AFDB Donates 950,000 Dollars to BFPME

Tunis — The African Development Bank (AfDB), on Thursday, made a 950,000-dollar donation (nearly 1.5 MTD) to the Bank of Financing Small and Medium Enterprises (BFPME).

At a ceremony held to sign the donation agreement, CEO of BFPME Khalil Ammar said the grant was made by the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA) which is managed by the AfDB.

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Tunisian-French Co-Operation in Health Staff Training Discussed

Tunis — Boosting Tunisian-French co-operation in matters of health staff training was the focus of a meeting held on Thursday in Tunis, between Health Minister Mohamed Salah Ben Ammar and ambassador of France to Tunisia François Gouyette.

The Minister expressed keenness to set the objectives with indicators of follow-up providing for health staff training…

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Assessment of Co-Operation Between Justice Ministry and UN Authorities

Tunis — Minister of Justice Hafedh Ben Salah conferred, Thursday in Tunis, with resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to Tunisia Mounir Tabet.

The talk turned on issues related to the state of co-operation between the Ministry and the United Nations authorities, in matters of justice reform, human rights and transitional justice, the same source said. According to a press statement of the Ministry, the UN official said, on this occasion, that the success of Tunisia to elaborate a law on transitional justice and establish an authority endowed with independence, neutrality and required efficiency in the shortest terms shows anew the relevance of the choices of the Tunisian model of democratic transition and institutional reform, a statement reads.

In turn, the Justice Minister highlighted the participatory approach which, he said, is the appropriate path to reach a large consensus on view and ideas, pointing that the role of the Ministry is not limited to provide support and favour co-ordination in such a manner as to combine the conditions of success of this process.

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WB to Continue Support Tunisia in Its Transitional Process – Inger Andersen

Bardo, — President of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) Mustapha Ben Jaafar conferred, Thursday in Bardo palace, with Vice-President of the Middle East and North Africa at World Bank (WB) Inger Andersen, for whom “Tunisia now follows its path to democracy and is a model in this field”, according to a statement of the NCA.

On this occasion, Andersen reiterated commitment to “continue accompany Tunisia in its transition process and contribute to provide it with means to take up the economic and social challenges, notably by supporting the funds of intervention stemming from the Tunisian state.” In another connection, the WB official underlined the importance of joining efforts of the political stakeholders “in favour of an economic consensus now that the political consensus became a reality.” The WB granted loans to Tunisia, namely ê100 million for funding small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and ê300 million for local development and decentralisation, She said.

Inger Andersen confirmed the WB commitment to provide the necessary expertise to increase efficiency of local communities and decentralised administration. In this respect, NCA president Mustapha Ben Jaafar requested from the WB Vice-President to provide expertise of this large-scale international financial institution to introduce deep structural reforms in the banking sector, according to the same statement.

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IOF Pledges to Support Democratic Transition Process in Tunisia

Tunis — Director of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights in the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) Christophe Guilhou stressed IOF’s readiness to support democratic transition process in Tunisia.

Hosted on Thursday by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Faycal Gouiaa, he particularly cited issues related to elections, human rights and transitional justice…

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Tunisia’s Constitution – Rachid Ghannouchi

Washington — Rachid Ghannouchi is the co-founder and president of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennadha Party. Ghannouchi, a leading thinker on political Islam spent 22 years in exile until Tunisia’s authoritarian government collapsed in the face of Arab Spring protests in early 2011.

More recently Ghannouchi played a key role in the drafting of Tunisia’s new constitution, considered one of the most progressive in the region. Will the country that started the Arab Spring continue to inspire the region, and what can the Tunisian approach to resolving political conflict and reconciling Islamism and democracy teach us about the prospects for successful transitions elsewhere in the Arab World? VOA’s Carol Castiel and Idriss Fall of VOA’s French-to-Africa service explore those questions with Rachid Ghannouchi on VOA’s Press Conference USA.

VOA: What was Ennahda’s special contribution to the Tunisian constitution?

GHANNOUCHI: Ennahda is the main (political) party in Tunisia, it contributed to the whole process of democracy, without Ennahda it would not have been possible to see this constitution or make the national dialogue between more than 220 parties succeed.

Tunisian elites whether secularists or Islamists succeeded in dealing positively with the very complicated realities. They had enough patience to continue their national dialogue and reached a consensus about democracy, the good marriage between Islam and democracy, between Islam and moderate secularists.

So, we managed to avoid the confrontation between all factions and succeeded to preserve the national unity around democracy, moderate Islam and moderate secularists.

VOA: Many say that Tunisia’s constitution is such a liberal document, making Tunisia a civil state with an Islamic identity. Does that smash the stereotyping about Islam?

GHANNOUCHI: We understand Islam as justice, equality, mercy, national unity and universal values, so Islam is not terrorism, not hatred toward others. Islam is not fighting against democracy or human rights Islam is mercy and justice.

We participated in drafting the constitution and we strongly believe that Islam, democracy and human rights are compatible. So since 1981 we tried to deepen these universal values within the Islamic culture.

VOA: Despite being democratically elected, Ennahda agreed in December to step down in favor of a more technocratic government, to serve until the elections later this year. To what extent did the military coup that ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt affect your party’s decision to step aside?

GHANNOUCHI: We focused on the main goal of our nation, which was to make the process of democracy succeed. So keeping the power in our hand or not was not the most important thing.

We offered the Tunisian people a very democratic, moderate constitution. We sacrificed our position in government because the national interest was to guarantee that the Tunisian people have a constitution and a neutral government. We are very keen to put the Tunisian train on the track of democracy and we did.

VOA: Would you be an Ennahda candidate for the presidential elections?

GHANNOUCHI: No, I do not have this ambition; this revolution was made by the youth, so I am very keen to give the opportunity to the Tunisian youth.

VOA: What are the prospects of coexistence between Islamists and secularists within Tunisia when there are still fundamentalist elements among the Islamists who could derail progress?

GHANNOUCHI: Any faction that uses violence we have to fight against it because problems in the society have to be solved through dialogue and not through weapons, killing people or excluding them.

Salafism is not one phenomenon; it is a very complicated one. So Salafists who do not use violence, we dialogue with them and there are two or three Salafi (political) parties in Tunisia, working within the law. Whoever uses violence to impose his ideas we will have to fight against him.

The phenomenon of international terrorism is a very marginal one in Tunisia and the general culture in Tunisia is a peaceful one, so there is no future for fundamentalism or violence.

However a lack of (economic) development is fueling this phenomenon, it spreads in the poorest areas, so without a real project to develop these areas, no solution can succeed.

Also there is a lack of real knowledge about Islam, there is a need for a real interpretation of Islam that is not killing or fighting against democracy and gender equality.

Rachid Ghannouchi is this week’s guest on Press Conference USA on the Voice of America

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