His words are weighed in the trebuchet. After four decades in the army, Kamel Akrout knows the disastrous consequences of a misinterpreted term, particularly in the very tense situation in North Africa. This is why his plea for the establishment of good relations with the European Union (EU), contrary to the current trend, is out of place. But the rear admiral never names those responsible for the evils he denounces.
It is difficult, however, not to recognize President Kaïs Saïed in his denunciation of the supporters of “dogmatic and theoretical positions” or in the reference to a possible “subjection” to Algiers. Who other than the Ennahdha party, of which several senior executives are suspected of having favored the sending of Tunisians to war zones, would be responsible for “a fluctuation in diplomacy”? Behind the apparently military reserve, pierces the concern of a “concerned citizen”, visibly ready to descend into the political arena to fight it out.
Capcov: In September, you took part in a round table on “multilateralism in the Mediterranean” organized by the Mediterranean Forum for Strategic Studies. That means this multilateralism for Tunisia?
Kamel Akrout: Except to be unconscious or unrealistic, one cannot deny that North Africa is an immediate neighbor of Europe. This neighborhood is therefore strategic. Is it necessary to recall the primarily human ties that unite them? Almost 10% of the Tunisian population lives abroad, mostly in Europe. It is the main source of foreign currency, ahead of tourism. The European Union [UE] is our first economic partner, it is the only zone with which the trade balance is in surplus. To forget this is simply unrealistic. But this does not mean that these relations should be maintained at any cost; like in the days of the late Hédi Nouira [Premier ministre de 1970 à 1980]or as in the early 1990s. Now another pact of co-development and co-security is needed.
Your vision is quite far from the pan-Arabism put forward by the President of the Republic…
My view of things is simple: Tunisia and Tunisians are at the heart of the country’s politics. Arab and Islamic solidarity is important, but it is safeguarding the interests of our people that takes precedence. In the moment we are going through, it is not the dogmatic and theoretical positions that count, but the solutions to the problems of Tunisians. I am realistic, I do not feed on ideologies. Neither those of the past, nor those of today.
Morocco: the Tunisian community facing the diplomatic crisis
After the invitation of the leader of the Polisario Front to TICAD [Conférence internationale de Tokyo sur le développement de l’Afrique, chapeautée par le Japon] held in Tunis in August, Mohamed Benhamou, president of the Moroccan Council for Strategic Studies, spoke of a “deep crisis” between Tunisia and Morocco. Do you share his analysis?
Tunisia is a sovereign state, and it has the right, like Morocco, to maintain the relations it wants without outside interference. When Morocco decided to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, it did not, to my knowledge, ask Tunisia’s opinion. However, I deplored the TICAD misunderstanding. I have said it many times: no interference in Tunisian affairs, no interference of Tunisia in the affairs of third countries as long as these have no impact on our national security. It is the rule.
However, the rapprochement seems obvious between Tunis and Algiers…
Algeria is our immediate neighbour, it is a brotherly people with whom we have shared so much in the past and with whom we will have much to share. Having good relations is not synonymous with subjection, having good relations supposes a balance.
In the East, nothing new: Libyan instability continues. Is Tunisia threatened on its eastern flank?
On the Libyan issue, Tunisia has often been sidelined, as if it were not bordering Libya. This sidelining also comes from wavering Tunisian diplomacy for some time. Imposing oneself on such an issue means practicing active, strong and constant diplomacy.
Tunisia: Kaïs Saïed grants himself executive power, Ennahdha denounces a “coup d’etat”
Did the Tunisian army play a role in Kaïs Saïed’s “self-coup” on July 25, 2021?
That the armies stay away from politics is certainly the most valuable and useful thing for the military and for the country. I will never say it enough: the Tunisian army, to which I had the honor to belong for decades, has no appetite for power. When an army receives a movement order to secure part of the national territory, it does so without discussion. The order has been received. He was executed. The army is in no way responsible for the political evolution of the country. This depends only on the civil authorities. The army, as in the past, will defend the country, but will not cross any Rubicon.
What is your ideological line? You are said to be close to the Free Destourian Party [PDL] of Abir Moussi which brings together executives of the old regime.
I am a citizen who feels concerned by everything that happens in his country. The idea of a 3,000 year old Tunisian nation is a historical truth. The Tunisian nationalist current will be the future of the country. If loving your country, fighting for its development, fighting for its sovereignty, wanting to restore the Republic of the founding fathers, is to be close to the PDL, then that is.