• Counter :
  • 3954
  • Date :
  • 12/14/2003


Following independence fromFrance in 1956, President Habib BOURGUIBA established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In recent years, Tunisia has taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to diffuse rising pressure for a more open political society.


 Location Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya

Geographic coordinates: 34 00 N, 9 00 E

Area: total: 163,610 sq km
water: 8,250 sq km
land: 155,360 sq km

Climate: temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south

Coastline: 1,148 km


Population: 9,924,742 (July 2003 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.09% (2003 est.)

Sex ratio: at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2003 est.)

Noun: Tunisian(s)
adjective: Tunisian

Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%

Languages: Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)


Tunisia has a diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, energy, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Real growth averaged 5.4% in 1997-2001 but slowed to 1.9% in 2002 because of agricultural drought, slow investment, and lackluster tourism. Increased rainfall portends higher growth levels for 2003, but continued regional tension from the war in Iraq will most likely continue to suppress tourism earnings. Tunisia has agreed to gradually remove barriers to trade with the European Union over the next decade. Broader privatization, further liberalization of the investment code to increase foreign investment, improvements in government efficiency, and reduction of the trade deficit are among the challenges for the future.

Industries: petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate and iron ore), tourism, textiles, footwear, agribusiness, beverages

Agriculture products: olives, olive oil, grain, dairy products, tomatoes, citrus fruit, beef, sugar beets, dates, almonds


Telephones main lines in use: 654,000 (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular: 50,000 (1998)

Television broadcast stations: 26 (plus 76 repeaters) (1995)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)

Internet users: 400,000 (2002)


Railways: total: 2,152 km
standard gauge: 468 km 1.435-m gauge
dual gauge: 10 km 1.435-m and 1.000-m gauges (three rails) (2002)
narrow gauge: 1,674 km 1.000-m gauge (65 km electrified)

Highways:total: 23,100 km
paved: 18,226 km
unpaved: 4,874 km (1996)

Waterways: none

Airports: 30 (2002)


Country name: conventional long form:TunisianRepublic
conventional short form: Tunisia
local short form:Tunis
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
Government type: republic

Capital: Tunis

Administrative divisions:24 governorates; Ariana (Aryanah), Beja (Bajah), Ben Arous (Bin 'Arus), Bizerte (Banzart), Gabes (Qabis), Gafsa (Qafsah), Jendouba (Jundubah), Kairouan (Al Qayrawan), Kasserine (Al Qasrayn), Kebili (Qibili), Kef (Al Kaf), Mahdia (Al Mahdiyah), Manouba (Manubah), Medenine (Madanin), Monastir (Al Munastir), Nabeul (Nabul), Sfax (Safaqis), Sidi Bou Zid (Sidi Bu Zayd), Siliana (Silyanah), Sousse (Susah), Tataouine (Tatawin), Tozeur (Tawzar), Tunis, Zaghouan (Zaghwan)

Independence: 20 March 1956 (from France)

Constitution: 1 June 1959; amended 12 July 1988

Legal system:based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session

Executive branch:

chief of state: President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI (since 7 November 1987)
head of government: Prime Minister Mohamed GHANNOUCHI (since 17 November 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 24 October 1999 (next to be held NA 2004); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI reelected for a third term without opposition; percent of vote - Zine El Abidine BEN ALI nearly 100%

Judicial branch: Court of Cassation or Cour de Cassation

Political parties and leaders: Al-Tajdid Movement [Adel CHAOUCH]; Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique) or RCD [President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI (official ruling party)]; Liberal Social Party or PSL [Mounir BEJI]; Movement of Democratic Socialists or MDS [Khamis CHAMMARI]; Popular Unity Party or PUP [Mohamed Belhaj AMOR]; Unionist Democratic Union or UDU [Abderrahmane TLILI]


Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%


Although a Tanzanian gorge recently yielded a few bits of our old mate, Homo erectus, little is known about the country's really early history. Recorded history begins around 1800, when the Masai warrior tribes were migrating fromKenya to Tanzania. While the country's coastal area had long witnessed maritime squabbles between Portuguese and Arabic traders, it wasn't until the middle of the 18th century that Arab traders and slaves dared venture into Masai territory in the country's wild interior. European explorers began arriving in earnest in the mid-19th century, the most famous being Stanley and Livingstone. The famous phrase 'Dr Livingstone, I presume', stems from the duo's meeting at Ujiji onLake Tanganyika.

As the 20th century loomed,Germany got busy colonising Tanganyika - as the mainland was then known - by building railways and going commerce crazy. If not for the pesky little tsetse fly, the area could have become one vast grazing paddock for the fatherland. But losing the war didn't help the German cause much either, and the League of Nations soon mandated the territory to the British. The Brits had already grabbed the offshoreisland ofZanzibar, which for centuries had been the domain of Arab traders.

Nationalist organizations sprang up after WWII, but it wasn't until Julius Nyerere founded the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in 1954 that they became effective.Tanganyika won independence in 1961 with Nyerere as the country's first president. Zanzibar was stuck with its British stiff upper lip for another two years, after which the mainland forged a union comprisingZanzibar and the nearby island of Pemba. Thus Tanzania was born.

But unity and a charismatic first president weren't enough to overcome the country's basic lack of resources. Nyerere's secret ingredient was radical socialism, a brave concept considering the communist paranoia of potential aid donors such as theUSA. Under the leader's Chinese-backed reforms, the economy was nationalized, as were great swathes of rental properties, and the better-off were taxed heavily in an attempt to redistribute wealth. The early 1960s saw Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda linked in an unlikely economic threesome, sharing a common airline, telecommunication facilities, transportation and customs. Their currencies became freely convertible and there was free and easy movement across borders. But predictable political differences brought such cosiness to a halt in 1977, leaving the Tanzanians worse off than ever.

Many factors have contributed to the woes of modernTanzania, and not all have been self-inflicted - it is, after all, one of the world's poorest countries. Even the incorporation ofZanzibar, once one of Africa's richest countries, has only created new problems. Adopting a multi-party political system doesn't seem to have helped much either.Zanzibar and the neighbouring island of Pemba have experienced violent unrest and political scare-mongering ever since an election stalemate on Zanzibar divided the islands. Meanwhile, the mainland - under President Benjamin Mkapa - has had to cope with a flood of Rwandan refugees fleeing fighting in their homeland. In late 1996 the Mkapa government issued a statement backed by the United Nations declaring that Rwandan refugees were to leave Tanzania. Amid reports of excessive force and rape, thousands still remain in Tanzania. In August 1998, terrorists bombed theUS embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, killing over 250 people and injuring more than 5000.

Such tensions have not helped a country already destabilized by long-standing tribal friction, particularly among the Chagga (Mt Kilimanjaro region). It's unlikely Tanzania will dissolve into the tribal conflicts which have haunted neighboring Rwanda and Kenya over the last few years - certainly not if Mkapa, who was re-elected president in October 2000, has anything to say about it - but political paralysis and deep rifts between minorities look set to stay with Tanzania for a long time yet.

Taken From: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/central_asia/tunisia/history.htm

  • Print

    Send to a friend

    Comment (0)

  • Most Read Articles