Tunisia bids farewell to president Essebsi at state funeral

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Military officers carry the coffin of late president Essebsi during his state funeral at the presidential palace in the capital's eastern suburb of Carthage on July 27, 2019. (AFP)
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Military officers attend the state funeral of late president Essebsi at the presidential palace in the capital's eastern suburb of Carthage on July 27, 2019. (AFP)
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A military band performs during the state funeral of late president Essebsi at the presidential palace in the capital's eastern suburb of Carthage on July 27, 2019. (AFP)
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Saudi Prince Mansour bin Miteb bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd arrive in Tunisia ahead of the funeral of late president Beji Caid Essebsi. (SPA)
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Women hold a placard depicting Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi during his funeral in Tunis, Tunisia July 27, 2019. (Reuters)
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Military officers carry the coffin of late president Essebsi during his state funeral at the presidential palace in the capital's eastern suburb of Carthage on July 27, 2019. (AFP)
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People gather during the funeral of the Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis, Tunisia July 27, 2019. (Reuters)
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People gather during the funeral of the Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis, Tunisia July 27, 2019. (Reuters)
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French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the state funeral of late president Essebsi at the presidential palace in the capital's eastern suburb of Carthage on July 27, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 27 July 2019

Tunisia bids farewell to president Essebsi at state funeral

  • Essebsi, who helped guide the North African country’s transition to democracy after the 2011 revolution, died aged 92 on Thursday
  • Hours after Essebsi’s death, parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur was sworn in as interim president in line with the constitution

CARTHAGE: Tunisia bid farewell to its first democratically elected president Beji Caid Essebsi on Saturday at a state funeral attended by foreign leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron.
Essebsi, who helped guide the North African country’s transition to democracy after the 2011 revolution, died aged 92 on Thursday.
The state funeral started at 11 a.m. (1000 GMT). Those attending include Algerian President Abdelkader Ben Saleh, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, along with thousands of Tunisians.




Saudi Arabia's Prince Mansour bin Miteb bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd arrive in Tunisia ahead of the funeral of late president Beji Caid Essebsi. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mansour bin Miteb bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd attended the funeral on behalf of King Salman.

Many roads have been closed and security forces deployed in most areas of the capital and near the Al Jallaz cemetery.

Thousands filled the capital’s Habib Bourguiba Avenue, a focal point of the 2011 revolution that sparked uprisings across the Arab world, known as the Arab Spring.
"It is a sad day for Tunisia," said a woman named Nabila. "We lost a great statesman who had a big role after 2011 revolution and helped unite Tunisians and ease historical differences with the Islamists."




Military officers attend the state funeral of late president Essebsi at the presidential palace in the capital's eastern suburb of Carthage on July 27, 2019. (AFP)


Hours after Essebsi’s death, parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur was sworn in as interim president in line with the constitution. The electoral commission announced a presidential election for Sept. 15, two months earlier than scheduled. A parliamentary vote is set for Oct. 6.
Essebsi rose to prominence after the overthrow of veteran autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, which was followed by “Arab Spring” revolts against authoritarian leaders across the Middle East and North Africa, including in Libya and Egypt.




Military officers carry the coffin of late president Essebsi during his state funeral at the presidential palace in the capital's eastern suburb of Carthage on July 27, 2019.  (AFP)


Drafted in as premier after Ben Ali’s fall, Essebsi in 2012 founded the secular Nidaa Tounes party, now part of the governing coalition, to counter-balance the resurgence of Islamists who were suppressed under Ben Ali. Two years later, Essebsi became Tunisia’s first freely elected head of state.


Change needed in Lebanon after Beirut blast, says German foreign minister

Updated 12 August 2020

Change needed in Lebanon after Beirut blast, says German foreign minister

  • Maas gave a check for over 1 million euro to the Lebanese Red Cross
  • It is part of 20 million euros in humanitarian aid from Germany

BEIRUT: Germany’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that Lebanon needed a government that can fight corruption and enact reforms as he toured Beirut port, scene of the devastating explosion that has triggered protests and led the government to resign.
Last week’s blast at a warehouse storing highly-explosive material for years killed at least 171 people, injured some 6,000 and damaged swathes of the Mediterranean city, compounding a deep economic and financial crisis.
“It is impossible that things go on as before,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “The international community is ready to invest but needs securities for these investments. It is important to have a government that fights the corruption.”
“Many in Europe have a lot of interest for this country. They want to know that there are economic reforms and good governance. Whoever takes over responsibility in Lebanon has a lot to do.”
Maas gave a check for over 1 million euro to the Lebanese Red Cross, part of 20 million euros in humanitarian aid from Germany.
International humanitarian assistance has poured in but foreign countries have made clear they will not write blank cheques to a state viewed by its own people as deeply corrupt. Donors are seeking enactment of long-demanded reforms in return for financial assistance to pull Lebanon from economic meltdown.
The resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government has plunged Lebanon into deeper uncertainty. Its talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout had already been put on hold over a row between the government, banks and politicians about the scale of vast financial losses.
Sitting amid the debris, Lebanese expressed their frustration at the state for abandoning them in their desperate efforts to rebuild homes and businesses wrecked in the blast.
“Who knows what will happen. How will we get back to business,” said Antoinne Matta, 74, whose safe and lock store was heavily damaged by the blast. Five employees were wounded.
“We in Lebanon are used to the government not doing anything.”
Unrest has erupted with Lebanese calling for the wholesale removal of a ruling class they brand as responsible for the country’s woes. The financial crisis has ravaged the currency, paralyzed banks and sent prices soaring.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay, given the depths of the financial crisis that has seen people frozen out of their savings accounts since October amid dollar scarcity.
The central bank has instructed local banks to extend interest-free dollar loans to individuals and businesses for essential repairs, and that it would in turn provide those financial institutions with the funding.
Bandali Gharabi, whose photo studio was destroyed, said that so far local authorities had only give him a compensation sheet to fill out. He does not know if the bank will provide financial assistance because he already has a car loan.
“Everything is gone,” he said. “I just want someone to rebuild my shop.”
President Michel Aoun has promised a swift and transparent investigation into the blast at a warehouse where authorities say more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for years without safety measures. He has said the probe would look into whether it was negligence, an accident or external factors.
Reuters reported that Aoun and Diab were warned in July about the warehoused ammonium nitrate, according to documents and senior security sources.
The presidency did not respond to requests for comment about the warning letter.
An emergency donor conference raised pledges of nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief.
Volunteers and construction workers with bulldozers were still clearing wreckage from neighborhoods more than a week after the blast. Rows of destroyed cars were still parked in front of damaged stores and demolished buildings.
Nagy Massoud, 70, was sitting on the balcony when the blast gutted his apartment. He was saved by a wooden door that protected him from flying debris. A stove injured his wife.
His pension is frozen in a bank account he cannot access due to capital controls prompted by the economic crisis.
“Where is the government,” he said, looking around his shattered apartment.