New protests fight Tunisian regime

A new wave of protests erupted in Tunisia in early February, following the revolution that brought down Ben Ali on January 14. Despite the downfall of the brutal 23-year dictatorship, the old ruling elite is trying to hang onto power.

Initially members of Ben Ali’s party, the RCD, were given key posts in the new cabinet. But under pressure from the revolutionary movement, they were all forced to resign—all except Ben Ali’s former right-hand man, Mohamed Ghannouchi, who remains the interim prime minister.

The interim President Fouad Al-Mebazaa, was also a leading figure inside the RCD and parliamentary speaker in Ben Ali’s parliament. He was granted emergency, dictatorial powers in early February in an effort to end the demonstrations and restore order.

The renewed demonstrations were sparked by police violence and the appointment as regional governors of a number of Ben Ali loyalists.

In the southern town of Kebili, protesters set fire to one national guard post before marching on the governor’s residence opposing his appointment.

Newly appointed governor Muhammad Gouider was forced to flee the mining area of Gafsa in a military vehicle, as protesters demanded his resignation.

There have also been clashes with the hated police forces of the old regime. More than 1000 people seized documents and burned down a police station in the north western city of Kef, accusing the local police chief of abuse of power. He had earlier slapped a woman who had come to make a complaint.

In response the interior minister has suspended all activities of the RCD and announced the closure of its offices, in a move made for what the government is calling “security reasons”—to appease the demands against old RCD officials.

An agreement on the appointment of regional governors was also struck on February 8 with the UGTT union confederation, which played a key role in the revolution that toppled the dictator.

But as one trade unionist, Abdelaziz Bouazi, told The Guardian, “The regime’s head has been cut off but the beast is still breathing. For now, the demonstrations will continue.”
By James Supple


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