The situation in Tunisia is paradoxical. A country from which thousands of people migrate to Europe is itself struggling with migrants.
"Do not go outside before March 6 until things calm down. This horror existed before, and now it's scary in general. All of you heard the president's speech. Now our past problems are nothing compared to our present ones," this is from the message of Christian Kwongang, chairman of the Sub-Saharan African Black (that's what they have written) Student Association in Tunisia.
The notorious speech made by Tunisian President Kais Saied on February 21 was not Churchill's Fulton speech, but it was just as frightening and perplexing. It specifically said that against the Tunisian state "as a result of a criminal conspiracy, hordes of migrants are coming, whose task is to change the demographics of Tunisia." All this will be done by migrants from the South Sahara.
In principle, even without this speech, there was no special friendship between Tunisians and blacks - well, let's call them that, as long as they call themselves that. It was all in plain sight, observed, stated, recorded in protocols and called by the European or UN clerks as "latent xenophobia". And no more than that.
And then the real riots began. After the president formally called things as he saw them, everything happened. People picked up knives - that's how it works over there - and started kicking out the newcomers.
The LGBTQ community and other letters in the north of the capital were the first to suffer at once. There they had a night of long knives and the guys and girls had to run away and hide in the UN office. And they got it, of course. There is always no one to stand up for them.
Later, a couple more community dormitories were hit, right in the center of the city. The arrests of migrants, even those with legal status in Tunisia, took place. Representatives of all kinds of associations published proclamations, which of course can be understood, but they are naturally the same: "Without any logic, without any evidence, the president in his speech told Tunisians that migrants from Africa threaten them directly. This is a lie," says Gayada Thabet of the Tunisian Minority Support Association.
"There are only 21,000 of us migrants from all of Sub-Saharan Africa for your 12 million population. That's 0.2 percent. There are students among them. And illegals, of course."
It's hard for them, anyway, but it's worth figuring out who Kais Saied is. He's a lawyer by training. Not a military man, that's a good thing. He was elected in 2019. Three years later, he dissolved the country's parliament and initiated a referendum on a new constitution, which significantly limited the rights of the People's Assembly. As a result, in December 2022, during the parliamentary elections, the number of abstentions was 92 percent. Abstentions!
Louis Martinez, dean of the Institut de Sciences Politiques de Paris, believes: "At one time Saied went into a kind of political-populist, even authoritarian spiral, and the backbone of his party responded to it. He was elected because he was going against the elite, the supporters of a politicized, political Islam, and at the same time his beacon was Muammar Gaddafi, the classic authoritarian leader. He believes that Tunisia needs a strong leader who will stand up to corrupt deputies and politicians."
When Tunisia's revolutionaries toppled the Ben Ali regime in 2011 and democratic changes began, not everyone appreciated them and not all profited. Tunisian farmers, for example, contrary to expectations, were not allowed to enter the European market - they had enough of their own. Tourism has failed - because of terrorism, Europeans will not go.
The country's debt is 80 percent of GDP. There is no international partner support. But suddenly the World Bank decided to help in the amount of $2 billion. This is a loan that the country is supposed to get through the IMF system. It is supposed to.
"The World Bank has suspended its support program for the Tunisian economy until further decisions are made. Projects that are in the decision-making process are ongoing. The partnership with Tunisia has been suspended until the country's position on African migrants is clarified. We are suspending the work of our office in Tunisia," said World Bank President David Malpass.
When the jokes ended and the knives came out, Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea sent planes to Tunisia to pick up their citizens. The president of Guinea-Bissau, acting president of the Economic Community of West Africa, rushed to Tunisia: "We are all Africans, you, me... It doesn't matter what color you and we have. We are brothers."
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Senegal has set up a crisis unit. "All our citizens who are affected by any kind of repression can go there." Senegal and Tunisia are almost sister countries. The father of the Tunisian nation, Habib Bourguiba, after a series of declarations of African countries finally free, has become the best friend of Senegal, and there is even an avenue named after him in Dakar.
"Saied is a trickster, he's playing the migration card," says Brahim Oumansour, head of the department of Maghreb at the Institute of International Relations in Paris. - He's just pulling an old migration story out of the coffers. Tunisia has always been a transshipment point for migrants from Black Africa through North Africa to Europe. But his country is quite bad now, and he just makes a fuss with his declarations in order to improve his affairs.