erupted after a college-educated street vendor in the Western city of Sidi Bouzid committed suicide after police confiscated his wares because he didn’t have a permit, AFP reported. The dissatisfaction and anger stemming from problems such as a soaring unemployment rate were soon voiced on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The four-week long protest did not seem to be a well-coordinated move.

Sun Qiaocheng, an expert on Africa with the China Institutes of International Studies, said riots were the result of public anger over the poor economic performance of the country, adding that Tunisia is not a country prone to such violence.



The protests began last month after an educated but jobless 26-year-old set himself on fire when police confiscated the fruits and vegetables he was selling without a permit. His desperate act — from which he later died — hit a nerve, sparked copycat suicides and focused anger against the regime into a widespread revolt.Reports of self-immollations surfaced in Egypt, Mauritania and Algeria on Monday, in apparent imitation of the Tunisian events.The downfall of the 74-year-old Ben Ali, who had taken power in a bloodless coup in 1987, served as a warning to other autocratic leaders in the Arab world. His Mediterranean nation, an ally in the U.S. fight against terrorism and a popular tourist destination known for its wide beaches, deserts and ancient ruins, had seemed more stable than many in the region.


There is growing concerns that the powder keg burning in Tunisia will spread to other Arab countries in the region.   Is this a legitimate concern?

When a government keeps its people so tightly controlled and certain conditions (economic, unemployment or a suicide of a street vendor selling fruits and vegetables) erupt, you have the potential of upheavals in the societal order.

Humans can only take so much political tyranny, oppression, religious suppression and dominance.  The match that lights the fuse is one which cannot be easily extinguished by the powers that be.

The world on January 18th is a planet with many powder kegs which are lit and burning with pure phosphorus.  Dictatorships may be useful allies to the dominance nations on this globe, but they serve as the worst possible examples of a governance model which should first and foremost place the needs and cares of its citizens at the top of its agenda.

Too many former strongmen have robbed their countries blind under the ever watchful eyes of those nations whose profess the moral high grounds as they allow the people in these forsaken lands to suffer, especially the women and children.  The sad reality is that all the gold in the world cannot sanctify the conscience, cannot wash the hands cleaned of innocent blood, and cannot remove the indelible stain on the human soul.

Wealth may bring pleasures and “friends” for a season.  What it cannot protect is against the ultimate force on this planet traversing the cosmos—death. Death always comes to claim the final piece of what remains of the human soul. Death always has the final say in each human life.

G. D. Williams       © 2011