According to Al-Jazeera reporting on 22 February 2023, Tunisian President Kais Saied has alleged that “undocumented immigration from Sub-Saharan African countries is aimed at changing Tunisia’s demographic composition”, with the goal of making Tunisia an African country cut loose from the Islamic and Arab world (Al-Jazeera, 22 February 2023). His remarks were followed by a wave of violence against the estimated 21,000 Sub-Saharan Africans in the country. The African Union, of whom Tunisia is a member state, condemned the ““racialized hate speech” (Al-Jazeera, 3 March 2023) and several African countries, including Ivory Coast and Guinea, have responded by repatriating their citizens from Tunisia (BBC News, 2 March 2023).
World Watch Research analyst Michael Bosch comments: “For years, Sub-Saharan Africans residing in Tunisia have faced racism and physical attacks. It seems that President Saied simply picked up on these sentiments to find an easy distraction from the current economic hardships Tunisia is facing. Ultimately, his use of ‘conspiracy theories’ regarding foreign influence is aimed at absolving himself from responsibility (France 24, 5 March 2023).”
Michael Bosch continues: “Although Sub-Saharan African Christians have not been being targeted for their faith, church meetings have been cancelled because church members were too afraid to go outside during the recent spate of violence. At the same time, the treatment of the Sub-Saharan African minority is a worrying sign for all Christians in the country, including Tunisian Christians with a Muslim background. President Saied has not targeted them yet, but he seems unpredictable and the Christian minority might well be next.”