It’s semi official. Zine Ben Ali, Tunisia and his corrupt, oppressive regime are now history. There are numerous reports, including one from Le Monde that Ben Ali is gone and turned the governing of the country over to the Tunisian army. He did this after several press conferences these past days spoken in a language I am told he has not used for 23 years – the Tunisian Arabic dialect – offering the people of his country much of what it is that he has taken away these past decades: economic opportunity and democracy. Too little too late, his concessions were laughed at and did nothing to dampen the opposition.

Unable to rule anymore, his entire government resigned, with many of those in the two ruling families – the Ben Alis and Trabelsis – (the latter his wife’s family) fleeing the country where they wait in the shadows hoping that in the confusion for the country that lies ahead, they can find ways to return to power.

  • The rumors as to their destination flew early on – France, Dubai, other places.
  • But according to my `well placed sources’ (ha!) Ben Ali left Tunis for the Mediterranean island of Malta along with some members of his and his wife, Leila Trabelsi’s families, their two planes under the protection of the Libyan Air Force.
  • Now I’m hearing that neither Malta or Paris would let their planes land so they had to seek refuge in Dubai…whatever

People are sending around the hotel rooms and phone numbers of the different Ben Ali-Trabelsi family members in flight. Don’t bother too much with the confusion. In a day or two most of their whereabouts, for those interested, will be well known and verified.

Some members of the two families are already under arrest, some in hiding or in cognito assumed in Tunisia, others have fled. In two days many of their villas have been burnt to the ground and looted by angry demonstrators. There is a report that one member of the Trabelsi family tried to leave the country on a regularly scheduled Air Tunis flight. The pilot recognized him and refused to take off.

Do not underestimate their willingless, nor Ben Ali’s cunning to achieve this as the road ahead for Tunisia is quite complex as will be analyzed in future postings here.

Still for the moment, cause for celebration. A genuine tyrant – a real first class skunk and thug – is gone from power, removed from power by a democratic upsurge that virtually no one, including progressives, could have predicted would succeed. Also gone are his wife’s corrupt and greedy family that has milked the country’s prosperity for their own pleasures. Hopefully some of these people, including Ben Ali and his former hair dresser wife, Leila Trabelsi, will someday soon be brought to trail and have to face a Tunisian court of law.

There will be more, much more on what follows.

Just hours before Ben Ali grabbed his bags and ungraciously left the country, I finished some thoughts on why it took the New York Times so long to connect with the story. What follows below will appear, I am told, on the `Foreign Policy In Focus‘ website in the next day or two. I’ll post it later…