Obituary: Allala Laouiti

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The Independent Online
Allala Laouiti, politician, born Monastir Tunisia 8 May 1913, married 1943 Habiba Debbabi (three sons, two daughters), died Tunis 27 February 1993.

ALLALA LAOUITI was the long-time companion and intimate friend of President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia.

Laouiti came from the same home town and social background as Bourguiba, and joined the group of young activists who in 1934 revitalised the Destour party and created what came to be known as the Neo-Destour. The radical change in the method of political and civil opposition to successive French governments' interpretations of France's role in the Protectorate over Tunisia established in the late 19th century inevitably led to repression of the new movement and its leaders; Laouiti shared with Bourguiba the frequent experience of prison, banishment to remote areas of Tunisia, and exile.

When Bourguiba finally returned to Tunisia in 1956, and became first prime minister, then president, of the new Tunisian republic, Laouiti occupied the position of private secretary and confidant to his friend. In his modest office in the presidential building in the Casbah, he received daily the visits of hundreds of men and women coming to explain their problems and ask for assistance, which was rarely denied. Laouiti acted as ombudsman, keeper of the president's purse, and private secretary. His invariable discretion, willingness to listen, and readiness to help were appreciated by all who dealt with him.

When Bourguiba ceased to be president, Laouiti continued to preside over the activities of the foundation created by Bourguiba's first wife, Sitt Mufida, for the benefit of the blind and handicapped, and thus completed a lifetime of service to his country.