Tunisia celebrates the 56th Anniversary of Independence

The Ambassador of Tunisia at his office in Jakarta, H.E. Mohamed Antar shares his great happiness as every year on March 20th, Tunisians celebrate their independence from colonial rule. But this year  Independence Day brings mixed feelings for many of them.

While the Day officially marked the end of the French Colonial Period, and the beginning of an era where Tunisia was recognized as a modern State, it marked this year Tunisia’s first Independence Day since the formation of the country’s First Democratically-Elected Government.

After PT Medco Energi Company, one of an Indonesian National Oil & Gas Company investing in Oil Block in Tunisia, H.E. Mohamed Antar is eyeing to increase investment and higher bilateral trade between the two countries.

The Tunisian Revolution for “ Freedom, Justice and Dignity” began on December 17th, 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian vegetable vendor self-immolated to protest the Government’s confiscation of his produce. It forced the ex-President Ben Ali to step down,  after 23 years in power, voluntarily entered into exile in Saudi Arabia, leaving the country in the hands of a Caretaker Government. Tunisian protesters against Ben Ali’s regime demanded more socio-economic rights and political freedom. Ben Ali is now charged in absentia with many crimes including murder during the protests.

The Tunisian Constituent Assembly, that emerged from the free and transparent elections, was elected on October 23rd, 2011 in a process that included thousands of domestic and hundreds of international observers. On December 12th, 2011 the new President of Tunisia Dr. Mohamed.

Moncef Marzouki was elected by the Constituent Assembly and on December 23rd, 2011, the Constituent Assembly confirmed the New Cabinet for Tunisia. The Constituent Assembly has a historic responsability in drafting the New Constitution and in contributing to the sucess of the democratic transition. The First Constituent was adopted on June 1, 1959 and amended four times (July 12th, 1988, June 29th, 1999, June 1st, 2002, May 13th, 2003, and July 28th, 2008).

History and Culture
Tunisia’s location in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea has placed it in the crossroads of many of the words great Civilisations. Conquerors such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Turks, Spanish and French have all left their legacy in both art architecture and the rich fabric of Tunisian society. Tunisia is also the home of Hannibal and the location of the ancient City of Carthage that was the navel superpower of its time. The country has a long and rich history dating back thousands of years.

Tunisia during ancient times was the North African powerhouse that took on the Romans, gave them a run for their money, and ultimately fell to the Romans after the Third Punic War.

56 years since the Leader of the Tunisian Independence Movement, Habib Bourguiba, signed on March 20th, 1956 a Protocol with the French Government annulling the 1881 and 1883 Agreements of a Protectorate with France, Tunisia is shaping nowadays a new image after undergoing a Revolution that led to the ouster in January 14th 2011 of longtime authoritarian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and triggered the “Arab Spring” uprisings.

Until the 5th Century, the Romans ruled and settled in North Africa. In the 5th Century the Roman Empire fell, leaving Tunisia to the invasion of European tribes. From the 7th Century to the 15th Century, Tunisia witnessed waves of migration from around the Arab and Ottoman World, thanks to the Muslim conquest of the 7th Century. Tunisia became a Center of Arabian Culture, and by the 16th Century became assimilated into the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Moreover, Tunisia has a rich Islamic Heritage with many beautiful mosques and one of the holiest cities in Islam in Kairouan.  Kairouan is one of the jewels of Tunisian heritage. The former Capital of the Aghlabid Emirs.


One of the most ancient mosques in the world and a monument that is counted amongst the most impressive in North Africa, the Great Mosque is the symbol of Kairouan for its religious prestige and historical importance and its remarkable architecture. The Mosque was built in 670 by the Arab General Oqba Ibn Naafaa, who constructed the first mosque in North Africa.

After the Independence in 1956, the Fisrt Tunisian President and Leader of Emancipation Movement Habib Bourguiba, placed a strong emphasis on economic and social development. He focused specifically on education, the status of women.

Names from Tunisian history like Carthage, Dido, Hannibal are famous even today. Carthage became a strong power due to its proximity next to the sea, and clashed with Rome over control of the Mediterranean. In 146 B.C., Carthage was defeated and captured by the Romans.

Indeed, Tunisia remains a model in the Arab World in promoting the legal and social status of women. A Personal Status Code was adopted shortly after Independence in 1956, which, among other things, gave women full legal status. It also, for the first time in the Arab World, outlawed polygamy. Also Tunisia has supported a remarkably successful Family Planning Program that has reduced the population growth rate to just over 1% per annum, contributing to Tunisia’s economic growth.

Situated in the heart of the Mediterranean Basin just South of Italy, with a total area of 162.155 Square Kilometers and a Population of 10.5 Million inhabitants, Tunisia occupies a strategic position which allows the establishment of direct links with the European Union, North and West African and Middle Eastern Countries. Thus, Tunis is only one-hour flight from Rome and two hours away from many cities in Europe (two and a half hours from Amsterdam) and the Mediterranean Basin.

Openness to foreign markets confirmed by Free or Preferential Trade Agreements signed with EU and several African and Arab Countries making of Tunisia a potential platform for both production and investment destined to countries in this area. Moreover, owing to its sustained human resources development policy, based on an efficient education and training system,  Tunisia is placed at the top list of the African Countries for this sector. Tunisia
has a developed infrastructure that includes six Commercial Seaports and Seven International Airports.

The diverse Tunisian economy hinges on Tourism, Mining, Agriculture (Olives, Olive Oil, Grain, Dairy Products, Tomatoes, Citrus Fruit, Beef, Sugar Beets, Dates, and Almonds) , Manufacturing and Exports to EU.

Main natural resources of Tunisia are Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Phosphates, Salt and Iron Ore. Industry is based on the followeing sectors: Petroleum, Mining (particularly Phosphate), Textiles, Footwear, Food Processing, Electric and Mechanical Components.

Tourism is a significant source of revenue and foreign exchange. Tunisia’ primary trading partners are France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Maghreb countries.


Couscous is Tunisian traditional dish
It is made with lambs meat, chicken, fish or even just vegetables and spices are cooked in the lower pot. Typical Tunisian dishes are brik (a fried Malsouka dough stuffed with tuna and an egg), tajin (like a frittata or a quiche), shorba (soups), slata (salads), marqua (stews), rishta (pastas), samsa (a popular pastry), kifta (ground meat), kaak (pastries), gnawiya (gombos), merguez (lamb sausage) and shakshouka (ratatouille). Cooking steam rises through vents into the container above. It is layered with whole herbs such as bay leaves and covered with a fine-grain couscous.

RI-Tunisia Relations
Formally Diplomatic Relations between Tunisia and Indonesia established in early 1960 but in reality it started years before during the Tunisian struggle for its Independence. Tunisia opened an Office in Jakarta in 1952 during its Protectorate  Period. This reflects the strong political relations between Tunisia and Indonesia. Many agreements were signed between two countries covering Investment, Non-Double Taxation, Religious Affairs, Culture.

Bilateral Trade Balance has always been in favour of Indonesia but it stills far under  expectations of both countries and still many rooms to boost and strenghten the economic relation. Indonesian Investment  in Tunisia still very low, Except the PT Medco Energi Company investing in Oil Block in Tunisia. Tunisia is eyeing to increase investment and higher bilateral trade after holding within this year in Jakarta the 10th Session of the  Join Commission.

Moreover the Business Council that the Tunisian Embassy in Jakarta is working to launch soon aims to boost partnerships and investments between both countries.

This exclusive article was recently shared by H.E. Mohamed Antar, the current Ambassador of Tunisia in Jakarta, Indonesia in relation to this celebration the 56th Anniversary of Independence.