Tunisia: Saied Leans toward Algeria as Controversial Western Sahara Leader Attends Conference

by | Sep 2, 2022 | Diplomacy, Tunisia


In late-August 2022, Tunisian President Kais Saied invited Brahim Ghali – the head of Polisario Front, a Western Sahara-based group claiming independence from Morocco – to the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) gathering. The presence of Ghali at TICAD sparked a diplomatic backlash, with both countries eventually recalling their ambassadors for consultations. Commentators continue to weigh the motivations and potential outcomes, with Tunisia’s reliance upon Algeria as an economic and security partner a central point in the conversation.


Saied’s decision to seemingly abandon neutrality on the issue of Western Sahara independence signals his desire to seek out closer alignment with Algeria in the short term. Saied may view Algeria as a stronger short-term economic partner, with Algerian tourists and oil being some of the few reliable sources of fuel for the struggling Tunisian economy. While Morocco and Tunisia may share more closely aligned visions for economic and social openness, particularly with the West, Saied needs any available allies to help complete his envisioned transformation of the Tunisian government and economy, which faces growing resistance within Tunisia’s own borders.