OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Tunisia
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Multiparty Republic
AREA: 164,150 Sq Km (63,379 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION: 9,536,700
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Tunisia is located in North Africa.
It is bound by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast
and the Mediterranean Sea to the northeast and north. The
country is divided into three distinct physical regions
(1.) The Tell Atlas Mountains and the Dorsale Ridge separated
by the fertile valley of the Medjerda River in the north.
(2.) A wide and barren plateau south of the Dorsale Ridge
with the western half of the plateau called the High Steppe
and the eastern half the Low Steppe. (3.) The southern flat
coastal plains and salt lakes, and beyond to the vast Sahara
Desert region. The principal river is the Medjerda River
which flows to the Gulf of Tunis from Algeria. Major Cities
(pop. est.); Tunis 674,100, Safaqis 230,900, Aryanah 152,700,
Ettadhamen 149,200 (1994). Land Use; forested 4%, pastures
20%, agricultural-cultivated 32%, other 44% (1993).
CLIMATE: Tunisia has a Mediterranean climate modified by sea
breezes and characterized by warm dry summers and wet winters. The inland
regions experience hotter summers and more rainfall while there are two
distinct seasons, a cool wet season from October to May and a warm dry
season from May to September. Average annual precipitation varies from
420 mm (17 inches) in the north to more than 900 mm (35 inches) in the
Tell Atlas Mountains while the southern desert region receives less than
350 mm (10 inches) annually. Average temperature ranges in Tunis are from
6 to 14 degrees Celsius (43 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit) in January to 21
to 33 degrees Celsius (70 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit) in August.
PEOPLE: The principal ethnic majority are of mixed Arab-Berber
origin with pure Arabs constituting less than 10% of the population. Other
ethnic minorities include pure Berbers, Jews, French, Greeks and Italians.
DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 53.7 persons per sq km
(139.0 persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 53.0% urban, 47.0% rural
(1985). Sex Distribution; 50.7% male, 49.3% female (1991). Life Expectancy
at Birth; 64.6 years male, 66.1 years female (1990). Age Breakdown; 36%
under 15, 29% 15 to 29, 17% 30 to 44, 10% 45 to 59, 6% 60 to 74, 2% 75
and over (1991). Birth Rate; 25.0 per 1,000 (1991). Death Rate; 6.3 per
1,000 (1991). Increase Rate; 18.7 per 1,000 (1991). Infant Mortality Rate;
44.0 per 1,000 live births (1993).
RELIGIONS: The official religion is Islam with 98% of the population
Sunni Muslims. The remainder consists of Jewish and Christian minorities.
LANGUAGES: The official language is Arabic, although French is
still widely used for commerce and government purposes.
EDUCATION: Aged 25 or over and having attained: no formal schooling
65.8%, Koranic education 1.2%, primary 17.5%, secondary 11.2%, vocational
0.8%, higher 1.7%, unspecified 1.8% (1984). Literacy; literate population
aged 15 or over 3,315,000 or 65.3% (1990).
MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: In 1955 Tunisia was granted internal
self-government from France. On Mar. 20, 1956 Tunisia gained full independence
and in 1957 was declared a republic with Habib Bourguiba as its first President.
France kept troops and military bases in Tunisia after their independence
and in 1961 diplomatic relations were severed when Pres. Bouruiba demanded
the withdrawal of the French troops. In 1967 there was an attempt at agricultural
collectivization which resulted in the imprisonment of the minister concerned
after output fell dramatically. In 1968 there were student and labor demonstrations
in protest to economic conditions. In Sept. 1974 Pres. Bourguiba was elected
President for life. In 1978 there was further civil unrest and in 1980
an unsuccessful coup attempt. In 1983 the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO) moved its base to Tunisia following its expulsion from Lebanon. In
Mar. 1983 Tunisia and Algeria signed a treaty which ended a 20 year dispute.
In 1984 serious riots erupted over government imposed price increases on
essential goods. In 1985 diplomatic relations were broken off with Libya
as a result of the forced expulsion of Tunisian nationals from Libya. In
1987 Prime Minister Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali removed Bourguiba from office
and succeeded him. Pres. Ben Ali legalized opposition parties and in Sept.
1989 dismissed Prime Minister Hedi Baccouche and appointed Hamed Karoui
to take his place. Throughout 1990 popularity grew for the Islamic Nahda
Party, although it had not been officially recognized. In Oct. 1990 the
Arab League headquarters located in Tunis was moved to Cairo, Egypt. In
1991 the government announced its opposition to the US-led coalition forces
involvement in the Gulf War. In Jan. 1991 the second-in-command of the
PLO, Abu Iyad, and two aides were assassinated. On Feb. 17, 1991 the headquarter's
of the Rassemblement Constitutionel Democratique (RCD) was raided by security
forces with three members arrested and later executed for allegedly committing
treason. In Aug. 1991 the government arrested 300 Muslim fundamentalists,
including the leaders of the Nahda Party, for plotting to overthrew the
government. Also during 1991 financial aid was severely cut by the US while
Kuwait withdrew all further investment in the country. In 1992 Pres. Ben
Ali and the government actively countered growing fundamentalism and support
for Rachid Ghannouchi's Nahda Party. In Jan. 1992 Algeria expelled 29 Nahda
fundamentalists. In Feb. 1992 the government refused Iraq's request to
return five civilian airliners as well as UN-imposed frozen funds. In Aug.
1992 some 141 Nahda members were imprisoned for lengthy sentences following
their conviction for plotting to overthrow the government while Ghannouchi
fled to Britain. On Dec. 6, 1992 Pres. Ben Ali announced a meeting of RCD
leaders to discuss plans for the establishment of a multiparty democracy.
In June 1993 Pres. Ben Ali met with the Egyptian and Algerian Presidents
to discuss measures to counter the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in
the region with all leaders condemning The Sudan for their involvement
and assistance. In July 1993 five opposition parties petitioned the RCD
to allow them to participate within the National Assembly. In Sept. 1993
the government held meetings with the PLO to discuss the future status
of the organization within the country following the conclusion of an agreement
between the PLO and Israel. In Nov. 1993 Pres. Ben Ali announced that the
legal opposition could take part in the National Assembly. Also in 1993
the government's Foreign Minister, Habib Ben Yahia, visited Kuwait in the
hope of rekindling Kuwaiti investment in the country.
CURRENCY: The official currency is the Dinar (D) divided into
ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $15,332,000,000 (1993).
Public Debt; USD $7,627,000,000 (1993). Imports; D 6,647,300,000 (1994).
Exports; D 4,696,600,000 (1994). Tourism Receipts; USD $1,114,000,000 (1993).
Balance of Trade; D -1,504,200,000 (1994). Economically Active Population;
2,360,000 or 28.8% of total population (1989). Unemployed; 13.4% (1989).
MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are France,
Germany, Italy, the USA and Greece.
MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Barley, Citrus Fruits, Crude Oil and Natural
Gas, Dates, Fish, Grapes, Iron Ore, Lead, Livestock, Olives, Phosphates,
Salt, Timber, Tomatoes, Wheat.
MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Cement, Food Processing, Mining,
Oil Refining, Phosphate Processing, Steel, Textiles, Tourism.
MAIN EXPORTS: Chemicals, Crude Oil and Refined Products, Food, Phosphates,
TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 2,242 km (1,393 mi) (1988),
passenger-km 1,057,000,000 (657,000,000 passenger-mi) (1990), cargo ton-km
1,968,000,000 (1,348,000,000 short ton-mi) (1990). Roads; length 29,183
km (18,133 mi) (1989). Vehicles; cars 321,101 (1989), trucks and buses
208,596 (1989). Merchant Marine; vessels 73 (1990), deadweight tonnage
442,429 (1990). Air Transport; passenger-km 1,528,000,000 (949,000,000
passenger-mi) (1990), cargo ton-km 21,000,000 (14,383,000 short ton-mi)
COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 7 with a total circulation
for 4 of 190,000 (1994). Radio; receivers 1,700,000 (1994). Television;
receivers 650,000 (1994). Telephones; units 421,400 (1993).
MILITARY: 35,500 (1995) total active duty personnel with 76.0%
army, 14.1% navy and 9.9% air force while military expenditure accounts
for 3.4% (1993) of the Gross National Product (GNP).
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