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Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki yesterday testified in the murder probe of Chokri Belaid, the Leftist leader who was gunned down outside his house in Tunis on February 6. The killing of the liberal leader shook the nascent polity of the country, triggering huge protests. Belaid’s supporters clashed with police in the worse violence to have hit the country since the Arab Spring protests.
Reports yesterday said that the killer of the charismatic leader has been identified. The finger of suspicion points to one Kamel Gathgathi, who is reported to have studied in the United States. Belaid’s family says that Marzouki knew about the threat to his life. Belaid’s brother said that he was told by Belaid that the president’s office had warned him of a threat to his life. This, the family claims, is proof enough that Marzouki knows who ordered the killing. The leftist leader’s relatives say that Ennahda is behind the killing, while the ruling party maintains that Salafist Muslims carried out the assassination. The liberal leader was a strong critic of the ruling Islamist party Ennahda.
Reports of Gathgathi being the killer are revealing but sketchy. Politics in the country that is fiddling with new-found democracy after a revolution threw out long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been roiled by the assassination to the extent that the government headed by Hamadi Jebali had to resign. Interior Minister Ali Larayedh, an Ennahda member, has been named as the new prime minister.
Since the birthplace of the Arab Spring saw fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi burn himself to death in the central town of Sidi Bouzid two years ago, Tunisia has charted a dangerous course. Its attempts to bring in representative government for experimenting with democracy after a long stint of authoritarian rule have not met with success. However, this is not unprecedented. There is a price to pay for democracy and all societies that pass through revolution have to undergo momentous changes in order to bring a semblance of maturity to the political process.
Bouazizi, who sparked the Arab Spring in the north African country, paid with his life. The present dispensation has to see that the cause for which he died is not wronged. The aftermath of Bouazizi’s death saw a slew of protests demanding the resignation of strongman Ben Ali, who finally had to go despite trying to buy time in the initial states of the revolt.
Tunisia’s polity is being rocked like that of Egypt. The assassination is a hurdle on the path to democracy and shows that tolerance for diverse political thought will take some time to develop. Tunisia’s leaders have to show a great deal of political maturity to deal with the changes affecting politics and society in the country. Stabilising the economy and taking steps to promote rights and providing security to the citizens will be a challenge for president Marzouki and prime minister-designate Larayedh•