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.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.