The Tunisian United Network Applauds President Biden and the U.S. Congress for Imposing New Conditionality on U.S. Assistance to Tunisia

(Washington, D.C., 3/12/2022) The Tunisian United Network (TUN) applauds the passage of new conditionality on U.S. assistance to Tunisia in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of FY2022. TUN thanks President Biden and the U.S. Congress for addressing specifically the need for Tunisia to return to “restore constitutional order,” “maintain judicial independence,” and “respec[t] freedoms of expression, association, and the press, and the rights of members of political parties.” The U.S. Secretary of State will also be required to “address publicly and privately” Tunisia’s “democratic backsliding.” The act also includes provisions to sanction specific individuals for corruption and “hold security forces who commit human rights abuses accountable.”
TUN held frequent meetings with congressional members and their staffs over the seven months since the coup, including a March 2nd meeting with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), during which Tunisian Americans voiced their concerns over the United States’ subdued response to President Kais Saied’s July 25th presidential coup.
TUN President Mongi Dhaouadi released the following statement following President Joseph Biden’s signing of the Act:

“The message to Kais Saied is very clear: Reverse course, restore the constitution, the parliament, and democratic governance, and the United States will do everything it can to help the Tunisian people in these difficult times. If you insist on going down the path of dictatorship, you will have no friends among the democratic countries.” Dhaouadi added, “Kais Saied is the only one in charge and the only one to blame for the lack of basic necessities in the country.”

Since July 25th, Tunisian President Kais Saied has made a series of anti-democratic moves, including dismantling the existing constitution, removing judicial independence, and usurping control of state institutions; dissolving the parliament and deploying the military to prevent lawmakers from even returning it; dissolving the Supreme Judicial Council before ordering the police to blockade the entrance to its headquarters; illegally detaining dozens of current and ex-officials; censoring free speech; using of military tribunals to convict parliamentarians and civilians who criticize the president, such as Seifeddine Makhlouf and Yassine Ayari; and violently suppressing anti-government protests, leading to the death of Rhida Bouziane. The Tunisia-specific appropriations language prioritizes economic development and reform programs and seeks to “support the Tunisian people in holding free and fair elections and strengthening democratic governance, fighting corruption, promoting economic growth, empowering the private sector, and maintaining regional security,” as included in the spending bill’s explanatory statement.

Per the Act, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be required to: (1) privately and publicly address Tunisia’s democratic backsliding; (2) coordinate an appropriate, multilateral response to illegal actions taken since July 25th; and (3) submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations on whether:

  • the Tunisian government is implementing economic reforms, countering corruption, taking credible steps to restore constitutional order and democratic governance, including respecting freedoms of expression, association, and the press, and the rights of members of political parties;
  • The Tunisian government is maintaining judicial independence and holding human rights abusers accountable, including security forces; and
  • The Tunisian military has remained an apolitical and professional institution.

The adoption of the omnibus spending bill with the above-referenced language represents the most important step the U.S. has taken to date on holding President Saied accountable and gives pro-democracy forces in Tunisia and around the world new tools to confront Kais Saied’s anti-constitutional usurpations and plan to change the constitution unconstitutionally.
Contact: Mongi Dhaouadi | Email: [email protected] | Phone: (860) 514-8038