Manich Msamah declares a “grassroots state of emergency”

Over the long weekend of July 22-25, the campaign Manich Msamah, [I will not pardon] against the economic and financial reconciliation draft law occupied the streets of eleven cities throughout the country. Marches and sit-ins throughout the month of July have multiplied as ARP deputies resume discussions concerning the measure originally submitted to parliament in July 2015.

In eleven cities across the country, protesters brandishing the movement’s logo, a black gavel enclosed in a red circle, occupied public spaces to relay their message “I will not pardon.”

On Saturday, protests were held in Nabeul, Bejà, Sousse, Kairouan, and Gafsa; on Sunday, Gabes and Tozeur, where activists had adapted the slogan to the colloquial “Mechni Msameh.” In Kef on the same day, a satirical ceremony was staged to award President Beji Caid Essebsi, the greatest advocate of reconciliation for economic recovery, for his “commitment to the objectives of the revolution.” Demonstrations culminated on Monday, Republic Day, in Sfax, Jendouba, and a national protest in Tunis where marchers convened at UGTT headquarters. Some 1500 protesters gathered on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, where chants, noisemakers, instruments, red flags, and flares marked the beginning of a “grassroots state of emergency” which is to continue until the draft law is revoked.

Following a peak in protests in September 2015, the movement remained silent for several months until May 5 when the first arbitration protocol concerning economic reconciliation was signed by the Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC). In response to a request filed by the notorious businessman and son-in-law of deposed President Ben Ali, Slim Chiboub, the TDC agreed to serve as arbiter (with the final word) as the State litigation authority decides whether or not to “reconcile” the twelve lawsuits Chiboub faces for the diversion of public funds. Two weeks later, Manich Msameh activists responded with a new campaign: “WANTED: Slim Chiboub, son-in-law of Ben Ali, is wanted for a reward of 100 million dollars.” The following week, protesters in Tunis set out once again to paste posters throughout the city, this time featuring the face of Abdelwahab Abdallah. On the group’s Facebook page, they wrote that “Abdelwahab Abdallah was for years the head of the propagandist mafia of the former regime. Instead of being honored by the President at Carthage, he should have been put on trial. We will not give up until all the corrupt individuals are tried for their crimes.” In June, Mohamed Ghariani, the last Secretary General of the deposed RCD party, was WANTED.

In anticipation of parliament’s resumed examination of reconciliation mid-July, Manich Msameh activists addressed a letter to deputies in which they called for the measure to be overturned: “We have assembled all legal, economic, and political arguments which show the flaws of this draft law. We have launched a petition in parliament in order to block the draft law. And we will continue the action WANTED which we began in May against the return of figures from the fallen regime.” Two days later at the National Union of Tunisian Journalists headquarters in Tunis, movement leaders held a press conference in which they compelled citizens to mobilize. Anticipating a demonstration on July 15, Manich Msameh organizers Wissem Seghair and Hayfa Mansouri announced that “we will radicalize the movement to eradicate every attempt to protect the corrupt individuals in the country.”

Manich Msamah [I will not pardon] protesters in Tozeur brandish a modified, colloquial version of the original slogan : "Mechni Msameh."
Manich Msamah [I will not pardon] protesters in Tozeur brandish a modified, colloquial version of the original slogan : “Mechni Msameh.”

During a press conference on the same day, the Civil Society Coalition against economic reconciliation also called upon the government and ARP deputies to reject the draft law. The same associations were present one week later during a July 22 parliamentary hearing with the General Legislation Commission. Following previous sessions with the presidency and the Truth and Dignity Commission, deputies sat with civil society organizations including IWatch, Al Bawsala, and Tunisian Network of Transitional Justice. Interlocutors reiterated the most common critiques of the draft law—its unconstitutionality, failure to respect the principles of transitional justice, lack of transparency in the elaboration of the measure.

Protesters in Tunis display a poster: "No amnesty before punishment."
Protesters in Tunis display a poster: “No amnesty before punishment.”

Critics have also pointed out the push to pass the law just before deputies go on summer vacation starting August 1 as a perceived attempt to minimize the influence of public opinion on the debate. But given that parliamentary discussions remain inconclusive, it is likely that the vote will take place in September, and with it, a revival of the social movement against economic reconciliation.

Civil Society

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