CARTHAGE, Tunisia (Reuters) – Tunisians bid farewell to their first democratically elected president Beji Caid Essebsi at a state funeral on Saturday attended by foreign leaders including French President Emanuel Macron and Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Essebsi, who helped guide the North African country’s transition to democracy after the 2011 revolution, died aged 92 on Thursday.
Tens of thousands of Tunisians lined up the streets of Tunis waving flags, chanting the national anthem and throwing roses at the funeral procession as it made its way from the presidential palace in Carthage to the Al Jallaz cemetery where Essebsi was buried.
“Goodbye president, goodbye Bajbouj,” they shouted, referring to Essebsi’s nickname.
The Tunisian red and white flag covered the late president’s coffin, which was placed on a military truck. A flypast by the military made white and red smoke in the air.
Other dignitaries at the funeral included Algerian President Abdelkader Ben Saleh, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and King Felipe VI of Spain.
Hours after Essebsi’s death, parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur was sworn in as interim president in line with the constitution. The electoral commission announced a presidential election for Sept. 15, two months earlier than scheduled.
“He spent his life in the service of Tunisia, preserving its gains and defending its values,” Ennaceur said in his speech.