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Belaid killing shows divisions in Tunisia

A strong democracy is built through the efforts of all groups regardless of religious or political leanings

Gulf News

The nation that has sparked a series of dramatic changes across the Arab world is today facing one of its biggest challenges two years on after the revolution. Tunisia is at a crossroads — between building a future that is determined by the will of the people, or falling victim to deep divisions that would hinder all prospects.

The killing of a leading opposition figure on Wednesday has shocked many as it is a clear indication of the direction the country is moving towards. Shukri Belaid, leader of the Unified Democratic Nationalist Party was shot dead outside his home in broad daylight. Belaid has been a critical voice against the Islamist-led government and radical Islamist groups. Soon after the incident, demonstrators took to the streets, calling for the fall of the Islamist-led government.

“The murder of Belaid is a political assassination and the assassination of the Tunisian revolution. By killing him they wanted to silence his voice,” Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, of the Al Nahda-led government, said.

While the Tunisian government has attempted to contain the situation with the announcement of dissolving the government and calling for a unity Cabinet, there is no doubt that the country is at a dangerous juncture. As a matter of fact, the killing of Belaid highlights the tense ground reality and the level of anger among many Tunisians. This is because the change that had been hoped and called for has not been manifested.

Establishing a democratic foundation and a system that is based on the rule of law is a long-term process. But without the inclusiveness of all groups regardless of their religious or political leanings, the process will be meaningless. Hence, what is needed now is for the government to gain the trust of the people by allowing them scope to voice their concerns and opinions.

And this can only be achieved through inviting all groups to be engaged in the process of nation-building.