Jean-Jacques Cornish

Tunisia deals with more brazen jihadis

By Jean-Jacques Cornish

Yesterday’s terror attack in Tunia shows the country that gave birth to the Arab Spring four years ago is paying the price for events before and after that earth-shaking political development.

It has dealt a body blow to the fragile democracy in that country.

President Beji Caid Essebsi has declared a war on terrorism.

However, his government is struggling to deal with both the hangover of the deposed Ben Ali regime and the new wave of jihadism that’s crashed down on the Arab world since then.

More Tunisians have to gone to fight for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq than from any other Arab country.

The authorities have stopped about 9 000 Tunisians from doing this. But at least 3 000 have slipped through the net.

The radicalised young men who have returned are preying on the disaffection with the unemployment and poverty dating back to ousted dictator Ben Ali.

This is creating fertile ground for unrest and violent protest.

The jihadis have no trouble getting arms.

Disintegrating Libya next door is a virtual arsenal for violence dissidents not only in Tunisia but the whole region.

The returning terrorists are like radicalised young mujahedin coming home to Western neighbour Algeria twenty years ago after fighting the Russians in Afghanistan.

It has taken the Algerian authorities two decades to deal with its terror problem and some might argue they still have not fully succeeded.

The Tunisians are dealing with a more brazen and focused brand of jihadis.

Yesterday’s attack was clearly aimed at the country’s crucial tourism industry.

Tunisia is economically reliant on at least four million tourists visiting it beaches, health spas, deserts and historical attractions.

That number is only now picking up after the violence that followed the Arab Spring.

It was less than in other countries that experienced this phenomenon – but enough to scare away visitors.

Yesterday’s tourists were visiting what they believed was a country that had regained its status as the safest place in the region.

The horrible reality that some of them will not be going home rings around the world.

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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.