North Africa’s Peacemakers Silenced as Violence Spreads

North Africa Political Violence
The funeral of a murdered Tunisian opposition figure

AFRICANGLOBE – On 5 February, Chokri Belaïd, a Tunisian opposition leader, trade unionist and lawyer, warned that a rising tide of political violence was engulfing Tunisia and proposed a national congress to promote peace.

The next day, masked gunmen shot him four times.

“I will have plenty of time to cry. Right now it is time to fight,” said Basma Belaïd, Chokri’s widow.

Egypt and Tunisia are faced with a spike in politically linked killings.

The police in both countries are failing and are still riddled with ancien-régime thugs, living in an uneasy alliance with their new Islamist overseers.

Reform of the security apparatus is slow.

Illustrating this tension, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has already changed interior ministers since forming his government in June 2012.

One of his campaign pledges was to prosecute police involved in killing protestors during the revolution.

These trials are underway, though the high rate of acquittal suggests they are favouring the police.

Violent protests broke out in November and December in response to Morsi granting himself new powers.

The Muslim Brotherhood claimed police officers were not interested in protecting them when several of their offices were burnt down.

Police, who have previously enjoyed cordial relations with their interior ministers, complain that the current one, Mohamed Ibrahim, is too close to the Brotherhood.

They say they are fed up with being caught between the two “revolutionary forces”: the democratic street protestors and the Islamists.

Some demonstrators are now protesting while carrying handguns and improvised muskets.

In Tunisia, citizens accuse the police of falling down in their duty to protect, only this time it is the opposition that feels exposed.

Chokri Belaïd was the second opposition politician to be killed in recent months: in October 2012, a militia called the Ligue de Protection de la Révolution lynched Lotfi Nakdh.

Militias regularly break up opposition meetings and beat up activists opposed to Islamist ruling party Ennahda.

It is uncertain if Ennahda will be able to stop this violence.

Hardline Salafists beat up Ennahda co-founder Abdelfattah Mourou, a promoter of a more moderate path, as he left a mosque in early February.

 

By; Nicholas Norbrook