Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid announced on Wednesday that he named 12 new ministers in a cabinet reshuffle in an attempt to boost the effectiveness of his government as it grapples with a growing terror threat and a feeble economy.
Essid named new ministers of the interior, justice and foreign affairs, among others. Tunisian Foreign Minister Taieb Baccouche and Interior Minister Najem Gharsalli were among those replaced in the reshuffle, which is the first since Tunisian President Beji Cais Essebsi took office in late 2014.
The government declared that the former presidential adviser Khemaies Jhinaoui would take the helm of the foreign ministry and Hedi Majdoub would become interior minister, without explaining the reason behind the shake-up. However, Essid had said last year that he would replace ministers to boost the efficiency of his government.
Among other cabinet changes announced Wednesday, Omar Mansour was named justice minister and Mohsen Hassen became trade minister. Finance Minister Slim Chaker and Defence Minister Farhat Horchani were among those who kept their posts.
The interior ministry had already changed several personnel at lower levels after a suicide attack in the capital Tunis which killed 12 presidential guards in November. The attack was later claimed by DAESH terrorist group. Tunisia has been under a state of emergency since the attack.
Tunisia has been praised as a model for democratic transition since its 2011 revolt overthrew longtime autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The country has mostly avoided the violent turmoil of other "Arab Spring" countries which also toppled long-standing rulers. Tunisia was defined as the cradle of the “Arab Spring” uprisings.
However, an attack by DAESH on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis in March, and a gun attack on foreign tourists at a beach hotel in Sousse resort in June, prompted the government to find the best strategy to fight against terrorists and revive the country’s economy which was damaged due to attacks. Both attacks killed a total of 60 people.
Fears of further terrorist attacks frightened off foreign tourists and dealt a heavy blow to the struggling economy at a time when unemployment stood at more than 15 percent.
More than 3,000 Tunisians have traveled to Libya, Iraq and Syria to fight alongside DAESH terrorists, according to the authorities, who said that the Sousse and Bardo attackers received arms training in Libya.
The government has cracked down on terrorists in the country but has faced criticism about how security forces are protecting human rights.