Tunisia may have emerged from the so-called Arab Spring somewhat unscathed and with a fully fledged constitution, but it remains a country with deep-rooted problems. Despite being recognized as the standout success of an uprising that promised much, the country’s economy has seen little progress since, which in turn has led to many becoming disillusioned and turning towards more radical causes.
Since the ousting of long standing president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the lives of everyday Tunisians has seen little change, bar a reasonable sense of equality and freedom non-existent prior to the country’s revolution. Massive youth unemployment has also driven many to take up arms with foreign fighters abroad, with Tunisia being amongst the biggest contributors to groups like the Islamic State (IS).
By prominent French researcher, Amel Boubekeur said this was far from the country’s biggest problem at present. With the economy remaining stagnant, she said many of the youth were now struggling to find employment, and gradually becoming more disconnected with the state. This was especially true in some of the more deprived regions of Tunisia.
“They (government) have not addressed the issues and demands of those young people in these regions, and the problem is still very much the same now (in comparison with the situation pre-uprising),” she noted.
She questioned whether under the current political situation, Tunisians were more confident in their politics and whether they felt more freedom. However, she said that in most cases the answer to this was highly unlikely.
The motives behind the 2011 uprising remain conflicted, between the public’s determination to oust Ben Ali, as well as the pursuit of ‘equality for all’. With regards to the latter, Boubekeur said it was imperative that equality and equal rights be a topic that was non-negotiable.
Despite these issues, Tunisia remains in a relatively stronger position than most involved in the Arab Spring, owing to the agreement and introduction of a fully operational constitution.
“The regulations may not be respected by everyone and the (opinion) on what way the constitution may be applied may differ between the Islamic and secular ranks, but at least there is a constitution in place,” she stated, reiterating that the country was still facing major challenges regardless.
Although the Tunisia’s transition has been “hijacked” by relatively older politicians, Boubekeur said there were young people eager to make their mark in the political sphere, albeit through different channels like think tanks and NGOs.
“The new generations are only willing to do politics in another (different) way, because they do not trust the political process through elections and so on,” she said, adding that they would seek to help build the country’s democracy from the bottom up. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)