History of Tunisia: French Withdrawal and National Autonomy

History of Tunisia: French Withdrawal and National Autonomy Last updated on Monday 26th April 2010

The first Tunisian elections took place in April 1956 and the Tunisian statesman Habib Bourguiba was elected President of the first National Assembly. Bourguiba had previously been head of the national liberation movement, Neo-Destour. Tunisia became a member of the United Nations in November 1956.

During the following year, the bey was finally overthrown and Tunisia was proclaimed a republic, with Bourguiba elected President. Many French residents departed in haste, fearing local reprisals, and relations with France deteriorated still further in 1957 with clashes between Tunisian and French troops along the Algerian border. The 1958 bombing of the Tunisian village of Sakiet-Sidi-Youssef by French military planes killed 68 Tunisians and wounded a further 100. The French government stated that this attack had been retaliatory action for Tunisian support of Algeria over independence.

Tunisia demanded the French evacuation of a naval base at Bizerte, and Tunisian troops held the base under siege in July 1961. A UN cease-fire was demanded, and France was asked by the UN General Assembly to withdraw from Bizerte. After lengthy discussion, France did withdraw in October 1963.

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