Cape Town – A grassroots citizen movement with political ambitions has been quietly garnering support as Tunisia prepares for elections later in 2019.
Its founder, Olfa Terras, has been driving its people-first philosophy, hearing from Tunisians themselves about what’s wrong with their country and how they would like to go about fixing it. The movement, 3ich Tounsi – which in Tunisian Arabic translates roughly as "Tunisians dreaming and striving towards a brighter future" – has interviewed 400 000 citizens, something which has never been done in the country before.
"After Arab Spring in 2011, we emerged as a democracy," Terras said. "But a lot has changed. Our people are frustrated with the corruption within the government, they are tired of being worried about walking down the street in constant fear of being mugged. They want to send their children to school without being worried that the roof will collapse on their children. These are the challenges we are facing. The cost of living has also become unbearable for most Tunisians."
Terras is a philanthropist who heads up the Rambourg Foundation, and her philanthropic nature shines through in everything she says and does. The people first, and all else after.
As the northernmost country in Africa, Tunisia has always traditionally looked north for its inspiration and help, she said.
"Being on the Mediterranean, we assume we are more part of Europe; we identify with Greece, or Italy, and of course there’s the colonial French connection. But we are African. I would like for us to look towards our African brothers and sisters. We must stand together. We are part of this continent and we need to unite and learn from each other, and trade with each other," Terras said.
"Together, we are strong. We need to stand together. Stand together as citizens, but also as Africans. My detractors want to exploit the fact that my husband is French, and they say I am an agent wanting to re-institute colonialism by the French, that I am an agent of (French president Emmanuel) Macron. This couldn’t be further from the truth," Terras said.
It is for this reason that she visited South Africa, to connect Africa’s northernmost country, Tunisia, and its southernmost.
"There is more that unites us than divides us," Terras said.
Standing atop Table Mountain, Terras said the next item on her movement’s agenda is to go back to Tunisians with 3ich Tounsi’s 12-point plan to address the major challenges her country faces.
"Now I’m here on top of Table Mountain, and it’s so indicative of this idea that as Africans we must all see each other as on the same level. I want Africa to be united. I want Tunisia to take up its place among Africans because the time for Africa is now," Terras said.