Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed denied any racism towards sub-Saharan migrants. It was during a meeting at the Carthage Palace between Kaïs Saïed and the Guinea-Bissau president, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, on Wednesday 08 March.
His statement follows a wave of indignation over his speech against illegal migrants in Tunisia. Indeed, on 21 February 2023, President Kaïs Saïed had called for an end to the presence of the “hordes of illegal migrants” whose arrival was part of a “criminal enterprise hatched at the dawn of this century to change the demographic composition of Tunisia”. These remarks, described as racist and hateful, had angered civil society organisations, the African Union and the international community. Several sub-Saharan African countries such as Mali, Ivory Coast and Guinea have repatriated their nationals from Tunisia to their countries of origin.
To ease tensions, President Said said, “I am African and proud of it, and all Africans are brothers,” rejecting “the accusation of racism made against Tunisia,” according to a video released by the Tunisian Presidency. He further justified that his speech aimed at enforcing “Tunisian legality regarding foreigners” and preventing any “jurisdiction parallel to the state’s jurisdictions”, rejecting the “malicious remarks” of those who “wanted to interpret the speech as they saw fit to harm Tunisia”.
“This situation concerning Africans cannot be interpreted by malicious tongues, as they have done in recent days, as racism…”, he said, deploring that “what cannot be accepted is the interpretation of statements in such a way that it does not serve the image of Tunisia, but rather harms it.
As for the Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embaló, who is also the current President of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), it is unacceptable that “Tunisia, the country of former President Habib Bourguiba, can be a racist country”. Describing the outcry that followed President Kaïs Saïed’s speech as a “misinterpretation”, Umaro Sissoco Embaló added “We are all Africans. You are an African yourself, whatever the colour of your skin… We are all brothers.