May 11, 1999 - Personal Web Site: Current Tunisia RPCV News

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tunisia: Peace Corps Tunisia : The Peace Corps in Tunisia: May 11, 1999 - Personal Web Site: Current Tunisia RPCV News

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, January 28, 2003 - 1:33 pm: Edit Post

Current Tunisia RPCV News

Current Tunisia RPCV News


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Tim Resch, President
Friends of Morocco
6713 Beddoo St
Alexandria, VA 22306-6607
H 703 660 9292
C 703 470 3166
W 202 712 4453
F 202 216 3171

Newsletter / February 2003
(an affiliate of the National Peace Corps Association)
P.O. Box 25245
Washington, DC 20027
Tel. 202-526-0897


Last November, the American embassy in Tunis relocated to a new complex built on land reclaimed from the Lake of Tunis. By December all embassy and related employees had moved into the new buildings, which were designed by a Connecticut architectural firm, Tai Soo Kim Partners, with local assistance from architect Wassim Ben Mahmoud.

The reason for the move was to increase security. The old location on Avenue de la Liberte was long considered too close to the street to be safe from the kind of vehicle-bomb attacks that destroyed two American embassies in east Africa several years ago. At the new location, known as Berges du Lac, which is about a mile from the Tunis-Carthage airport, the four buildings are surrounded by acres of expansive, green lawns. According to the architects, this green space enhances the entrance with a garden effect. And maybe it does. But it's pretty clear that another function of those lawns is to provide enough space between the buildings and nearby streets that a bomb-laden vehicle can no longer get close enough to the embassy to damage it.

The four buildings themselves are starkly modern structures made of local stone and tile. The design is said to be a "re-interpretation" of Tunisian architecture. Perhaps that is true of the interiors, which FOT hasn't seen, but the angular, sometimes boxlike exteriors, with sharp edges and largely unadorned surfaces, don't seem reminiscent of anything seen in a Tunisian medina. Indeed, even with a few Tunisian tiles here and there, the buildings could easily pass for a US company's headquarters in an American corporate park. Furthermore, although the artwork inside the embassy is said to include some depictions of North Africa by American artists, works by American abstract artists such as Ellsworth Kelly are also featured.


If you want to telephone someone in Tunisia, but don't know their phone number, there's a website that will enable you to look up the name as long as you know the person's city or gouvernat. Check out

For hotel prices as well as prices on some other items in Tunisia, try


Bruce Cohen, a PC volunteer in Tunisia in 1967-69, is now the country director of the Peace Corps program in Morocco. Before his assignment to Morocco, Bruce worked for the US Committee for UNICEF in New York City. In the 1980s, he was the director of Peace Corps recruitment. In '87-89, he was country director in "Zaire" and in '90-'93 was the country director in Senegal. He also worked for Americorps for a while in the '90s.


Ali Khemili, a pharmacist living in Clifton Park, NY (near Albany) is starting a new organization to represent Tunisians living in this country. Ali has been living here since 1971 and believes it is high time to form such an organization. He says that an estimated 8,600 Tunisians are scattered across America. For those interested in contacting Ali, his phone number is 518-346-6218. Or log onto

Currently, only four membership organizations have an interest in Tunisia: Friends of Tunisia; the American Tunisian Association (ATA), composed largely of former American diplomats; the Tunisian-American Chamber of Commerce; and the Hannibal Club, which is staffed by the Tunisian embassy and includes various Washington notables including Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor among its members. (Mrs. O'Connor seems to have become interested in Tunisia mainly because of the country's support for women's rights.) Both the ATA and the Hannibal Club sponsor several lectures each year on various subjects related to Tunisia. These lectures are always held in Washington, DC.


Last year, the National Peace Corps Association ran a deficit of $100,000. The organization's budget is about a million dollars a year, so the shortfall is about 10%. The cited reason is a fall- off of contributions and grants plus some financial hardship caused by the need to re-schedule the 40th anniversary celebration. The NPCA's revenues derive from the following sources: 30% from member dues, 35% from meetings, 20% grants, and 15% contributions.

The association insists that its expenditures have not increased. In fact, to lower costs, the NPCA will move into a smaller suite of offices at its current L Street address. But the declining economy has significantly reduced both grants and contributions. FOT, though, is unaffected.

Meanwhile, Dane Smith, NPCA's president for only three and a half years, has made a surprise announcement that he is resigning. He may leave as early as February, but to give the NPCA board time to find a replacement he is willing to remain in office until August. Before becoming NPCA's president, Smith was the US ambassador to Senegal. In 1963-65, he and his wife served as PC volunteers in Ethiopia. For several years, he has been active in trying to find a peaceful solution to the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.


In the last newsletter, FOT members were asked to notify FOT if you had any objections to endorsing an effort by a group of former PCVs in Morocco who are supporting a UN-sponsored referendum on the future of Western Sahara. This area, which is south of Morocco, has seen a long struggle between the Moroccan government which annexed the area in 1975 and an indigenous political group, the Polisario, who want the region to be an independent country of approximately 300,000 people and one somewhat prosperous phosphorous mine.

One member did object. Vigorously. To paraphrase his argument: There are territorial disputes all over North Africa - between the Libya and Chad, between Tunisia and Algeria, and between Algeria and Morocco. Are we going to start taking sides in all these disputes over borders? Is that appropriate for FOT? In this case, Morocco has some legitimate claims to that area.

After a lively exchange of e-mails an understanding was reached. FOT does not take sides in disputes, but we do endorse efforts by third parties, such as the UN, to reach peaceful resolution to armed conflicts. Therefore, the objection was withdrawn, and FOT sent its endorsement to the Friends of Western Sahara. Friends of Morocco, however, has not endorsed FOWS' activity, and the King of Morocco has sworn that his country will never give up the Western Sahara, even though his government did agree to a referendum.


Every year the Peace Corps encourages former volunteers to go into their local schools, churches, or similar organizations to give a talk or make a presentation about what you did in the Peace Corps. The purpose is "to make far-off places and people come alive" to American children. This year Peace Corps day is February 28, and FOT encourages its members to do something on that day. If you need assistance or want a "kit" to help you, you can phone the Peace Corps' special office at 800-424-8580 or e-mail to


On December 21, the UN adopted a draft resolution for a "World Solidarity Fund" modelled on the "Solidarity Fund" established by President Ben Ali in Tunisia to support rural areas.


A Museum of the Peace Corps Experience has been established in Portland, Oregon, to "tell the story of Peace Corps volunteers around the world through objects, performances, and exhibits." Meanwhile members of Friends of Nigeria are looking for a location to establish a museum to house African art collected by Peace Corps volunteers serving in Africa.


- The Theatre de la Ville in Tunis is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Events commemorating the anniversary began in December and will run through May 25.

- In late November the government announced an ambitious plan to build a $73 million new "City of Culture" in Tunis on the banks of the Lake of Tunis. The new complex will include an 1,800-seat opera, a 700-seat auditorium, a 300-seat theater, art galleries, movie theaters, a media library, a national arts library, a cultural museum, and a "cultural tower."

- Fishermen in Sfax went on strike during the entire month of December. They were protesting Edict 163 from the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, and Water Resources, which protects certain species of fish off Tunisia's coast. The fishermen were angry because some trawlers were allowed to continue fishing. To protect the endangered species but also assure that everyone is treated equally, the fishermen want an area in the Gulf of Gabes declared off-limits to all fishing boats. In early January, President Ben Ali said he would look into the matter. Immediately the strike ceased.

- Tunisia will host the 2005 World Handball Championship games and will bid for the 2010 World Soccer Championship games.

- Tunisia ranks 34th in Harvard University's Growth Competitive Index. This is the first time Tunisia has appeared on this index, which ranks 80 countries. France was 30th and China 34th.

-Tunisia has offered the Arab League a plot of land in Tunis for a new League center. Currently the center is in Cairo. For a while, the League's headquarters was in Tunis, and a building was constructed. But when the League left for Cairo, that building was used for other purposes.

-Although much of Tunisia and all of Africa has suffered recently from drought, President Ben Ali has had to appoint a commission to study the problem of flooding in Bousalem, a small town halfway between Beja and Jendouba. The town is on the Mellegue River.

- In October, the World Bank granted Tunisia a $34 million loan to improve the social and economic conditions of people living in the mountainous area of northwest Tunisia. The 22-year loan will also help sustain management of natural resources in this area.

- Six new companies that will export products such as candy, dried tomatoes, medicines, and baking goods have been established in Beja. The companies will provide 250 new jobs.

- In November France arrested eight people in Grenoble in connection with the bombing of the Djerba synagogue. Those arrested include the suspected bomber's parents and brother.

MEMBERSHIP: For FOT-only, send $15 to address at the head of newsletter. For combined NPCA and FOT membership, send $50 to NPCA, Suite 205, 1900 L Street, Washington, DC 20036. Specify your desired affiliation as Friends of Tunisia, not just "FOT."

Bob Farrell
2 August, 2002
11:48 am

I lived in Rades from 9/64 to 9/65 after which time we moved to Belvedere to be closer to the Offices of the Travaux Publique. I was assigned to Mokhtar Latiri who was Chief Engineer of Public Works at the time. (later Pres. of the Univ. of Tunis, I am told) He and I worked closely to get USAID funding for GOT projects. Business Plans, feasibility studies and loan proposals were what I did, practically 7X24.

The most controversial issue during our time (my ex-wife acted as the Director of a "NHS" child care center in Le Bardo) in Tunisia was our PC Director's objection to my use of a GOT automobile. His concept of the PC volunteer was someone who carried a sheep around his neck and helped dig latrines.

The natural conflict btwn actually doing something important, and at the same time looking and acting like PCVs were "supposed" to look and act was a slightly souring aspect of the experience, but no big deal in retrospect. I never did give-up my car unless it was to be driven by a GOT official
driver. Of course, for private/personal transport, we did sometimes take the bus.

We left Tunisia at the end of our 2 year tour (6/66) and never really were involved again with the Peace Corps, although I have gone back to Tunisia as a Tourist and to visit friends.


A max. of 2 "ringers" were allowed to play on the National Basketball teams in those days, and
another PCV (Kurt _________?) and I played several games in 1965-66, vs. Senegal, etc. I wish I could remember Kurt's name as he was a regular member of the Tunisian team as well as a PCV - that all seems like a dream now. Of course, it was almost 40 years ago!

Anne McLaughlin
3:06:36 PM

1/19/02: I'm a Morocco RPCV (67-70) who traveled in Tunisia a bit in 1970. Here's a website I found that's about a bike trip in Tunisia. I thought visitors to the Tunisia RPCV site might want to check it out, and maybe pass it on. The same folks do a lot of bike trips in Africa, though I have no first hand experience on their trips. Anne McLaughlin, Portland OR

John Whiting-Grantwhiting-grant@mediaone.net1/16/20027:38:27 AM

We had a beautiful son eight months ago, Caleb John Whiting-Grant. A very happy and robust kid. All are doing well, and we are dealing well with the sleep deprivation and diaper changes.

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