Turning point for Tunisian independence

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Turning point for Tunisian independence

The turning point for Tunisian independence

Masmoudi (right) in Caux, 1955

In 1953, tensions were running high in Tunisia. There were a series of successive attacks and the hero of the independence struggle, Habib Bourguiba, was in prison.

One of those close to him, Mohammed Masmoudi, was invited to an Initiatives of Change conference in Caux, Switzerland. He was in exile in France under police surveillance, having been arrested several times. On arrival in Caux he said, ‘My heart is full of hatred like a stick of dynamite’. But the evidence he saw there of reconciliation between Germans and French presented him with decision whether to take the same path. ‘If this has been possible between France and Germany’, he said, ‘it can happen between France and my country. I leave here free of all prejudice against the French’.

Back in France, his political friends noticed the change in him. One of them was Pierre Mendès-France, who became president of the committee trying to find a joint solution to the Tunisia problem. A few weeks later, Mendes-France flew to Tunis to propose a start to negotiations on internal autonomy for the country. Masmoudi was one of the negotiators. Later, Masmoudi met the chief French negotiator, Jean Basdevant, at a dinner held at the IofC centre in Boulogne, Paris. The trust established between them did not falter throughout the negotiations leading to independence. In 1956, while leading the first Tunisian delegation to the United Nations in New York, President Bourguiba declared, ‘The world must be told what Moral Re-Armament [as IofC was then known] has done for our country.’

Further information can be found in The Forgiveness Factor, by Michael Henderson.