Bourguiba, Habib

Bourguiba, Habib häˈbēb bo͝orgēˈbə [key], 1903–2000, Tunisian statesman, president of Tunisia (1957–87), b. Monastir. Early active in the Destour party, he was at first an advocate of close cooperation with France. Later, however, he became a staunch nationalist and in 1934 formed the Neo-Destour party. Because of its anti-French agitation, the party was outlawed several times and Bourguiba was often imprisoned. In 1946 he escaped to Cairo and later went to the United States to promote Tunisian nationalism. He was imprisoned again in 1949. In 1954 he was released to negotiate the agreement that led to Tunisian autonomy that year and to independence in 1956, when he was elected prime minister. In 1957 he deposed the bey and was chosen president of the republic by the constituent assembly. A passionate orator, shrewd tactician, and moderate modernizer, Bourguiba built a relatively secular and Westernized Tunisia and maintained close ties with the United States and favored negotiation with Israel. His government met with opposition from Islamic fundamentalists in the mid-1980s. Although named (1975) president for life, he was deposed by Prime Minister Ben Ali in 1987.

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