Election Update 2-(Weekend Test)

Over the weekend we got a preview of the Tunisian Security Forces readiness.  From (2) separate occasions, we received good indicators of not only their strategy but also their commitment to order. As far as strategy, in both cases we can see that their primary objective is to control the situation quickly and in great numbers.  Regarding the ‘television station‘ incident, for a mere 90 protesters, “100 police vehicles and several hundred police officers wearing anti-riot gear” handled the situation professionally.  The incident, which was in reaction to Nessma TV airing a film that showed the literal depiction of God, highlights a growing tension between religious groups and secularist. This growing tension may turn out to be a very important factor as we get closer to the 23rd.

Also during the weekend, it was reported that in Sousse, Islamist supporters tried to storm a university located  about 150km south of Tunis.  The flip side of this tension is the element that secularist are worried about both the popularity and strong organization of Islamist groups and concerned about their chances of success on October 23rd.

Positive Feedback from Observers…

Andreas Gross from the Council of Europe has publicly stated his admiration for the Tunisian lectoral Process.  Significantly, he stated that he felt that “revolutionaries, civil society and especially the three commissions tasked with protecting the gains of the revolution and who have prepared not only the elections but also the legislation on parties and their financing are really strong and capable, and that’s something that makes a huge difference.”

2 out of 3

In order to go through this transition smoothly 3 factors have to be in order:  1- State Security Forces must remain committed to keeping the peace.  2-The Electoral Process must run smoothly and 3-We must have a good personal plan.  This weekend’s events are proof that  2 out of 3 factors are (at least they appear to be) in place, so it’s up  to us to make sure we take care of our business and check off the third factor; Create a Personal Family Plan.

Tunisia Security Update

We will continue to monitor the situation on the ground and  keep you updated with relevant, practical, and big picture analysis.

Election Update 1-(Food Preparedness)

We’re four days into our journey towards the October 23rd Elections and already the rumors are flying.  The negative effects of spreading rumors and passing on unverified information can not be overstated.  One such rumor that is getting a lot of attention has to do with the closing of major supermarkets.  Most of us are aware that large-scale looting  took place during the revolution, therefore, it only makes sense that businesses are taking extra precaution and enacting additional security measures .  Monorprix for example has clearly decided to improve the physical security of most of their locations, especially the ones that were looted during the revolution. 

In order to get some verifiable information we went on a little ‘supermarket tour’ and simply had a conversation with the store managers.  In each case the managers emphasized that they are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach and monitoring the situation closely.  That being said here’s what we were able to obtain:

Supermarket Closing Dates:   (Tentative)

  • Carrefour (main location):  October 23rd
  • Promogro (Sidi Daoud):      October 22,23, 24, 25
  • Monoprix (Carthage):          October 20-25th

Food & Water-Prepardness

The American based Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has a 16 page informative document entitled:  Food and Water in an Emergency.  Below are some of the many useful pointers within that can be found within the document.  

  • In terms of planning-Think in terms of 2-weeks.
  • It is best to stock up on foods that require no refrigeration, water, special preparation, or cooking are best.
  • Keep food in a dry, cool spot-a dark area if possible.
  • Having ample supply of clean water is top priority in an emergency.

 

Tunisia Security Update

We will continue to monitor the situation on the ground and  keep you updated with relevant, practical, and big picture analysis.

 

 

 

 

October 23rd-Ready or not…

The countdown is on and there’s no turning back.  Ready or not, on October 23rd, the  Tunisian Constituent Assembly election will take place.  The pulse on the ground indicates that the Tunisian people, political parties, and government want this election to take place.  They all have a vested interested in its success and are looking forward to this historic transition.”  Security analysts have stated that the concern isn’t really the day of the election itself (Sunday, October 23rd), but rather the days and weeks following it.

re·ac·tion

How will the people react?  Will they be happy with the results?  How about the political parties?  The number of licensed political parties is documented to be well over one hundred and there are more than 11,000 registered candidates.  With only 3.64 million voters registered out of 7 million, will the results satisfied the hopes and expectations of the Tunisian people?  Will the international observers be pleased with the technicalities?  These are but a few of the many questions that orbit in the space of the unknown.

Preemptive Panic

Some organizations have already informed their employees that they will be closed during the week of the elections. It is also no surprise that the rumor mills are picking up and  social networks are filled with one thousand and one ‘what if theories’, but we should not confuse preparedness with panic.  What’s happening  in Tunisia is just a microcosm of what’s taking place all around the world.  Everywhere from Libya to London, Nigeria to New York; the security situation is challenging.

There is a big difference between preparedness and panic.  Preparedness is about using methods such as research, planning , resourcing, and above all common sense in order to be ready when challenging situations arise.  Panic planning is simply expecting the worst and making rush judgments based on fears and rumors.  Whereas preparedness is ongoing and proactive, panic planning is always in reactionary mode.

There are many reasons for concerns and the security situation in Tunisia is very challenging to say the least, but crystal ball planning is not the way to go. 

October-Campaign Season

As of October 1, political parties have the green light to campaign and broadcast their message to the wider Tunisian public.  Expect to see more and more campaign rallies, political assemblies, and general large gatherings.  These gathering are usually peaceful in nature but may appear to be somewhat chaotic to an outsider.  Loud speakers, large crowds, and an element of tension may give the impression that something else is going on, but make no mistake about it, the political season is in full swing.

Areas of Concern

  • A total of 7 million Tunisians are eligible to vote on October 23rd, but only 3.64 million voters have registered.
  • Polls say that half of the country’s 7 million strong electorate remain undecided.
  • Some opposition parties say they fear the interim government may renege on its promise to lead Tunisia toward democracy and violent protests have erupted over delays in holding the poll.

Points of Optimism

  • Tunisia’s Foreign Minister, Mouldi Kefi, said on Friday that his government was ready for the upcoming elections scheduled on October 23.
  • “Ten thousand extra policemen will join the police in Tunisia to contribute to the success of the elections,” interior ministry spokesman, Hichem Meddeb, told Reuters.
  • “Every government is concerned when elections are coming. Even for long standing democracies let alone a new born democracy like ours. Yes, there is some concern from the security forces, from the people themselves, but we are counting on the wisdom of the Tunisian people, of the Tunisian electorate, of the Tunisian citizens, men and women, to give not only the Tunisian people but the whole international community who have their eyes on our experience. As I said it will probably going to be a bell weather model for the others,”-Tunisia’s Foreign Minister, Mouldi Kefi

Contingency Planning

When putting together our contingency plans we have to remember that we are making a plan for a “future event or circumstance that is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.”  That is why it is important that our  plans remain fresh, flexible, and above all practical.

The top 3 contingency planning areas we should focus on are:  Curfews, Civil Unrest, and Martial Law.  Now is a good time to review your personal plans, strategies and approaches for coping with these events.  For each one of these go through a couple “What if?” scenarios and review the plan with friends and family.  It doesn’t have to be a formal process, a simple conversation is sufficient.  The process will not only better prepare you but it will also give you some piece of mind knowing that at the very least you have a plan.

Tunisia Security Update

We will continue to monitor the situation on the ground and  keep you updated with relevant, practical, and big picture analysis. 

September Rift

As the last days of  Summer begin to fade and the official Tunisian political campaign season gets underway, we begin to see the chess pieces moving.  In a speech to the nation, Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi “imposed a ban on any union activity in the nation’s security forces” and made a few other comments that were worth noting.  Essentially,  the Prime Minster has picked a fight with the security forces referring to a small percentage amongst them as “monkeys”.

It is no mystery that break ins and other petty crimes are on the rise throughout Tunisia and that morale is low among security forces.  During the course of the last few weeks we have visited many police stations throughout Tunis and our impression is that security forces are overstretched to say the least.  The combination of increase pressure + the negative tone that is taking place between the security forces and the interim government; is not a good development for the overall security in Tunisia.

Crime Triangle

Security experts agree that in order for a crime to take place (3) factors have to come together:  Desire, Target and Opportunity.  Whether in a police state or in a state of anarchy, we have the power to greatly influence 2 out of 3 factors.  It is always a good practice to conduct a quick situational assessment of your environment.  The more you know about your surroundings, the less of a target you become.  Criminals desire easy targets, don’t give them the chance.

On the issue of Opportunity, You control this by paying attention to your environment. Are you in a bad area of town? Are you walking in an unlit area? Are you in a secluded area?  Limiting opportunities is all about awareness and listening to that inner voice.

It’s interesting to discuss this issue with other security professions because we know that in any other major city, people automatically apply these practical measures, but for some reason (perhaps because of the beautiful blue sky and lay back nature of Tunisians), Expats have a tough time remembering basic personal safety guidelines.

It can not be overstated, especially during the run up to October 23rd, the importance of implementing basic personal safety guidelines:  Situational Awareness, Buddy System, Changing Routes, Staying Updated, Neighborhood Awareness, and Emergency Planning.

Criminals are not stupid, they know how to read between the lines and when they hear that there is a rift between the security forces and the interim government, they will feel even more embolden to commit crimes.

So take matters into your own hands and do whatever you can do to reduce being a Target.

Quotes Worth Analyzing

“It is astonishing that each time elections approach, denigration campaigns and trouble arise.  The elections will take place on October 23. Our aim is to ensure that a transparent and free poll takes place for the first time in this country.”-Caid Essebsi

Hated and feared under Ben Ali, Tunisia’s police feel they are being used as scapegoats for the country’s post-revolution woes while the army got all the prestige for its involvement in the transition.-AFP

“Remove Caid Essebsi”, “Clean up the interior ministry”, were some of the slogans chanted by the demonstrating police officers.-AFP

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Eid-Back to Reality

The International Community is putting the word out that we are in fact “witnessing the last moments of the Gaddafi regime.”  A few nights ago, sounds of celebration and cheers roared throughout different Tunisian streets.  Libyans and Tunisians joined together to celebrate what they feel is the beginning of a new era.  As things start to settle in Tripoli, more and more leaders will come out to congratulate the Libyan people and wish them all the best, but in reality this transition will just initiate a whole new playing field.

According to many security analysts,  Libyans face a tough road ahead which include “tribal rivalries, an east-west divide, a rebel leadership lacking coherence, a shattered economy and the absence of a civil society”.  These are just a few of the challenges that a post-Gaddafi Libya will face, not to mention regional and international issues.

Libya:  ‘Security fundamental to future’

In a recent press conference, European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, stated that ‘security is fundamental for the future of Libya.’  In more ways than one, the same is true for Tunisia.  Not only does Tunisia have a vested interested in the success and security within Libya, but their very futures are interconnected.

The Foreign Policy Chief made (3) excellent points which are relevant to the overall security in Tunisia:

  1. To ensure that so many guns and weapons within the civilian population, are brought under control.
  2. Making sure borders are secure.
  3. Dealing with the dynamics of an internal police force.

Positive & Negative-Impacts on Tunisia

(+) Hopefully the end to the Libyan humanitarian crisis.  It is no secret that the Libyan crisis has put a huge strain on both the Tunisian economy as well as their security resources.  According to a study by the African Development Bank (AfDB),  exports to Libya were down 34 per cent, while imports recorded a 95 per cent decline. Additionally, the Tunisian security forces have dealt  with continuous security threats at the border  ranging from gun fights to smuggling.

(-) Assuming that things settle down quickly and peacefully in Tripoli, the new Libyan government will still have a lot on their hands. There are many questions and wild cards that this new paradigm has opened, not least of which are border security, arms control, and economic cooperation.

The Tunisian Hope

There is a great article entitled:  “Don’t forget Tunisia, where democracy has a better chance to work”, written by RUDY RUBIN  of The Philadelphia Inquirer, that highlights why Tunisia stands a better chance at democracy than countries like Egypt, Yemen, and Libya:

  1. Institutions which work, well-educated people (youths) and educated women.
  2. Unlike Libya, Tunisia is not a tribal society, and its institutions were not crushed by a former ruler.
  3. Unlike Egypt, Tunisia’s population is small (10.5 million) and 90 percent literate.
  4. Unlike Syria or Iraq, Tunisia is not plagued by sectarian divides; 99 percent of its people are Sunni Muslims.
  5. Tunisia started the Arab revolution. With its homogeneous population and educated middle class, it has the best prospect of providing a role model for the rest.

Stay Tune for more groundbreaking information as we start a 3-Part Series entitled:  Tunisia Community Profiles, in which we will go on the streets with hopes of giving readers a 360 degree view of the security situation in Carthage, La Marsa, and Laouina

Eid Transition

This year the end of Ramadan will not only mark the end of fasting but it will also usher in what promises to be an interesting Fall.  Starting on September 1, Tunisia will return back to ‘normal’.  Shops will resume their regular hours, traffic will regain it’s regular flow, and children will start returning back to school. In many ways the Tunisian and for that matter, the entire so called Arab Spring, has been on pause mode during Ramadan, but in 10 days, for better or worse,  the drama will resume.

Recently, The International Republican Institute (IRI) conducted a very revealing public opinion survey.  During their fieldwork they found that security and economic concerns remain the top two priorities among Tunisians.  According to the report, “internal security was mentioned either first, second or third as the top problem 63 percent of the time.”

We would like to highlight 3 key findings from the survey that we believe will play a major factor in the weeks ahead:

  1. Enthusiasm for democracy remains high, with 93 percent of respondents indicating they are very likely or somewhat likely to vote in elections…”
  2. The overwhelming majority (80 percent) said they would prefer a moderately Islamist constituent assembly, while only 14 percent indicated a preference for strongly Islamist parties.
  3.  The survey shows the National Army remains the most trusted institution with 83 percent of respondents stating they trust the army a great deal.

On our part we are going to monitor (2) important events :  The Political Campaign Picture and the ongoing Libyan crisis.

Campaign Season

The highly respected Carter Center has already deployed (10) “long-term observers to monitor the voter registration process and electoral preparations. ”  We will definitely follow the work conducted by the Carter Center, but more importantly we will monitor any signs of political tension such as a major party withdrawing from the election.

Although political parties have remained busy trying to connect with the Tunisian people the official campaign season is from October 1st-21st.  As Expats, during this 3 week period and to a lesser extent starting September 1st, we need to be on the look out for:

  • Flash Mobs:  Unlike traditional and somewhat predictable protests, flash mobs assemble suddenly usually either in reaction to a breaking news item or information obtained spread through social media outlets.
  • Implementations of Curfew:  As we learned last Spring, curfews can be announced just hours before the actual implementations.
  • Avoiding protest hot zones:  These hot zones include Downtown Tunis, City Ettadhamen, and parts of La Goulette.

Libyan Crisis 

The Libyan Crisis is still wide open and unstable.  As recent as Friday, August 19th, Tunisian security forces fought a gun battle with armed men in pick-up trucks near the Libyan border.

Additionally, the border humanitarian situation and the influx of Libyans residing in Tunisia have arguably presented a harder challenge for the Tunisian authorities.

Now is the time…

Now is the time to get to know your neighborhoods and reach out to your neighbors.  Now is the time to measure your security comfort level.  We’ll plan for all kinds of scenarios and hope that Tunisia will pass this noble test.

The Tunisian Effect Spreads

It is said that the old name for Tunisia was Ifriqya, which was later used to refer to the entire African Continent.  Today, the name is being used  to label  a world-wide movement.  Robert Koehler of the Huffington Post had this to say about the Tunisian Effect:  “It’s getting folks to realize, as Egyptians did, that you’re really only captive to the power of thugs for precisely as long as you believe yourself to be captive to the power of thugs.”  Perhaps, but when you talk to the average Tunisian you quickly realize that they are not very concerned about geopolitics or worldwide protests, their focus and heart is on their country, their challenges, their future.

Encouraging as that may sound, the low voter registration numbers  underline another reality and perhaps  a disconnect between the rhetoric and what is actually taking place on the ground.

Election Challenges

According to statistics gathered by the High Independent Authority for the Election (ISIE), the number of people who have registered to vote for the country’s Constitutional Assembly has increased to 27 percent, approximately 2.236 million out of 7.8 million eligible for voting.  Although up 11% from last week, there are troublesome numbers,  such as the percentage of women registered,  which currently amounts to about “13 percent of the population”.  Additionally, the percentage of registered voters between 21-31 years of age, indicate that they will not participate as enthusiastically as they did during the revolution.  Some claim “that women and young people generally have little interest in politics”, while another camp states “that the reasons are deeper and go even further, claiming that the boycott is intended and not the result of ignorance.” Regardless, high voter turn out and transparency will be the key ingredients to a successful Tunisian election.

Tunisian Election Key Dates

  • July 11-August 14: voter registration
  • September 1-7: candidate registration
  • October 1-21: electoral campaigning
  • October 23: election day

Security Irony

From a security perspective, driving and bag snatching were the two highest security risks for Expats living in Tunisia .  Although statistically this is still the case, there is a perception that Tunisia is at a much higher security risk.  The Tunisian tourist industry, confirmed that  when it comes to security, perception is reality.  According to the Tunisian trade and Tourism Minister, Mr. Mehdi Houas,  “tourist numbers are expected to fall to 3.5 million, compared with 7 million tourists in 2010 who together brought in 3.5 billion dinars ($2.55 billion) in revenues.”

Expats who were in Tunisia during the revolution have a lot to be proud of and even more to look forward to.  As we witness the Tunisia Effect make its way throughout the world, we can hopefully value even more the lessons and experience that we gained during those challenging months.

The images coming from all over the Arab world, London, Tel Aviv, and Madrid are stark reminders that the Tunisian Effect has spread and spread wildly.  For better or worse, whether overseas or back home, it is safe to say that we are living in a very challenging time period.

Fortunately, we can benefit from our inspiring yet challenging Winter Revolution Experience and adjust smoothly to this “new reality”.


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London 1

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