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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06TUNIS667 2006-03-22 11:04:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tunis
Cable title:  

INDEPENDENCE DAY PASSES LARGELY UNNOTICED

Tags:   PREL KDEM PGOV TS 
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VZCZCXYZ0011
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #0667 0811104
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221104Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0176
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L TUNIS 000667 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG - LAWRENCE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/20/2016
TAGS: PREL KDEM PGOV TS
SUBJECT: INDEPENDENCE DAY PASSES LARGELY UNNOTICED

REF: TUNIS 666

Classified By: AMBASSADOR WILLIAM HUDSON FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) AND (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Although Tunisia's fiftieth anniversary of
independence from French rule was marked by official events
and speeches (reftel), few Tunisians seemed to take
particular pride in the event. The country was festively
decorated, but the public was largely uninvolved in
celebrations. A generational divide accounts for some of the
blas attitude, as the majority of Tunisians were born after
independence. However, some private Tunisians also expressed
their disappointment with the pace of change since
independence. END SUMMARY.



2. (SBU) Cities throughout Tunisia were decorated with flags
and banners celebrating the March 20 fiftieth anniversary of
Tunisia's independence from France in 1956, especially in
government and ruling Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD)
party offices. Banners around the country highlighted
RCD-affiliated groups' support for Ben Ali and his policies,
including "Long Live Tunisia, Ben Ali and the RCD." A large
poster in downtown Tunis featured a photo of Ben Ali and the
slogan, "Loyalty to the Man of Loyalty," highlighting the
theme of this year's celebration.



3. (C) Despite the decorations and the official
commemorations of independence, our observations were that
the Tunisian public paid little attention to the holiday.
Many took advantage of good weather over the long holiday
weekend and the beginning of school vacation to enjoy family
outings. However, few Tunisians emboffs spoke with expressed
any particular pride in fifty years of independence. A
Berber guide in southern Tunisia told Poloff that he had no
special plans to commemorate the holiday, but perhaps
government authorities had organized something in the
schools.



4. (C) Some of the disaffection may result from the
generational divide in the Tunisian populace, as most
Tunisians are now under age fifty. A local radio station
asked listeners to call in to share their views on
independence. One caller in his thirties said that he didn't
feel strongly about independence since he hadn't lived under
occupation. When the presenter asked where he had learned
about independence, he said mostly in school, rather than
from family or friends.



5. (C) Other Tunisians complained about the feeling that
Tunisia has made little progress since 1956 and the early
years of first president Habib Bourguiba's rule. A
thirty-year old woman told Poloff that the current lack of
progress made her, and her peers, feel like the country was
moving backwards. Others complained that GOT and RCD control
over citizens' lives make people feel like there is little
independence to celebrate. The 18 October Committee (Ref B)
tried to organize a demonstration on March 17 in Tunis'
Independence Square with the slogan, "50 Years of
Dictatorship: Enough." One local independent Arabic language
newspaper headlined its March 17th edition with an article
titled "Elites monopolize independence." Indeed, at the
independence day parade attended by President Ben Ali,
Ambassador noted mainly elites were present, rather than
average Tunisians.



6. (C) COMMENT: What should have been a milestone of
nationalism and pride seems to have been just another day off
to the average Tunisian. This reaction is, in part,
illustrative of how engaged the man on the street feels with
his government. While Ben Ali or the RCD may proclaim that
democracy is firmly entrenched in Tunisian society, few seem
to personally relate to this statement. END COMMENT.
HUDSON