Since 2011, popular protests have forced four of the five governments in North Africa out of power. As these long-standing regimes fall, the resulting political vacuums are creating security challenges that could undermine internal efforts to promote reform. Weak or non-existent government institutions are being exploited by terrorists, human traffickers, and criminals—threatening the stability of immediate neighbors while having a direct impact on Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and U.S. national security interests. Yet, all this upheaval may also present an opportunity to advance deep, regional security cooperation that has been historically unattainable.
Across North Africa, instability is at its highest level since 2011. In Algeria, President Bouteflika’s resignation was a necessary step to democratization, but it remains to be seen if the political structure can survive protesters’ demands for reform and ensure a peaceful transition of power. In Libya, the hope for a compromise to end the stalemate between the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and armed opposition forces seems to be lost. In Egypt, President el-Sisi’s supporters have proposed constitutional changes that will concentrate executive power, alarming human rights and democracy advocates around the world. And amid all this turmoil, Tunisia is trying to consolidate its own democracy and reform its security institutions following decades of autocratic rule.
On May 1, USIP hosted a conversation with the Tunisian Minister of Defense Abdelkrim Zbidi, where he discussed the dynamics of North Africa and how the U.S. and Tunisia are working together to promote regional security. The event looked at the risks of continued upheaval, as well as how the current uncertainty opens the door for democratic reform that was not possible in pre-2011 North Africa. Take part in the discussion on Twitter with #USIPTunisia.
Minister of Defense, Republic of Tunisia
Senior Program Officer, North Africa, U.S. Institute of Peace
Vice President, Middle East and Africa, U.S. Institute of Peace