In Djerba, the atmosphere is usually rather lazy on Sunday mornings. On November 13, however, the island was in turmoil. The evening before, the arrival of Louise Mushikiwabo, Secretary General of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), marked the start of a cultural and event program, preamble to the Francophonie summit, which will be held November 19 and 20 on the island, which will be followed by an economic forum until the 22nd. Louise Mushikiwabo said she was convinced that the Djerba summit would be a success thanks in particular to the efforts made by Tunisia.
Francophonie: the OIF confirms the holding of its summit in Djerba
Everything was indeed ready or almost, since, until late at night, the village of La Francophonie buzzed with the last preparations, while delegations, barely arrived, anticipated a visit to the premises and their pavilion.
Kaïs Saïed poses a rabbit to Louise Mushikiwabo
At 10 a.m. the next day, Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed and Louise Mushikiwabo were to inaugurate the village of La Francophonie in the presence of local and international media. A key moment loaded with everything a symbolic for Djerba, which took up the challenge of hosting a meeting of international scope for the first time.
But the Tunisian president did not finally make the trip, pushing the secretary general of the OIF, for protocol reasons, to delegate the inauguration of the village to Haoua Acyl, representative of North Africa to the organization. .
[Série] Tunisia: Djerba the fierce
A quack which was not the first, despite a program cut to the line, at least on paper. The evening before, the Tunisian organizers rolled out visuals bearing Arabic calligraphy, which President Saïed is fond of. That the village of La Francophonie is announced in Arabic why not? But that the text mentions “Tunisian village of La Francophonie” seemed rather incongruous, since the village of La Francophonie is first and foremost that of all the members of the organization.
The wording is awkward to say the least, especially since the French mention appears below the Arabic text but in characters so small that it is almost illegible, as if absorbed by the black background which we do not know if it is a variant provided for by the graphic charter of the event.
An incident that struggled to pass, but, it was said, the important thing remained the inauguration of the village. Teeth gritted, some got annoyed, but the wisest kept repeating: “Come on, the main thing is that the summit be held. Out of pragmatism, but also as if to break a kind of fatality – the pandemic, but not only – which has persisted for three years in countering the holding of the summit.
The organizers have well anticipated possible setbacks, but no one expected the president to cancel his visit practically at the last minute and without any real official explanation.
Yet it was indeed Kaïs Saïed who had decided to move the summit from Tunis to Djerba in 2019, in the name of inclusion and decentralization. And it is he, and he alone, who represents Tunisia at the highest level. But he ignored all protocol and preferred to commemorate the day of the tree by planting an olive tree near Tunis.
Risks of attack?
To explain his absence in Djerba, some in his entourage evoke security reasons and the risk of attacks, others apprehension of travel, however important it may be for Tunisia’s image and its international position.
Still others recall that in August 2022 the Carthage tenant was present at all the highlights of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, Ticad 8, which was held in Tunis.
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“The stake with the Francophonie is essential, Kaïs Saïed could have been replaced by the head of government rather than by Hayet Ketat, Minister of Culture”, comments a journalist from a Tunisian radio well informed of the rules of precedence.
Najla Bouden on the sidelines?
His comment seems to confirm that, since his trip to COP27, the head of government Najla Bouden is on the sidelines. Several left-wing parties and certain supporters of the president accuse her of “normalizing with the Zionist entity” on the grounds that she exchanged smiles with Israeli President Isaac Herzog during her stay in Sharm el-Sheikh during the family picture. A betrayal in the eyes of some Tunisians.
Despite all these incidents and breaches of protocol, the opening of the village of La Francophonie to the general public is still a great success. The only downside: some visitors say they have trouble finding examples of the theme of the summit among the pavilions of the exhibiting countries, namely, to use the official wording “Connectivity in diversity: digital technology, vector of development and solidarity in the French-speaking world. »
“In the Tunisian pavilion, there is no real mention of Habib Bourguiba, who was nevertheless one of the four founding fathers of La Francophonie, also regrets a teacher from the French Alliance in Djerba. If I am not mistaken, this summit, with a little delay, is also that of the fiftieth anniversary of the Francophonie. Conversely, she notes, “the OIF pavilion paid homage” to its fathers founders.