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Biography of Zine al-Abidine BEN ALI

Tunisia > Politics : Zine al-Abidine BEN ALI

Zine al-Abidine BEN ALI
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Born on 03/09/1936 (format : day/month/year)

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Biography :

Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali  born  September 3 1936 was the President of Tunisia from 1987 until 14 January 2011. He was born near Sousee in Tunisia. He was trained as a soldier in the elitist French officer training college of Saint Cyr and then went onto to train as an artillery officer.

He went on to study engineering in the United States.On his return to Tunisia he made his way up in the army and became the head of military security from 1964 - 1974.

In 1974 he became military attache to the Tunisian embassy in Morocco, where he stayed for three years. He came back in 1977 to become head of National Security and then, in 1980, became the Tunisian ambassador to Poland.

He returned home to hold various posts, culminating in the dual appointment of Prime minister and Interior Minister in the government under the President Habib Bourguiba, whom he had declared medically unfit in 1987 and declared himself President in his place.

He championed at 'democratic' elections in 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004, where he scored 89.4% of the vote!

During 23 years in power, Ben Ali managed to push forward the economy of his country, making it a favorite hub for foreign investment.

This was one of the factors that kept his regime far from the chronic social and political popular discontent which penetrated other Arab societies such as Morocco, Algeria and Egypt. Moreover, Tunisia was a rare example of an Arab country that didn't experience a massive wave of political violence by militant Islamic groups, even though neighboring Algeria saw more that its share.

Although Tunisia's economic development saved him from the international community's criticism, behind his “economic legacy” lies an equally consistent legacy of human rights violations.


The clan of former first lady Leila Trabelsi, a one-time hairdresser who rose to become Tunisia's most influential woman, was widely despised as the ultimate symbol of corruption and excess. Leila and her 10 siblings are said to have operated like a mafia, extorting money from shop owners, demanding a stake in businesses large and small and divvying up plum concessions among themselves.
Their control over the North African country's economy was vast. The Trabelsi and Ben Ali's own families were said to have a stake in Tunisian banks and airlines, car dealerships, internet providers, radio and television stations, industry and big retailers.

His prodigious dynasty was brought down by the death of a young man called Mohamed Bouazizi who set himself alight when police confiscated the fruits he was selling on a market stall which was the only work he had found to keep his mother and brothers and sisters fed when he had stopped his studies upon the death of his father and because he hadn't paid the dues that he should have paid.

Last update : 01/23/2011

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