On the 19th of January the first death resulting from public demonstrations against Tunisian President Kais Saied took place, after police brutally cracked down on protesters in Tunis. With the situation slowly spiraling out of control, legal opposition to the President is arising claiming that Egyptian Intelligence and the UAE may have had a role in the country’s descent into dictatorial rule.
In July, 2021, Tunisian President Kais Saied froze the country’s parliament, booted out the government, fired the Prime Minister, and took over executive power, placing some officials under house arrest. He then stated that Parliament would return in one month and that he had acted in accordance with the country’s Constitution, but later clearly abandoned his promises and has called a 2022 constitutional referendum. At the time, there seemed to have been an instantaneous crackdown on news outlets such as Al-Jazeera, which saw its office in Tunis raided by the police. Speculation at the time led to accusations that the situation occurring was a near mirror image of the military coup style takeover of Egypt by Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, which was backed by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and also Kuwait to a lesser extent.
In early January we then began to see further reports emerge of a possible direct connection between the actions of Kais Saied and an Egyptian intelligence plot financed by Abu Dhabi. Complainants launched a legal challenge against Saied, on the basis that he “endangers state security“, accusing him of hatching a plot on April 11, 2021. According to Middle East Monitor the complainants stated that “Egyptian Intelligence Director Abbas Kamel sent a letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi referring to a meeting in Cairo during which the spy chief and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with his Tunisian counterpart Othman Jerandi, Presidential Cabinet Director Nadia Akacha, Presidential Adviser Walid Al-Hajjam, El Destouri El Horr Party’s MP Magdi Boudina, and Abdul Khaleq Abdullah the adviser to Abu Dhabi crown prince.”
It is important to note that the United Arab Emirates has been on a crusade, regionally, to purge Islamist Parties associated with the Muslim Brotherhood; in Yemen’s al-Islah Party, former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, former Sudanese President Omar Bashir, the UAE’s Muslim Brotherhood, Libya’s former PM Fayez al-Siraj, and the Qatari leadership, have all come under attack as part of Abu Dhabi’s anti-Brotherhood action. This anti-Brotherhood action has historically been the case in Tunisia too, where the UAE has backed its own proxies to attempt coups and takeovers which would threaten the popular Ennahda Party.
With Kaies Saied failing to deliver on economic reforms, which is largely pegged as the reason behind the popular support for his de-facto coup, it is now leading to further unrest. In order to save the country from further economic downfall Saied is said to be seeking 7 billion dollars in loans from the likes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which demands harsh austerity measures in return. Tunisia’s people are already suffering from a lack of employment, hiking food and fuel prices and to top it off new taxes are being placed on basic goods.
After the “kidnapping” of the Ennahda Party’s former Justice Minister and Deputy President, Noureddine Bhiri, along with the arrest warranted issued for exiled former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, Egyptian Intelligence Colonel Ali Mohamed al-Farran, is allegedly plotting to “replicate the Egyptian experience” in stamping out the Muslim Brotherhood. According to sources speaking to Middle East Eye, there is now a plot to uproot the Ennahda Party from Tunisia, which is posing the biggest threat to the sustainment of the power-grab by Kais Saied.
With clampdowns on opposition media, the sentencing of Kais Saeid’s critics in Military Courts, and the authoritarian crackdowns on demonstrators, it seems that chaos may soon ensue in Tunisia. Instead of focusing on the economic catastrophe, the President has instead attempted to virtue signal to the West by announcing the first female Arab Prime Minister and a failed attempt to implement COVID-19 vaccine passports. So whilst Kais Saied seemingly still has a high level of popular support in Tunisia, this may slowly deteriorate with the economic situation and the President may transform further into a dictator in that event. This would mean that the 2011 revolution which brought democracy to Tunisia will have been effectively crushed. If the UAE is indeed deeply entrenched in this effort to see the annihilation of the Islamist inspired Ennahda Party, then Tunis will be yet another nation to fall victim to the Abu Dhabi’s crusade against the Muslim Brotherhood and in favor of Western-Israeli interests regionally.