Ghannouchi disinvited by Kuwait’s parliamentary speaker over invasion stance
TUNIS –The leader of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Movement and Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi was dealt a humbling blow late Friday, when the speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly Marzouq al-Ghanim said in a statement that the initial invitation Ghannouchi had received to visit Kuwait was only “preliminary and part of protocol” and was not to be carried out immediately.
It was a thinly-veiled form of effective disinvitation by Kuwait’s parliamentary speaker of his Tunisia counterpart over the Islamist leader’s support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq.
Ghanim, who added that there was no intent to formally activate or confirm the visit, noted that the invitation dates back to early February, with its delivery delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The initial invitation to visit the Gulf country was transmitted to Ghannouchi during a meeting with Kuwait’s Ambassador to Tunisia Ali Ahmed Al Dhafiri, on June 15 in Tunis.
Ghanim’s clarification concerning the invitation came in the wake of a campaign waged by former ministers, academics and writers who denounced Ghannouchi’s invitation due to his stance towards the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, a neighbouring Gulf country.
In his statement, Ghanim stressed that Ghannouchi’s position on “the brutal invasion” by Iraq is rejected and condemned by all Kuwaitis, pointing also to similar positions of other Tunisian political parties that supported the aggression against Kuwait.
In response to critics, Ghanim also clarified that the protocol-dictated invitation does not mean that the visit will take place any time soon as procedure requires many other steps that have not yet been initiated by the office of the Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly.
“There is no room now or in the foreseeable future to activate the procedure,” Ghanim bluntly said.
Since the news of the invitation started circulating, Kuwaiti political figures and intellectuals were quick to condemn the move, warning that Ghannouchi is “not welcome” in the country given his support for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
“Ghannouchi was one of the strongest supporters of the 1990 invasion… Given the historical background, how can he be afforded a state visit invite? He has never apologised for his stance but has rather continued on the same path and narrative,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Hajjaj Bukhdhur.
“I register my complete objection to hosting the Tunisian Parliament Speaker Rashid Ghannouchi, who had unjust and very bad positions against Kuwait during the brutal Iraqi invasion and his support for the tyrant Saddam Hussein,” Kuwaiti lawmaker Riyad Ahmed al-Adasani tweeted.
A social media campaign in Kuwait was launched against Ghannouchi’s visit, with users, including annoyed ordinary citizens, expressing their anger by publishing excerpts from a video that dates back to 1990 and shows Ghannouchi threatening countries that contributed to the liberation of Kuwait and chanting slogans in support of the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The massive social media campaign in Kuwait also condemned Ghannouchi’s support for Turkey’s intervention in Libya, with him being described as an “agent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”
“Ennahda leader is visiting the country soon at a time when he faces parliamentary scrutiny due to his bias in the Libyan conflict contrary to his country’s position,” tweeted former Information Minister Saad bin Tifleh Al-Ajmi.
Other Kuwaiti social media users also slammed Ghannouchi’s hostile stances towards Arab Gulf countries, accusing him of trading his nation’s interests “in favour of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Kuwait episode is likely to further embarrass the Tunisian Islamist leader and his party and cast additional doubt about his ability to assume the duty of parliamentary speaker considering his political past and his partisan stances on divisive issues.
He is already under fire in his country for siding last month with the Turkish-backed government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj following the capture of al-Wattiya military airbase from the Libyan National Army of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
Ghannouchi is also facing growing calls to step down over his interference in Tunisia’s foreign affairs agenda.
As a political figure who has claimed in recent years his support for democracy and peaceful transition, Ghannouchi is also facing scrutiny over his ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, with a new draft resolution submitted by the Free Destourian Party to classify the Islamist organisation as a “terrorist organisation” and a movement deemed “hostile to the civil state.”