News ID: 279546
Published: 0245 GMT January 17, 2021

Protests erupt in Tunisian cities amid anger over poor economy

Protests erupt in Tunisian cities amid anger over poor economy

Violent protests broke out in several Tunisian cities, including the capital Tunis and the coastal city of Sousse, as anger mounts over economic hardship.

The demonstrations on Saturday night come as Tunisia marks the tenth anniversary of the revolution that toppled late president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, reported.

Demonstrations in Siliana and other cities began on Friday after a video posted on social media showed a police officer shouting and pushing a shepherd whose sheep entered the local government headquarters.

Dozens of protesters built barricades and set fire to objects to block the streets of the city, 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Tunis.

The protests pose a challenge for the government of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, who earlier reshuffled the cabinet with new ministers including the ministries of interior, justice and energy.

Witnesses in Sousse said security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of angry protesters who were blocking roads and burning tires.

Security sources said young men in Sousse broke into shops. Clashes took place in the city of Kalaa Kebira near Sousse.

A decade after the revolution against widespread unemployment, poverty, corruption and injustice, Tunisia made smooth progress toward democracy, but its economic situation worsened with poor public services and the country on the verge of bankruptcy.

Violent protests also took place in several parts of the capital, including Ettadamen, Mallassin and Fouchana and Sijoumi. There were also night protests and riots in Kef and Bizerte.


Muted anniversary


No festive celebrations were held marking the revolution in Tunisia.

The North African nation’s government imposed a four-day lockdown starting on Thursday to contain the coronavirus, banning demonstrations expected for that day.

Some citizens questioned the timing of the four-day lockdown.

The revolution was unwittingly sparked by a desperate act of a 26-year-old fruit seller, Mohammed Bouazizi, who set himself ablaze on December 17, 2010 to protest police humiliation in Sidi Bouzid, a town in Tunisia’s neglected interior of the nation.

Bouazizi’s death unleashed simmering discontent and mass demonstrations against poverty, joblessness and repression.

The Tunisian prime minister has announced a major cabinet reshuffle after high-profile dismissals amid rising political tensions and an unprecedented economic crisis in the North African country.

On Saturday, Mechichi named on 12 new ministers as part of a cabinet reshuffle aimed at injecting new blood into his government to tackle crises in the country, according to Press TV.

"The aim of this reshuffle is to achieve greater efficiency in the work of the government," Mechichi said at a press conference in the capital Tunis, adding, “The next stage is full of challenges, including the necessary reforms for the economy, which require increased efficiency and harmony.”

The announcement came after Mechichi met with President Kais Saied, who insisted the "integrity" of proposed ministers should "raise no doubt", according to a statement from the presidency.

"There is no place in the government for people who are subject to legal proceedings," or to "doubts about their background or their behavior that could undermine the state and the credibility of its institutions and the legitimacy of its decisions," Saied said.

One of the officials to be replaced is former Environment Minister Mustapha Aroui, who was dismissed and apprehended in December in a scandal over hundreds of containers of household waste shipped from Italy.

Mechichi named Walid Dhabi as the new interior minister after he sacked Taoufik Charfeddine, who is close to the Tunisian president.

Hedi Khairi was appointed by Mechichi as health minister following criticism over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The reshuffle also impacted the ministries of justice, industry, energy and agriculture.

The new government lineup, which does not include any women, must be approved by parliament.

Saied and Mechichi are at odds over their respective powers and political alliances, jeopardizing the stability required to push through much-needed reforms.



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