Viewing page 41 of 136

10  CURRENT BIOGRAPHY

BOURGUIBA, H. B. A.—Continued

by the French in 1934, and Bourguiba was arrested.  He was released in 1936, and again arrested in 1938 and sent to Fort Saint Nicolos at Marseilles.

Liberated by the Germans in 1942, he made his way back to Tunis via Rome in 1943.  His home-coming was climaxed by a "dramatic" appeal for "home rule," but the French were not interested.  After World War II ended, Bourguiba went to Cairo to seek support of the Arab League.  It was reported that he "quarreled violently" with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, and accused him and other Arabs of trying to turn Tunisia into a satellite of the Middle East.

Upon his return to Tunis, Bourguiba purged the Neo-Destour party of Communists.  He led his followers who were in the trade unions out of the Communist-led Confédération Générale du Travail and formed UGTT (Union Générale des Travailleurs Tunisiens), which now has 60,000 members.  Assured of a large following, Bourguiba moved to Paris, where (according to the Christian Science Monitor, January 5, 1951) he adopted a new technique.  He aroused sympathy for Tunisian nationalist aspirations by his claim that he was acting in the interest of the French government "against its reactionary colonial administration."  At the same time, he cautioned the Tunisians to have patience as the "real France" was sympathetic with their hopes.

U.S. News & World Report (May 6, 1952) said that a compromise was almost effected when a Tunisian, Mohammed Chenik, was named Premier in 1951.  Equal membership of Tunisians and French colonials in the Cabinet was also granted, but this brought about frequent deadlocks and "froze" almost 200 ministerial decisions.  However, Bourguiba continued working for Tunisian independence within the economic and cultural orbit of the French Union.  He is aware of Tunisia's strategic importance in the cold war and of the significance of the North African naval and air bases constructed by the United States.  In the opinion of Andrew Roth (Nation, February 9, 1952) Bourguiba, with his "dynamism, organizational ability and sensitivity to economic and social problems necessary to compete with the Communists," was gaining recognition.

Bourguiba flew to the United States in September 1951 and broadcast a Tunisian nationalist plea over the Voice of America (New York Times, September 14, 1951).  The French government had not been consulted and was said to be "puzzled" by Bourguiba's sponsorship by the American Federation of Labor.  It was learned that Irving Brown, European representative of the AFL, had arranged Bourguiba's trip to the United States.  Bourguiba visited Washington, D.C., and attended the AFL convention in San Francisco before he returned to Paris.

In the meantime, Neo-Destour had confined its activities to manifestations and strikes, but before he left for Tunis, Bourguiba told Le Monde (of Paris) that Tunisia would demand the negotiation of a new treaty.  Before further agitation could get under way, the French sent a note to the Bey of Tunis, Sidi Mohammed el Amin Pasha, on December 15, 1951, which emphasized the rights of French citizens in Tunisia and rejected self-government.

Bourguiba demanded that an appeal be dispatched to the United Nations and the Bey complied.  On January 18, 1952 Bourguiba and five of his top lieutenants were seized in their homes and taken to Tabarca, Tunisia near the Algerian border.  French authorities invoked a state of siege and warned Neo-Destour that it was still under order of dissolution.  A communiqué from the French Resident General, Jean de Hauteclocque, charged Bourguiba with "systematic agitation."

Removed to La Galite, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, Bourguiba was detained there and later transferred to the Ile de Groix in the Bay of Biscay.  On July 18 he was brought to a chateau sixty-five miles south of Paris.  A month later, Premier Mendès-France conferred with Bourguiba and obtained his support for a home-rule plan providing for full Tunisian control of domestic affairs and French control of foreign affairs and defense.

Mendès-France flew to Tunis on July 31 and presented the plan to the Bey of Tunis, who gave it his approval.  The Bey announced on August 2 the appointment of Tahar ben Ammar as Premier.  In September the French Premier restored the legal status of the outlawed Neo-Destour party.  However, progress toward a Franco-Tunisian agreement was temporarily ended with Mendès-France's government fell on February 5, 1955.

Negotiations were resumed by French Premier Edgar Faure, who permitted Bourguiba to move to the Hôtel Continental in Paris.  When the points at issue had been narrowed to two minor ones by the nominal head of the Tunisian delegation, Premier Tahar ben Ammar, and Premier Faure, an irate lobby representing French planters caused a crisis.  Bourguiba had a conference with the French Premier, and later the Premiers went to work again.

On April 22, 1955 an agreement, which was regarded as a modified version of the Mendès-France plan, was finally reached.  It was signed on June 3 and approved by the French National Assembly on July 9.  All restrictions on Bourguiba's movements were removed and he was free to return to Tunisia.

Under the agreement the police force and court systems are to be turned over gradually to the Tunisians and the entire civil service establishment will be placed under their authority, but the 10,000 French civil servants in Tunisia will be allowed to pursue their careers there.  France retains control of the Army and diplomatic service.  A French general will act as Defense Minister and a French High Commissioner will replace the Resident General and will also act as Foreign Minister.  France retains the exclusive privilege of providing technical and financial assistance to Tunisia, which will remain in the French currency bloc.  The agreement also provides for a court of arbitration for settling differences arising out of the treaty.
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact transcribe@si.edu.