Wikileaks – US ignored Tunisian corruption

Posted: January 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

Diplomatic cables suggest US was aware of deep-rooted corruption among Tunisia’s elite.
he Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten released a series of US diplomatic cables from 2006 on massive and pervasive corruption and nepotism in Tunisia and its effect on economic development and social problems. The cables show that the United States government was fully aware of the dangerous and debilitating level of corruption in Tunisia, and its anti-democratic implications. But they raise the question of whether Washington was wise to make Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, despite his clear foibles, the pillar of its North Africa policy because of his role, as a secular strongman, in repressing Muslim movements (as William MacLean of Reuters argues).

The US embassy in Tunis noted the contradictions of what was once called “the Tunisian miracle” – relative stability and security and 5 per cent growth a year, but with mafia style corruption on the part of ruling cliques that was discouraging foreign investment and contributing to failing banks and high unemployment.

Most debilitating, and destabilising, has been high levels of unemployment, especially for college graduates:

“Unemployment, however, is a growing concern and is one on which every GOT official is focused. Official unemployment figures levelled off at 14 per cent in 2005, after steady declines dating from 1999’s 15.8 per cent. Even at 14 per cent, however, this figure is consistently challenged as too optimistic by first hand accounts of university graduates unable to find jobs and reports of increasing numbers of ever-more qualified applicants seeking embassy jobs.”


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