French President Emmanuel Macron and other foreign leaders attended the funeral of Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi on Friday.
Essebsi, the country’s first head of state elected in nationwide polls, died Thursday at the age of 92, triggering fears of political unrest in a country seen as a rare success story following the Arab Spring uprisings.
Thousands of mourners lined the 20-kilometre (12-mile) road from the presidential palace in Carthage, where the body was laid in state, to the Djellaz cemetery in southern Tunis where Essebsi was to be buried.
Officers in full uniform carried the coffin draped in the Tunisian flag into a ceremonial room at the Carthage palace packed with dignitaries, placing it on a dais.
Parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur, who was sworn in as interim president hours after Essebsi’s death, paid tribute to the late leader describing him as “the architect of national reconciliation”.
“He was determined to successfully achieve democratic transition,” in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Essebsi’s widow and tearful family members were flanked by Macron, Spain’s King Felipe VI, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad Al-Thani, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and other regional leaders.
Macron hailed a leader who “in these times of threatening obscurantism… was keen on keeping Tunisia enlightened, tolerant and committed to univeral values.”
Large crowds of Tunisians packed the cemetery for the final farewell to Essebsi, whose death coincided with the 62nd anniversary of the proclamation of a republic in the North African country.