Tunisia Weekly Update: Agreement Reached to End Tataouine Sit-In; Voter Registration for Municipal Elections Begins

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Agreement Reached to End Tataouine Sit-In

Directorate General of Human Rights Created

Voter Registration for Municipal Elections Begins

Iranian Foreign Minister Arrives in Tunis

Domestic News

Agreement Reached to End Tataouine Sit-In: After many stalled and failed [Fr] negotiation attempts, an agreement was reached between the Tataouine government and representatives of the demonstrators to suspend [Fr] the prolonged sit-in and renew the production of petrol in Tataouine. This decision follows an announcement [Fr] on June 15 by Minister of Vocational Training and Employment Imed Hammami that the budget devoted to supporting the fuel sector had been exhausted at the beginning of June due to the suspension of Tataouine’s oil production.

Following the terms of this agreement, the government must enact significant employment reforms, allocate an annual budget of 80 million dinars to Tataouine, and pursue other development policies. The main pump of the station of El Kamour in Tataouine was reopened [Fr] on June 16. Héla Cheikh Rouhou, the minister of energy and mines, announced [Fr] the construction of a new energy production station in Radès that will begin production in 2019-2020. STEG CEO Moncef Harabi said the project will create 200 direct employment posts and 150 indirect jobs.

On June 18, an agreement was also reached [Fr] at the headquarters of the Kébili governorate between the legal representative of the oil company Perenco and representatives of the El Golaa sit-in. However, Sami Ghabi, governor of Kebili, failed [Fr] to convince the youth organizers of the sit-in to reopen the Perenco oil pumping unit, and the organizers have demanded a renegotiation.

Directorate General of Human Rights Created: On June 20, the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior created a new Directorate General of human rights. According to Government Decree No. 48, the directorate will be tasked with proposing human rights-related legislation in connection with the Ministry of the Interior. In addition, the directorate will coordinate with national and international organizations, associations, and administrative structures active in the field of human rights.

Voter Registration for Municipal Elections Begins: The electoral registration for the 2017 municipal elections began on June 19 and will continue until August 10, 2017. On the first day of voter registration, some 2,432 new voters were registered, said Chafik Sarsar, the president of the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE). “The registration process for the municipal polls in 2017 will be much more difficult than the 2014 election, as it requires the exact address of the voters,” he pointed out. Some 633 registration centers and nearly 1,000 mobile offices are open throughout the country, employing 1,751 registration officers in addition to 350 public affairs officials. Voting for the municipal elections is scheduled to begin on December 17.

The ISIE met on June 20 with 12 political parties to discuss the electoral process for the 2017 municipal elections. The Mourakiboun Network and the TunisianAssociation for the Integrity and Democracy of Elections (ATIDE) noted gaps in the publication of lists of ISIE registration centers and offices.

New Law Demands NGOs Reveal Funding: On June 12, the Tunisian government mandated that all NGOs must publish their foreign funding, in compliance with a 2011 freedom of association law and to further anti-corruption measures. According to a June 12 governmental statement, NGOs “have a month starting from today” to announce their sources of funding. There are 18,000 NGOs currently operating in Tunisia, according to official estimates.

Evacuation of Refugee Camp Clears Way For Free Trade Zone: An operation to evacuate [Fr] the Choucha refugee camp in Ben Guerdane began on the morning of June 19, under a significant presence of security forces and the national army. The Choucha camp was cleared to construct a free trade zone, a 120 million dinar project conceived [Fr] in March 2016. The head of the government insisted on accelerating the project, resulting in the expulsion of 37 Libyan occupants of the camp.

This camp was initially opened [Fr] by the UNHCR in 2011 to receive fleeing Libyans, yet only a handful of refugees remained since the water, electricity, and other services were cut off after its 2013 official “closure.” A representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in TunisiaMazin Abu Shanabsaid that “of the 37 people who were forcibly evacuated Monday from the former Choucha camp (Medenine Governorate), only four people are officially recognized as refugees, while the others are illegal migrants.” The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) denounced the “forced evacuation” of the Choucha refugee camp.

Tunisia does not recognize a system of protection for asylum seekers. This evacuation occurred on the eve of World Refugee Day.

Foreign Affairs

Iranian Foreign Minister Arrives in Tunis: On June 19, Foreign Minister Khemais Jhinaoui met [Fr] with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. This visit is part of Zarif’s 2-day tour to Algeria, Mauritania, and Tunisia, during which he aims to deepen bilateral relations between Iran and the North African countries. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi announced that “regional developments necessitate further solidarity among Muslim countries, and the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that Islamic states should be more united and convergent in countering ill-wishers and those who seek to cause rift [between Muslims].” The two ministers planned the 2018 Tunisian-Iranian Commission and for joint cooperation across different sectors of the economy.

New Sources of International Funding Promised to Tunisia: The International Monetary Fund’s Board of Directors released [Fr] the second tranche of the loan to Tunisia on June 12, after months of anticipation. The loan is estimated at 900 million dinars (approximately 364 million USD). The IMF also agreed to assist Tunisia in implementing economic and regional development reforms. Christine Lagarde, executive director of the IMF, explained [Fr] that the decision to grant Tunisia the second tranche of credit followed certain important reforms made by the Tunisian government. The IMF cited the return of phosphate production and the recent improvement in tourism as evidence of important progress made by Tunisia.

Following this announcement, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Fadhel Abdelkefi announced [Fr] that the World Bank will grant Tunisia additional credit of $500 million to support its budget. Funding negotiations have been held with representatives of the bank in Berlin, on the sidelines of Tunisia’s G20 cooperation meetings with Germany.

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