On 20 March Tunisia celebrates its National Day. This year’s celebration holds a special meaning as the country marks the first anniversary of its revolution. Described by FCO Secretary of State the Rt Honourable William Hague as the most important event of the twenty-first century, this major event was indeed a turning point in the history of my country with repercussions well beyond its boundaries.
Today, the people of Tunisia celebrate rebirth and a moment of joy and optimism, as only freedom can create. As we look at what lies ahead, and the road we still need to travel to establish the reality of what the martyrs have died for, we understand that the journey has barely begun and that a lot more is still required from us. We do so with a sober but firm commitment and a keen sense of responsibility towards the future generations who will judge us on our deeds not on our intentions.
On 23 October 2011, elections were held in Tunisia and were overwhelmingly declared fair and transparent by the international community. A coalition government was established and a Speaker for the Constituent’s Assembly, a Head of State and a Prime Minister were inaugurated, ushering in a new phase of transition towards a democratic system where the only legitimacy is acquired from the ballot box.
The media and civil society have also stepped in as the new balancing forces and watchdogs in this transformation process; the nation is learning the rules and complexities of a democratic dispensation, its frustrations and its huge promise. We fully understand that democracy is a process and we need to ensure that it remains on track every step of the way. This is a shared responsibility and a common endeavour which will bring back the sense of belonging to a nation proud of its past and confident in its future. The vigilance is the price we have to pay for our freedom and all Tunisians are willing, I dare say keen, to pay it.
During the ten months leading up to October’s election, Tunisian society has lived exceptional moments of pain and joy, elation and frustration and clarity and confusion, but always with a shared goal and a determination to change the present and future of the country. This community of purpose forged by a long yearning for freedom has served as the nucleus for ideas and determination. The country was often thought to be on the brink of implosion and edging towards chaos, but every time Tunisians have shown the world their willingness to give priority to the national interest over party concerns or immediate political gain.
On 14 January 2011, the country came together, united in its quest for a place among democratic nations and to reconcile itself with its own history, its own values and its legitimate aspirations. Talking about the Tunisian revolution a British friend of mine once said ‘since the time of Carthage, Tunisia has never ceased to astonish us.’