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Sadok Chaabane (born 23 February 1950) is a Tunisian University Professor, holding the prestigious Agrégation degree in Public Law and Political Science. In addition to this academic position, he has held numerous ministerial and political portfolios.
He began his primary education at Al-Amal school in the year of Tunisia’s independence, 1956, then went on to secondary schooling at 15- November lycée. He obtained the baccalauréat degree at the age of 17 with the highest distinction, the President Habib Bourguiba Prize, awarded on 30 June 1967. On that occasion a family member extended the material help needed to travel to the capital to collect the award.
Despite advice to follow scientific disciplines at the University, he preferred to pursue legal studies.
He enrolled at Tunis Faculty Law (University Campus) in October 1967 and obtained his BA in Public Law in June 1971 as well as the Higher Diploma in Political Science in 1972 and the Higher Diploma in Public Law in 1973.
The Dean selected him for a teaching assistantship position in October 1972, when he was yet 22 years of age, and above all urged him particularly to prepare the Doctorat d’Etat.
On 15 December 1975, at 25, he received his Doctorat d’Etat in Public Law and Political Science. It was the first degree of its kind to have been awarded by Tunis University; and the dissertation debates were attended by the Minister of Education and many political personalities and scholars both from Tunisia and France.
He married on 10 August 1974 Dalenda Nouri, a fine arts student who comes from a wealthy business and landed family. Among her ancestry she counts the holy man Ali Nouri (1644–1706), a religious scholar who studied in Cairo and returned to Tunisia to teach and work as a weaver. He built a fleet to fight the Maltese Knights and left about ten works.
He has three children: Iskander, born on 17 April 1976, a specialist doctor of medicine, teaching at Tunis Medical School; Sirine, born on 1 January 1980, a lawyer; and Yasmine, currently studying medicine at Tunis Medical School.
He rose to the position of agrégé professor in 1980. He taught various law and political science disciplines, mainly constitutional law, political sociology, international law, administrative law, and methodology.
As the head of a research group he has, since 1976, directed and supervised theses and dissertations in the National School of Administration where he also taught up to 1986. He thus wrote contributions to many publications on Tunisian administration and municipal organization. In addition to studying law at the Tunis Faculty of Law, he enrolled from 1969 to 1971 in the National School of Administration from which he also graduated.
In 1974 he joined the bar and became active both in court litigation and arbitration, but he preferred to vacate his position as he had difficulty its demands with academic obligations.
When the League of Arab Nations moved its headquarters in 1979 in Tunis, he was called upon to revamp its bylaws and in that capacity has contributed many legal opinions on the subject.
He thus attended the many summits and meetings convened by the League of Arab Nations until the conclusion of his consultancy period in 1987. During this time he put forward many legal opinions to Special Arab Organizations. Also, it was during this period that he issued a book entitled International Organizations Law, published in 1985 by Tunis University Press.
During his boyhood he was active in the Boy scouts and its summer camps; he was also active in the Socialist Destour Party, though he never held any official position. Yet as an academic he took part in the Party’s many political training programs.
He was involved in associative life, and as a member in the Menzah branch of the Tunisia League of Human Rights, he gave numerous lectures on political and legal themes.
Moreover, he taught in many universities, namely in Syracuse (Italy), Nice, Aix en Provence and Strasbourg (France), Ben Aknoune (Algeria), and others. He also took part in numerous international symposia organized by the United Nations and the UNRWA. He attended Harvard University Summer seminar in Salzburg (Austria), and was selected to tour the USA as part of the Young African Leaders program. He never held a government post before 1987.
He admired Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali since his appointment by Bourguiba in 1986 as Minister of the Interior. He told many of his academic friends who were political scientists and economists that Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali has now become the man of the moment, and that he would in due course become the head of state, which happened one year later. When Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali became President of the Republic, he entered the political arena as an agent of change.
He took part in organizing the Party’s Salvation Congress, the first to be held after the Political Change of 1987, at the conclusion of which he became the Party’s Permanent Secretary on 2 August 1988. He was profoundly impressed by President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali during his first encounter with him, a mere few weeks after acceding to his party position, and ever since he has become a fervent admirer of the President and his ideas.
On 11 April 1989 he joined the Government for the first time, at the age of 39. He was appointed Secretary of State in charge of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Hedi Baccouche was then Prime Minister.
From then on he held several posts, in addition to his being designated by President Ben Ali to participate many sensitive missions.
On 15 September 1990 he was called up by President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali to be his Political Advisor; and on 20 February he was entrusted with the “Scientific Dossier” as Secretary of State to the Prime Minister Hamed Karoui. He remained only four months in this post, when President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali recalled him to his Cabinet to serve as his Advisor on Human Rights.
On 9 June 1992 he became Minister of Justice where he served for five years, that is, until 20 June 1997. During this period he was nominated as a member of the Democratic Constitutional Rally’s Political Bureau. Also, while serving as Minister of Justice he wrote one of his most important political works, Ben Ali and the Way to Multiparty Politics, published in 1995 by Ceres in Tunis. The book was translated into French, English and Russian.
Between 22 February and 12 November 1999 he headed the Tunisian Institute for Strategic Study by appointment of President Ben Ali, an Institute being directly connected with the Presidency of the Republic. In this post he became acutely aware of the events and phenomena often overlooked by members of the cabinet, and he also caught up with what was going on the international scene. He paid particular attention to the comparative approach and to strategic thinking. He made full use of the Internet to appraise the major challenges of the age and to ascertain the best practices.
As the head of the Tunisian Institute for Strategic Study he supervised many studies and published two more books: Hannibal Redux (1997) and The End of Geography and the Return of History (1998), which were both translated into French and English. In the latter work he disputes the ideas prevalent in the West that predict the final victory of liberalism or the end of history. He warned against one-sided triumphalism and declared the “return of history” albeit the “end of geography”, by which he meant widening globalization and the fast erasure of boundaries.
On 1 July 1999 President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali designated him to supervise his election campaign, which was a very significant experience for him.
After the presidential campaign, on 17 November 1999, President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali appointed him to one of the most important portfolios, Higher Education, under the Premiership of Mohamed Ghannouchi; on 4 September 2002, the department of Scientific Research was added to the Ministry, and the President of the Republic appointed him again to the Democratic Constitutional Rally’s Political Bureau.
On 11 November 2004 he left the Government, like many of his colleagues, and returned to the directorship of the Tunisian Institute of Strategic Study and his research. He remained in the Institute up to 22 March 2007. During this period, he undertook many important prospective studies, such as “Tunisia in 2030”, which he envisaged all over again, “Another Future for the Sahara”, and others on Tunisia’s economic incentives, the export of medical and health services, and so on.
Moreover, it was during this period that he published a new democratic theory that greatly drew the attention of political analysts, From Faith Democracy to Program Democracy (Maison Arabe du Livre, Tunis: 2005); in this work, which was translated into French and English, he argued that democracy in Islamic and Arab countries will face obstacles as long as it does not go beyond faith conflicts to reach program contests and deal with the concrete issues that citizens contend with in their lives.
He wrote another book that encapsulates his knowledge and experience of political life over 30 years; the work, which is entitled Tunisian Political System (Maison Arabe du Livre, Tunis: 2006), was translated into French.
Among the many additional responsibilities held by Professor Sadok Chaabane, one may cite organizing the Dialogue with Youth throughout the year 2008. President Ben Ali entrusted him with this mission, which brought together over 400 000 young participants in the dialogue, and over 2 million young signatories of the Charter of Tunisian Youth.
The proceedings of the dialogue may be consulted on the website: www.pactejeunesse.tn And the works and writings of Professor Sadok Chaabane, on Google research: sadok.chaabane e-books or www.uvt.rnu.tn/livres/index-eng2.htm
Sadok Chaabane is an admirer of Tunisian history. In most of his lectures he is concerned with making connections between the present and past historical events. He, in this regard, supervised the preparation of the three volumes entitled Tunisia through History, in 2007. With Professor Hassine Fantar and others he founded the Hannibal Club (1993), and endeavoured to create branches in other countries to promote friendship, such as Hannibal Club-USA, and Hannibal Club-Japan.
He was also a founding member of a number of legal and political societies; hence he is the founder and chair of Tunisian Political Science Society.
Mr Sadok Chaabane was awarded the “Highest Honor of the 7th of November” and distinguished with the “Medal of the Republic”.