It is entirely fitting that former President Béji Caid Essebsi passed away on July 25, the date which Tunisia celebrates as Republic Day. To fully appreciate his immense contribution to the continued success of Tunisia’s democracy, one needs to go back to 2011, when I had the privilege of serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia.
In February of that year, the Arab Spring appeared to be on the ropes. Although protestors had succeeded in overthrowing long-time strongmen Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt—whose combined authoritarian rule had spanned more than fifty-two years—the prospects for peaceful transitions of power were bleak. In Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, large demonstrations rocked the capital of Tunis, as protestors called for the resignation of the Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi—a hold-over from the Ben Ali regime—and the end of his interim government.
For a French translation of this article, click here.This article was originally published in The National Interest.