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Persona non grata: Potential Sisi Tunisia visit sparks anger

Egyptian President Sisi is viewed as a controversial figure in Tunisia [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 February, 2017

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Sisi is seen as a controversial figure in Tunisia where many object to his role in the military coup that saw democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi deposed.
The potential visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Tunisia has sparked controversy within domestic politics with many political figures expressing anger at President Beij Caid Essebsi’s apparent invite of his Egyptian counterpart.

During meetings between figures from the Tunisian government and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in January, an invite for Sisi to visit Tunis is said to have been extended – in order to discuss matters related to Libya’s ongoing civil crisis, and how to contain the regional fallout.

However Sisi is viewed as a controversial figure in Tunisia.

In particular objections to his potential visit have been expressed by former president Moncef Marzouki.

During his premiership – between 2011 and 2014 – Marzouki notably supported the presidency of former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, expressing criticism of the military coup that lead to his deposal, Sisi’s rise to power and the consequent clampdowns on civil freedoms in Egyptian society.

However, Marzouki’s al-Irada Party is not alone in expressing objection to a potential Sisi visit, with opposition also expressed by the country’s Democratic Party.

Some members of the Ennahda party too are said to be critical of the visit, expressing concern that it could symbolically appear as an endorsement of Sisi’s crackdown on civil liberties in Egypt.

Somewhat ironically a recent report from Amnesty International has suggested that "brutal tactics" by Tunisian security forces in line with nationwide emergency laws to counter terrorism are threatening reforms, and civil freedoms in Tunisia.

In comments published in Al-Quds al-Araby on Tuesday Mohammad bin Salam, a former Ennahda MP, said that Sisi should not be invited to the country, stating that the Egyptian President “could not play a positive role in resolving the Libyan crisis” adding that the Egyptian President would not “be happy” about the potential, future establishment of democracy in Libya – as in Tunisia – so close to Egypt.

However, notably due to its position within the coalition government Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi has not expressed public opposition to the visit.

Political protests are expected to take place if Sisi does visit the country. However, as of yet no precise date for the visit has been set.

In addition to discussing the ongoing crisis in Libya, media reports have also claimed that Sisi is further interested in visiting Tunis to secure Tunisian support for an Egyptian bid to gain the top post in UNESCO – the UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural organisation.

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