Jean-Jacques Cornish

Applause for Tunisia will give way to scrutiny

By Jean-Jacques Cornish

The Jihadi group Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack in Tunis.

It left 23 people – 20 of them tourists – dead.

At least 47, including a South African, are hospitalised in Tunis.

The attack was aimed at crippling Tunisia’s vital tourism industry that is only now recovering from the effects of the instability following the Arab Spring that began there three years ago.

It has made an immediate impact. At least two cruise lines have taken Tunis off their itinerary following the attack.

It was passengers from two liners who were targeted as they alighted from their coaches to visit the Barda Museum.

Countering this, there has been a call on social media for people to show solidarity with Tunisia by book their holidays there this year.

It remains to be seen if idealism will trump trepidation.

President Beji Caid Essebsi’s had strong international support for his declaration of war against terrorism.

US President Barak Obama’s telephoned him offering condolences and Washington’s support in fighting the evil.

Nevertheless, Tunisia with its models of freedoms and democracy has made it a target for Islamist extremists.

It represents everything the jihadis hate.

Tunisian security authorities responded quickly to Wednesday’s attack. Since then, they have arrested nine people.

They have identified the two terrorist killed by police clearing the museum. One of them Yassin Labibi was on a security watchlist.

That list is substantial, since at least 3 000 young Tunisians have slipped through the security net to join Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Those who have returned have adopted totalitarian ideals, telling their compatriots that economic hardship and unemployment is a result of a government more concerned with granting women’s rights than pressing hardline Islamist values.

Sandwiched between Algeria and Libya, Tunisians believe that their bastion of freedom is made possible by ever-present and vigilant security forces.

Policemen are posted on every bus and train carriage.

So the applause for the way those forces have reacted since Wednesday, will undoubtedly be replaced with increased public scrutiny.

This blog first appeared on the site



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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.