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Ex-US envoys call on Biden to suspend Tunisia aid

May 4, 2023 at 5:12 pm

US President Joe Biden speaks at the National Small Business Week event at the White House in Washington D.C., United States on May 1, 2023 [Celal Güneş – Anadolu Agency]

A number of former US ambassadors have called on President Joe Biden to “immediately suspend all U.S. assistance to the Tunisian government” as a result of Kais Saied’s coup and “Tunisia’s dramatic turn towards repression and authoritarian rule”.

In an open letter released yesterday, they said: “The situation is dire. Since his coup in July 2021, President Kais Saied has dismantled every democratic institution in the country, pushing through a hyper-presidential system with no checks on his power.””The United States should not reward such behavior with aid, loans, praise, and photo-ops. Lending our taxpayer dollars and legitimacy to Saied will only encourage other populist leaders to believe that they too can get away with dismantling democratic institutions.”

Saied has held nearly total power since 25 July 2021 when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority citing a national emergency. He has since launched an arrest campaign of opposition figures and “incited violence against migrants and Black Tunisians, embracing racist conspiracies,” the letter outlined.

Referencing a $1.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the envoys said: “The United States should ask the IMF Executive Board to refuse a final agreement until Tunisia meets specific political conditions, including releasing political prisoners and establishing a genuinely inclusive national dialogue and political roadmap.”

This, they explained, “represents the best possible way to halt Tunisia’s authoritarian turn.”

Such measures are a “signal to the opposition — as well as everyday Tunisians who are too afraid to speak out — that the U.S. is watching, and not bankrolling their repression.”

The letter was signed by 21 former politicians, academics, human rights activists and academics including former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. former US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, former envoy to Tunisia, Jake Walles, former representative to Syria and Algeria, Robert Ford, along with Sarah Leah Whitson of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

READ: Tunisia appoints envoy to Syria for first time in 11 years