April Showers…May flowers?

Greetings,

I hope everyone enjoyed their Spring Break and were able to recharge their batteries.

They say “April showers bring may flowers” and  we certainly have received our fair share of rain here in Tunisia so let’s hope this saying proves true.

Below are some informative updates regarding the security situation in Tunisia. 

News Updates…
Info:  French foreign minster in Tunisia to rebuild ties

SourceStarAfrica-20/4/11

Impact:  French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe offered 350 million euros ($508 million) in aid to Tunisia Wednesday as he sought to rebuild ties strained by French missteps during the country’s popular uprising.  “France deeply hopes to see this movement succeed” and stands “beside Tunisia on every level, political and economic,” he said.

Info:  Libya:  Rebels Seize Border Post Near Tunisia

Source:  The Telegraph 27/4/11

Impact:  Anti-government revolutionaries have seized a post along Libya’s Tunisian border and routed more than 100 troops loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi, according to a rebel leader.

Concern:  Rebels flew their flag above the Wazin post and briefly pursued fleeing loyalist forces into Tunisia before most headed towards the mountainous district of Ghzeya, witnesses said.

Info:  British photographer and his US colleague Chris Hondros killed in Misurata

SourceThe Telegraph -21/4/11

Details:  Oscar-nominated British photographer Tim Hetherington and his US colleague Chris Hondros have been killed while covering the fighting in the Libyan city of Misurata, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

May they rest in peace…

Reading between the lines…

Interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi made several interesting statements during a press conference on April 27th.

SourceBernama.com- Headline:  Tunisia’s Caretaker Government Proposes Amendments To Law on Elections

Statements: 

  • He voiced concern about the “striking infringements that are taking place in the country, through the repeated sit-ins and demonstrations, which he said was likely to hinder foreign investment.  In this respect, he mentioned the obstacles to the progress of enterprises and institutions, blocking of roads and railway lines, and the phenomenon of illegal immigration.”
  • He announced that Tunisia had been invited by the Group of 8 (G8) most industrialized countries to attend its next summit in France, adding that “this is a cause of pride for all Tunisians” and a testimony of the international consideration that Tunisia is enjoying.
  • He reasserted the Interim Government’s pledge to respect the date of July 24, 2011 for the holding of those elections, which, he argued, is reasonable, insisting that “if there are some sides who want to postpone holding of that event, the Government will not shoulder any responsibility in that case.”
  • He stated that “the revolution is not democracy by itself, but the gateway for democracy”, further elaborating that the revolution could lead to disorder and confrontation, in the same way as it leads to the healthy democratic transition; so that Tunisia be a model worth following.

This concludes this week’s update, let’s stay in touch and share information because…

We are all in this together. 

Spring Break…

Survived the Winter…

Today marks exactly 3 months since January 15th, a day which was very challenging for everyone living in Tunisia.  January 15th, was marked by chaos, confusion, and a general sense of panic.  Today, with the beautiful weather and blue skies we can definitely say that things are better.

Spring is in the air, and there is no doubt that we need a break.  We can all use a break, whether we choose to travel or simply take some time off from work; its time to refresh and recharge our batteries.  Now, is the perfect time for us to take a break and change our routines. Security experts agree that staying unpredictable is one of the most effective ways to avoid becoming a victim of a crime.  “Switch it up, walk a different way. Walk around the building another side. Instead of going the same direction to your car, maybe take a different direction,” said Brandon Buffington of Custom Security.

We survived this challenging and eventful Winter, and now we owe it to ourselves  to refresh our outlook and reflect.  For those traveling abroad make sure you conduct some research on the country you will be visiting before you get there.  The Canadian government offers a great website where you can view the travel reports & warnings of every country.

As for those  staying around town,  below are different insightful perspectives of the security situation in Tunisia.

From the Diplomatic World…

UK:  “It is possible to have a trouble free visit to Tunisia, but all travellers should be aware of the current political and security situation.  The number and frequency of incidents of unrest has diminished and public order has returned in many places, including the main tourist coastal areas, but spontaneous political demonstrations and industrial protests still occur.  Most demonstrations pass peacefully but there have been several occasions when clashes between police and protestors have resulted in deaths and injury.  Foreigners are unlikely to be targeted, but there is a risk of incidental violence if you are caught up in a demonstration that does not pass peacefully”

US:  “The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the potential for ongoing political and social unrest in Tunisia.  Unrest has diminished and public order has returned in many areas, including the developed tourist zones; however, spontaneous and unpredictable events, such as work stoppages and demonstrations, have recently occurred.

CAN:  The security situation in popular tourist areas along Tunisia’s coast has improved following the recent unrest. Canadians should exercise a high degree of caution when traveling to coastal areas of Tunisia.

AUS: We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Tunisia, due to the unsettled security situation and risk of further civil unrest. You should pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for new information about safety or security risks.

A State of Emergency remains in place across the country. You should be aware that authorities may restrict travel with little or no notice. It is important that you observe instructions given by local security authorities and/or your tour operators.

From the Blog World…

“Criminals have targeted tourists and business travelers for theft, pick pocketing, and scams.  Care should be taken with wallets and other valuables kept in handbags or backpacks that can be easily opened from behind in crowded streets or marketplaces.  Criminals may violently grab at items worn around the neck (purses, necklaces, backpacks) and then run away, sometimes causing injury to their victims.  Criminals have been known to rob pedestrians by snatching purses and handbags from their victims while on a motorcycle.

Harassment of unaccompanied females occurs rarely in hotels, but it occurs more frequently elsewhere.  Dressing in a conservative manner can diminish potential harassment, especially for young women.  It is always wise to travel in groups of two or more people.  Women are advised against walking alone in isolated areas.  Travelers are advised to avoid buses and commuter rail when possible, and to never enter a taxi if another passenger is present.

Theft from vehicles is also common. Items high in value like luggage, cameras, laptop computers, or briefcases are often stolen from cars.  Travelers are advised not to leave valuables in parked cars, and to keep doors locked, windows rolled up and valuables out of sight.  Americans resident in Tunisia are also advised to not leave items of value unattended in the yards of their homes, as there have been reports of theft of items such as tools and bicycles.” (Source:  http://www.thesecuritywebsite.com/index.php/tunisia-security).

The Bright Side…

According to one French Tourist things are “wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” in Tunisia. “He still cannot believe his luck. He originally signed up for a special “economic crisis” budget deal to relax by the water. Instead he’s enjoying “post-revolutionary tourism” on the beaches of Hammamet. Sitting at the Sultan Hotel’s empty bar, this hardcore fan of Tunisia doesn’t regret ignoring French embassy advisories to “postpone all non-urgent travel” (Source:  Worldcrunch, 2011).

Trash Talk…

If you’ve been wondering why there’s trash piled up everywhere you look, wonder no more.  According to news sources since “April 11, 2011, Town Hall employees have been on strike for four days, requesting higher wages, which has affected waste disposal across the city” (Source:  Sydney Confidential, 2011). 

Besides the inconvenience of the strike, it has also affected our air quality and contributed to other environmental concerns.  People who live in Carthage and La Marsa may not have noticed the trash problem as much since they are mostly serviced by private trash collecting companies who are not involved in the strike.

From a security perspective there are many ways to view this issue.  First, it serves as a reminder of the sensitive security & political situation in Tunisia.  Secondly, it is a good example of the many challenges ahead for the incoming government.  Finally, this issue should serve to remind us that things are not “back to normal”.

These lessons are important for us to take note of especially for expats who usually put their guard down quicker than the local population because news tends to trickle  in slower into their reality.  Although it seems like the issue will be settled soon, it still reminds us to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee…

Rumor Control

If we define the term rumor as “an unverified account or explanation of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern”, then we can see that during times of great change; rumors are very practical.  Having the advantage of being both a “local” and an expat allows me to have a good pulse on what’s happening on the streets.

Personally, I like to divide rumors into (3) categories:  Confirmed, Unverifiable, and Off the Wall.  Confirmed rumors are verifiable through  either a legitimate news or human source.  Unverifiable rumors simply lack an “official source” but should not be disregarded as a “simple rumor”.  Finally, there is the “Off the Wall” category which pertain to rumors that are not only unverifiable but also most likely to be untrue.

Confirmed Rumors

Rumor:  “In recent days Tunisian authorities have captured over 100 snipers…”

Confirmed:  “Tunisia’s courts are handling nearly 200 cases of killings by snipers committed during the uprising that toppled the president on January 14, the official TAP agency reported Thursday.” (Source:  Middle East Online)

Rumor:  “Tunisians are now allowed to veil and display beards on National IDs.”

Confirmed:  “Tunisia’s transitional government announced Friday that it will amend some articles to allow photographs of veil-wearing Tunisian women in the country’s identification cards, in respect for individualistic freedoms. (Source:  Al Arabiya News Channel)

Rumor:  “Tunisian Election set for second week of July.”

Confirmed:  “The body responsible for preparing crucial elections in Tunisia in July has approved the creation of an electoral commission…The election of a constituent assembly is scheduled for July 24.” (Source:  Middle East Online)

Unsubstantiated

Rumor:  “With religious fundamentalism on the rise…Tunisia will become an Islamic State.”

On the Record: In Tunisia, the main Islamist group is al-Nahda.  Hamadi Jebali, spokesperson of the Nahda movement has gone on the record to say:  “We are for a civil, free society where liberties are guaranteed for all. We are for pluralism, the respect of human rights and the respect of the people’s will”

That being said the fact that “analysts have said al-Nahda could once again rise as a major political force”  and an “Islamist-backed coalition won 17 per cent of the vote in 1989 elections”, its safe to say that they will have an important say in the next government.

Off the Wall

Since Off the Wall rumors have little value from an intelligence gathering perspective, I will not post any of the many ludicrous rumors that are in circulation.  I would only advise people to make sure they are able to verify information before they pass it on as fact. 

Share good information…

During a crisis situation rumors are inevitable and while there is often a lot “Off the Wall” information in circulation, “the rumor mill can actually serve a valuable purpose to companies, organizations, and individuals.” (Darby,2009).

With the lack of local news especially in the La Marsa and Carthage area, we need to handle information with the same care and approach similar to  journalist.   A good journalist makes sure that newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public pass the test of truthfulness, accuracy, and objectivity.  Lastly, a good journalist knows that he or she is responsible for the information they pass on.

Rumors are inevitable, but we need to make sure that the information we pass on remains relevant, practical, and informative. 

Global Strategic Trends

This week I would like to focus on the DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme and their analysis concerning Tunisia and North Africa as a whole for the period of 2007-2036.  Strategic Trends is “an independent view of the future produced by the Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), a Directorate General within the UK’s Ministry of Defense (MOD). 

Concerning North Africa the report states that “the Middle East and to a marginally lesser extent North Africa will remain highly unstable with, between them, massive population growth of 25% by 2010 and 50% by 2020 and poor prospects for employment and diversification from its dependence on a single sector; oil production”  To a certain extent Tunisians have been blessed not to have so much oil and thus have avoided “the curse of oil”.

The oil curse exists mainly because  money  flows directly from Big Oil Companies to the Powerful & Elite, and thus governments have no incentive to develop non-oil sources which creates an environment where in-as a respected economist puts it- “the ruled (but untaxed)  have little incentive to hold their rulers accountable” (The Economist, 2005)

Back to the report…

The report goes on to say that “the expectations of growing numbers of young people, many of whom will be confronted by the prospect of endemic unemployment, poor infrastructure and economic stagnation, are unlikely to be met.  Their resentment in the face of unrepresentative regimes will find outlets in political militancy…”

We have been first hand witnesses to not only the resentment but also the various outlets which culminated in the Tunisian Revolution.  Today more than ever businesses have to seriously think about the way they view Risk Management.  According to security wizard George L. Head:  “Risk management is the process of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling resources to achieve given objectives when surprisingly good or bad events are possible.”

As we witnessed during January’s revolution, many businesses both local and off shore where not prepared and it was evident that they invested very little in their Risk Management Plan.  It is safe to say that now is the time to review one’s plan and learn from the past.

 

Reference

The DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme

The Economist.  (2005).  The curse of oil:  The paradox of plenty.  Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/5323394

Global Strategic Trends

This week I would like to focus on the DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme and their analysis concerning Tunisia and North Africa as a whole for the period of 2007-2036.  Strategic Trends is “an independent view of the future produced by the Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), a Directorate General within the UK’s Ministry of Defense (MOD). 

Concerning North Africa the report states that “the Middle East and to a marginally lesser extent North Africa will remain highly unstable with, between them, massive population growth of 25% by 2010 and 50% by 2020 and poor prospects for employment and diversification from its dependence on a single sector; oil production”  To a certain extent Tunisians have been blessed not to have so much oil and thus have avoided “the curse of oil”.

The oil curse exists mainly because  money  flows directly from Big Oil Companies to the Powerful & Elite, and thus governments have no incentive to develop non-oil sources which creates an environment where in-as a respected economist puts it- “the ruled (but untaxed)  have little incentive to hold their rulers accountable” (The Economist, 2005)

Back to the report…

The report goes on to say that “the expectations of growing numbers of young people, many of whom will be confronted by the prospect of endemic unemployment, poor infrastructure and economic stagnation, are unlikely to be met.  Their resentment in the face of unrepresentative regimes will find outlets in political militancy…”

We have been first hand witnesses to not only the resentment but also the various outlets which culminated in the Tunisian Revolution.  Today more than ever businesses have to seriously think about the way they view Risk Management.  According to security wizard George L. Head:  “Risk management is the process of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling resources to achieve given objectives when surprisingly good or bad events are possible.”

As we witnessed during January’s revolution, many businesses both local and off shore where not prepared and it was evident that they invested very little in their Risk Management Plan.  It is safe to say that now is the time to review one’s plan and learn from the past.

 

Reference

The DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme

The Economist.  (2005).  The curse of oil:  The paradox of plenty.  Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/5323394