WASHINGTON – Africa is mourning one of its illustrious sons – President Béji Caïd Essebsi, Tunisia’s first popularly elected head of state, who died on Thursday morning in Tunis. He was 92.
Mr. Essebsi guided the country through a democratic transition after an uprising set in motion the Arab Spring of 2011.
The Tunisian government announced his passing at a military hospital in a statement without disclosing the cause of death.
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After he was admitted to the hospital last month with an unspecified illness, rumors began to spread that he had died.
Thr government described him as one of Tunisia’s “greatest men and one of those who contributed the most to building it.”
The New York Times recalled that “in a political career of more than 60 years, Mr. Essebsi was the only senior politician in Tunisia to hold political office in the new democracy as well as under the previous dictatorships of Habib Bourguiba, who became president after the country gained independence from France, and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ultimately ousted”.
Condolence messages came from far and near with many describing him as a great man whose passing was leaving a void in Africa.
Africa’s most populous country’s President Muhammadu Buhari mourned President Beji Caid Essebsi.
President Buhari noted that the passing of Essebsi, who was the first democratically elected leader of the North African country, will create a vacuum in the polity.
He urged citizens to find encouragement and solace in the legacies of President Essebsi.
President Buhari said: “His death marks the end of an era in the politics of Tunisia. The country has lost a father figure.
“The Nigerian government and people extend heartfelt condolences to his family, and the government and people of Tunisia.”