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TUNISIA: President warns protesters and reshuffles Cabinet amid demonstrations

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Following political protest that swept across the nation for the last two weeks,Tunisian President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali began hurriedly shuffling his Cabinet in an apparent attempt to stave off anger over his autocratic rule and failed economic policies. 

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Ben Ali promised more jobs for university degree holders but at the same time threatened to punish those taking part in the demonstrations.

"The use of violence in the streets by a minority of extremists against the interests of their country is not acceptable," the 74-year-old president said. "The law will be applied firmly against anyone resorting to violence and disorder."

The moves are part of Ben Ali's attempts to cool down national tempers and stave off further demonstrations against rampant unemployment and poor living conditions in the North African country.

Protests first began in the city of Sidi Bouzid, 165 miles south of the capital, Tunis, after a young man committed suicide to protest unemployment.

The death triggered violent clashes between young demonstrators and police forces that resulted in the death of an 18-year-old after National Guard members opened fire on angry protesters in a nearby town two days later. 

Further marches and protests later spread to the capital and the cities of Sfax, Sousse and Meknassi.

Unemployment in Tunisia, especially among university graduates has always been a chronic liability to economic growth. Official figures state that 14% of the population are jobless.

New ministers for youth, communication, trade and religious affairs were appointed, according to Tunisia's official TAP news agency. Additionally. the leader announced an emergency program to create working opportunities.

Tunisia has been under the authoritarian rule of Ben Ali since 1987, when he orchestrated a peaceful coup to overthrow former President Habib Bourgiba.

In 2002, a constitutional referendum amended the upper age limit for Tunisian presidential candidates from 70 to 75 years old, allowing Ben Ali to be re-elected for a fifth term in office after winning near;y 90% of a 2009 presidential vote many dismissed as unfair.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: A demonstration against poor living conditions in the Tunisian capital on Dec.27. Credit: Agence France-Presse

Comments () | Archives (5)

Whats funny is that Zin El Abidin Ben Ali Reshuffle his cabinet any time troubles are on the horizon, the fact is he is the rotten element in Tunisia`s government, what people are sick of (while fighting poverty and unemployment) is seeing his son-in-law Sakhr el Materi become a tycoon with a net worth of one Billion Dollars, at the age of 30 , owning two banks, half of Tunisia media, telecommunication company and many other projects ..now either he is the smartest businessman in the history of man kind , a genius to build an empire in such troubled times or his hands goes deep in Tunisia`s treasury because he is the Boss`s boy.
Honestly, I lost faith in Tunisians, how can they watch the first lady and her family (Trabelsi family) who half of them are either wanted in many European countries (Imed Trabelsi) taking what is for Tunisians and do nothing, how can people surround them and protect them knowing that that is wrong , unethical and immoral? how can they allowed them to steal and waste millions of Dollars that can create thousands of jobs.. I don`t get it!!

I'm happy that forbes and Los Angeles Times remembered one day that there is a country called Tunisia. The smart question remain why these media do react only when there is negative news about our country. think about it !!!

key word : Patriot

@ Mr LAHCEN ACHY, do your homework before writing these irrelevant while very superficial thoughts & comments about Tunisia.

Don Signature

The west has to bear a major responsibility of supporting dictators in the Arab World and Africa for decades. Whether it is the governments of Algeria, Tunisia, Morroco, Egypt, Jordan or Saudia Arabia, these countries are defined internationally as friends of the west and have earned the label modern Arab states for basically supporting the west in general and the U.S. interest in particular on the expenses of their own population's interests. They carry out these autocratic policies by oppression, and suppression of human rights and freedom of speech and wide spread corruption.

The hypocrisy of the west of championing the causes of freedom and democracy in its rhetoric and speeches and then turn around and support dictators around the globe as long as they follow what we say, this hypocrisy might have escaped Americans (thanks to our "free" Press) but have not escaped third world countries' population ... and we still ask the question: why do they hate us!!!!

Yes the demonstrations spread to many cities across the country. However the government has suppressed any news about it. Journalists have kidnapped and beaten by police. Newspapers have been seized. Internet communications have been severed to prevent Information coming in or going out. The police has condoned off Sidi Bouzid and other towns and village. No one can go in or out. The protestors managed to post videos on the many night raids of the police squads on homes destroying doors and windows and beating everyone inside (elderly, old, young, women, and children); there is even some allegation of mass rape of women. The same police squads looted many shops. Sidi Bouzid is like a war zone. As of 12/29 10 PM PST, there were several videos related to the protests and to police brutality on YouTube, it looks like they have been removed! Across the country the protestors (student, un-employed graduates, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc…) have called for the end to corruption (with explicit references to President Ben Ali extended family and its amassing of incredible wealth), more freedom, better jobs, and even calling for the president to step down. Ben Ali has been in power for 23 consecutive years. One should also note the near absence of the 13-days protests in the western media. The French Le Monde has never run a story about it (apparently because President Sarkozy is on good terms with the ruling family in the republic of Tunisia), but the same can be said about the New York Times, the Times of London or the Guardian. Even Ms. Clinton, the champion of democracy, has been mute about it.

Your information is slightly wrong. The man from Sidi BouZid attempted suicide by lighting himself on fire, but he did not die and he's currently recovering in a hospital in the capital.


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