West News Wire: Taoufik Charfeddine, the interior minister of Tunisia, claims he resigned for personal reasons as the country’s leadership closes down on major opposition figures and a campaign against sub-Saharan Africans draws criticism from around the world.
With the passing of his wife Salwa last year, Charfeddine, a close assistant to President Kais Saied, told reporters on Friday that he wishes to spend more time with his children.
The 54-year-old Charfeddine thanked the president for “his understanding and for allowing me to be released of my duties,” telling reporters that he has been in his position since October 2021.
In June, Salwa perished at their house due to a gas leak.
Saied has not yet announced a replacement for Charfeddine, who at one stage was seen as the Tunisian official closest to the president, but in recent months, he had appeared less frequently in public.
Saied has taken increasing control over security forces since July 2021 when he dismissed the government of Hichem Mechichi, shut down parliament and moved to rule by decree before writing a new constitution that passed last year.
Charfeddine had also served as interior minister under Mechichi, who sacked him in January 2021 as relations between the president and prime minister broke down. Saied reappointed him after dismissing Mechichi.
Over recent weeks, Tunisian authorities have detained prominent opposition figures who accuse Saied of a coup, and charged them with conspiring against state security.
Police have also carried out a crackdown on sub-Saharan Africans who lack residence permits. Human rights groups accuse them of detaining hundreds of people and turning a blind eye to racist attacks.
According to a February 21 Facebook post, Saied called on security forces and authorities to detain and deport immigrants, and he called migration a conspiracy to change Tunisia’s demographics by making it “only an African country” without an affiliation to the Arab and Islamic world.
Police subsequently detained hundreds of migrants, landlords summarily evicted hundreds from their homes and hundreds of others were fired from their jobs, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights said.