Thanks to the ATUGE, I had this awesome opportunity to sit in the same room as Bechir Ben Yahmed and listen to his anecdotes and insights about the contemporary Tunisian history.
I’ve known that he was the information minister in one of the first governments of the independent and young Tunisian Republic. He is also famous as the founder of the “Jeune Afrique” magazine, which is now considered as the most important Pan-African press reference.
However, Mr Ben Yahmed chose to talk mainly about his early years : when he was student and found himself “by chance” commited to the national movement during the fifties, how he welcomed Bourguiba at his arrival in Paris, and how he directly witnessed the negociation between Bourguiba and the French government. He told us a lot of funny stories about the first president of Tunisia and about the early years of the Republic , but also serious ones about the first contradictions, and the increasing authority of Bourguiba that led Mr Ben Yahmed to eventually resign and move to France.
Actually, lot of young Tunisians think that Bourguiba was a very liberal leader, almost perfect during the 50-60 before becoming tyrannic only for the last decade. Bechir Ben Yahmed confirmed that this opinion is just a big illusion: Bourguiba was not sharing his power with anyone and was taking a lot of fundamental decisions on his own during the first years without even informing his own government. “Bourguiba never believed in democracy, said Ben Yahmed. When we suggested to him that he sould build the democracy little by little, such as 5% per year , in order to have a democratic system in 50 years, he refused”.
The Ben Yahmed blog : http://bechir-ben-yahmed.blog.jeuneafrique.com/