By not participating in the virtual summit of the African Union in early February, Kaïs Saïed showed Tunisia's lack of African policy.
May 2020. In power for seven months, the President of the Tunisian Republic, Kaïs Saïed, calls on his Senegalese counterpart, Macky Sall. This is a real event. Almost absent from the African scene, Tunisia sees its president promise the Senegalese head of state to emphasize the exceptional historical ties that have united the two countries for more than half a century. Better still, the Tunisian media then speak of an “Afro-African cooperation model”.
Since this phone call between the two presidents, it's nothing. Has Tunisian diplomacy forgotten the foundations of an Afro-African policy? At the beginning of February, President Kaïs Saïed was in any case struck a blow ... by his absence from the 34th summit of the African Union. And his phobia of the plane is not an argument: it was in front of computers that the heads of state of the AU discussed. Does Kaïs Saïed loathe the rest of the continent at this point?
The only country that does not take diplomatic action in Africa
“Tunisians tend to forget that they are part of Africa. This continent does not interest the Head of State, who is very much inhabited by Arab nationalist ideology and therefore essentially turned towards the Arab world ”, summarizes historian Sophie Bessis in Jeune Afrique. The magazine speaks of a "great misunderstanding" between the continent and Tunisia, a country which however often prides itself on having given its name to Africa. The African policy of this Maghreb country has nonetheless been non-existent for several decades ...
“Twenty years ago, Tunisia was the only country in the Maghreb to carry out large-scale diplomatic action in Africa. Today, he is practically the only one who does not lead one ”. This quote comes from the book "The Maghreb and its South: the African economic stake" published several years ago by the CNRS. Mohsen Toumi, a former UN expert, deplores his country's lack of openness to other African countries. The opportunity to recall, in this book, the difference between a conquering Morocco, which multiplies South-South partnerships, and a Tunisia which takes pleasure in immobility.
Moncef Marzouki more open on the African continent
At the start of the pandemic, Tunisia nevertheless tried to initiate a resolution involving other African countries. Before the United Nations Security Council, Tunisia wanted to activate international solidarity to fight against the coronavirus. But not easy for Tunisia to negotiate with Africa, when we know that the country has not paid its financial contribution to the AU. In November 2020, the institution then deprived Tunisians of speaking at the meetings of the Organization, for a period of six months.
Kaïs Saïed breaks in any case with his predecessors. Moncef Marzouki had never hesitated to participate in African Union summits. Béji Caïd Essebsi, before him, had tried to forge some Tunisia-Africa relations, without real vision. But if we talk a lot about Tunisia on a continental scale, it is above all for its lack of diplomacy in other countries ... and for the anti-black racism in this Maghreb country which took years to discuss a law criminalizing racism.