The Sidi Bouzid revolution: Ben Ali flees as protests spread in Tunisia

The Sidi Bouzid revolution: Ben Ali flees as protests spread in Tunisia

Friday 14 January 2011 -- After a dramatic 24 hours when Tunisia's dictator president Ben Ali first tried promising liberalisation and an end to police shootings of demonstrators and then, this evening at 16:00, declaring martial law, he has finally fallen from office. While the rumours are still swirling, one thing is clear, Ben Ali has left Tunisia and the army has stepped in. The comments after this article contain continuous updates of the uprising.

The day began with a mass demonstration called by Tunisia's trade union federation, the UGTT, in the capital Tunis. Between 10 and 15,000 people demonstrated outside the Ministry of the Interior. The initially peaceful scene broke down at around 14:30 local time as police moved in with tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd, some of whom had managed to scale the Ministry building and get on its roof. From then on, the city centre descended into chaos with running battles between the riot police and Tunisians of all ages and backgrounds fighting for the overthrow of the hated despot.

Finally, armoured cars from the army appeared on the street and a state of emergency and curfew was declared with Ben Ali threatening the populace that the security forces had carte blanche to open fire on any gatherings of more than three people. Soon, however, he disappeared from view and the rumours began to circulate. The army seized control of the airport and there were reports of convoys of limousines racing to the airport from the Ben Ali families palace. Finally the official announcement came. Ben Ali is gone. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi appeared on state TV to announce that he was in charge of a caretaker government backed by the army.

Tonight the long-suffering people of Tunisia may rejoice that their last four weeks of heroic resistance has finally seen off the dictator who ran the most vicious police state in North Africa over them for the last 23 years.

But tomorrow morning will find the army in charge. What will happen tomorrow and the days to follow is anybody's guess. But the people now know that they have the power to overthrow a long-entrenched dictatorship, how much easier to take on a new unstable regime.

Report by Workers Solidarity Movement

Posted By

Jan 12 2011 00:41


Attached files


Jan 25 2011 00:52

The view from the International Marxist Tendency. This is part of a longer article. Again I'm not entirely sure how to judge the accuracy of their assessment of the situation.

“We are here to overthrow the government”

On Friday, there was a further meeting of the Central Committee of the UGTT. There is a clear split within the trade union body between those who were loyal to Ben Ali until the last minute but who have been forced into opposition by the mass movement and a growing number of union federations (including postal workers and teachers) and regional union bodies which are further to the left and playing an important role in the movement. It was a meeting of the CC last week, which forced the Executive Bureau to go back on its decision of joining Gannouchi’s government of “national unity”. There were rumours that the Executive was moving again in the direction of rejoining the government, but they were soundly defeated at the CC meeting on Friday.

The union issued a statement calling “for the dissolution of the government and the setting up of a national coalition government which responds to the demands of the demonstrators, the political parties, the NGOs and the population as a whole.” The statement further declared that the UGTT is “committed to continuing the legitimate struggle be that through strikes or peaceful demonstrations until the recomposition of the government according to the conditions set by the UGTT”. In reality, the UGTT national leadership is trailing behind events, as the regional bodies of the union are already calling regional general strikes and demanding that talk be followed up with action.

The way to bring down the government would be to call a national general strike and paralyse the country’s economy. In Jendouba for instance, the regional UGTT has called for a regional general strike on Wednesday 26. The teachers’ union has called for a national indefinite strike “until the fall of the government” starting today, Monday 24, which is the day schools and universities are resuming activities. According to Nabil Haouachi, from the national leadership of the primary school teachers’ union, the strike is already “an unprecedented success”. He confirmed a very high participation throughout the country with “rates of 100% participation in the strike in Médenine (South East), Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine (Centre West), Béja, Jendouba (North West) and Kairouan (Centre)… and 90% in Zaghouan (near Tunis) where there is no trade union tradition and also a very solid strike in Tunis.”

The national executive of the UGTT, as a matter of fact, is more concerned about establishing a “restoration of normality” than actually bringing down the farcical government of national unity. In a separate statement the union’s general secretary calls "upon all workers to respond to all attempts to stop the activity of our economic order and to maintain the normal mode of activity and vigilance to ensure the smooth running and management of the companies, and renews the call upon all progressive and democratic forces to maintain what has been achieved by the uprising of our people, to avert all risks to circumvent them and their objectives."

Reports coming in at the end of last week referred to the resumption of production at the country’s main industrial centres by Friday, meaning that they had been paralyzed, either by strike action or the general chaos caused by the revolutionary events, for nearly a week.

As we reported on Friday, workers in state owned companies and in others that have been privatized have been taking all sorts of direct action (strikes, occupations, sit-ins, petitions) to demand their rights and particularly to remove the most corrupt managers and those with links to the Ben Ali Trabelsi clan.

As well as the examples we already reported (STAR insurance, National Agricultural Bank, Tunisie Telecom, national tax office, etc), there were also strike movements and occupations at the National Water Company where workers occupied the company’s buildings demanding the removal of managers and directors linked to old regime. In Béja, workers and doctors at the local hospital demonstrated demanding the removal of RCD symbols from the premises. Also in the Béja region there were reports of peasants occupying land which they said had been confiscated from them by Ben Ali’s nephew.

Air stewards of Tunisair marched to the central headquarters of the company in the Charguia industrial area, demanding the removal of the company’s CEOs but also the regularization of their contracts. Civil Aviation Office workers also demanded the removal of their director whom they said had been involved in handing over public property and airport concessions to Ben Ali’s relatives. In Monastir, airport workers have announced the occupation of the installations today (Monday 24). Political demands against corruption, for the removal of managers, etc, have been become united with social demands, for better wages and conditions, etc.

The movement is not only affecting traditional sectors of the working class, but also “liberal” professionals, middle ranking layers, etc. In Tunis, scientists and other personnel at the City of Sciences also decided to occupy the installations until the director is removed. Thousands of culture workers (artists, theatre workers, cinema technicians, writers, etc) gathered on Saturday night outside the National Theatre to demand the resignation of the government and pay tribute to the martyrs of the revolution.

Meanwhile, in Siliana, where the revolutionary people have created local and regional councils and decided to take power, a mass demonstration on Saturday marched on the regional governor’s office. The governor had to be whisked away under the protection of the Army and the masses proceeded to occupy the governorate building. With their actions they proved that their statements were serious and that they meant business. Siliana is now under the control of the revolutionary people. We recommend all our readers watch the video footage of this glorious episode of the Tunisian revolution.

After a week of regional strikes and mass demonstrations against the government, a growing feeling of anger and frustration was developing among sections of the movement. They could feel that Gannouchi’s government was stealing the revolution from the workers and youth and that something was needed to put an end to it.

The initiative came from the revolutionary youth in Sidi Bouzid, which quickly spread throughout the country. They have organised a “Liberation Caravan” that has marched on the capital with the aim of “overthrowing the government”. At first the march was supposed to walk all the way to Tunis, but the youth got impatient and they decided to drive, in order to get there faster. By Sunday afternoon, some 1000 youth from Sidi Bouzid, Regueb and other towns and cities from the interior had arrived in the capital and camped in the yard outside the Kasbah, the site of the Prime Minister’s office. “The Kasbah is the Bastille of Tunis, and we will bring it down like the French sans-culottes destroyed the Bastille in 1789,” said one of the demonstrators. Another added: “We have overthrown Ben Ali, but we have not yet overthrown his system.”

The sit-in was in clear violation of the curfew imposed by the government, but there was not much the police or the army could do at that point (see video). There were reports of similar caravans coming from other towns and cities in the country, but also of movements by the Army to stop them, even leading to clashes. On Sunday evening, protestors from Borj Cedra and Soliman, South of Tunis were blocked by the Army when they were on their way to the capital, but it seems that after some wrangling they were allowed through. On the same day, the army attempted to stop three buses and a number of cars leaving the mining city of Gafsa for the capital. After the youth threatened to go back to Gafsa and declare a general strike, the army allowed them through. A similar situation developed in Kasserine, when the army also blocked the caravan leaving for the capital and even fired warning shots against the crowd. After some struggle the youth fought their way through.

Early this morning (Monday 24), there were clashes between the police and the protestors outside the Prime Minister’s building. The army and the police had cordoned off the Kasbah. According to some reports, the Army put itself between the protestors and the police and broke up the skirmishes with warning shots in the air.

We can see in these skirmishes how the government is already testing the ground, trying to reassert its authority and seeing how strong the movement is and how much they can use the forces of repression against it. So far, all the reports of mostly minor clashes between the Army and the police and the revolutionary people have ended up with the masses imposing their will.

It is crucial that the revolutionary committees, which have already sprung up in the neighbourhoods, cities and regions, should establish close links with the rank and file soldiers, encourage them to set up their own committees for revolutionary vigilance. The same should be done with police officers setting up trade unions.

This situation of dual power between the government and the streets cannot last indefinitely. What is lacking is a clear leadership of the movement. A nationwide general strike, the coordination of the revolutionary committees and the formation of soldiers’ committees could very rapidly lead to the overthrow of the government of Gannouchi and its replacement by a genuine revolutionary government to convene a constituent assembly. It is not ruled out that the UGTT, under enormous pressure from below, might be forced to call such a general strike.

Mass demonstrations have taken place again today, Monday, in most cities. In Regueb and Sidi Bouzid it was a women’s march this time, while in the mining city of Gafsa, students and teachers marched together against the government. A massive demonstration took place in Kef as well...

Jan 25 2011 01:43

From ... suggestions that Al Jazeera and Qatar are backing Rashid al-Ghanouchi, leader of the Islamist An Nahda party?

Andrew Hammond in Tunisia

Andrew Hammond, the seasoned and Arabic speaking correspondent of Reuters, sent me this from Tunisia (I cite with his permission):
I've been in Tunisia for last week and interesting developments in media. State TV swiftly became pro-uprising when Ben Ali left and most state media outlets remains led by a control network that was led by Abdelwahhab Abdallah, Ben Ali's Goebbels. Abdallah has disappeared and is being sought by police and his home in Marsa, affluent Tunis suburb, has been vandalised. But these heads are now crouching in their offices and the staff have taken over the editorial line. In case of Assabah newspaper it is now without an owner, since Sakher al-Materi, Ben Ali's son in law, fled. With state TV, although they have discussion shows with rights activists and politicians who never were seen on TV before, there is a general attempt one senses, through montages and description of "people's revolution of freedom and dignity", to say hey, the revolution happened, thanks, now let's all go home. ie it's a conservative aim to "ride the wave" - like governments did when there were massive protests in favour of Intifada in 2000 - in order to lead the popular ferment to a safe shore where many of the second tier of old regime like Ghanouchi and others survive, and, potentially, it ends up being no more than a palace coup. Generally, it's so exciting to see people absolutely aware of their rights in a way that the regime in its arrogance and its cheap moves like blocking internet and controlling media thought would not happen. They got a shock.

And added:  

Also, after I sent that to you: they stopped Hannibal channel and put out official statement accusing owner of high treason, such strange language reminiscent of former regime. And then a few hours later it was back on air and opposition member of cabinet Najib Chabbi came on channel to say he had intervened personally with interim PM Ghannouchi and was sorry. Seems a bit of a struggle going on within ruling circles. Word is too: An-Nahda's ppl inc Rashid al-Ghanouchi are in Qatar at al Jazeera's invite and meeting Emir who v much involved. They plan a Ghanouchi return within a week and there is talk of pulling old Destour opponents of Bourguiba like Ahmed Mestiri to head a transitional council to draft new constitution before elections (not after, like the current plan), while parliament is officially suspended and this interim govt is either sacked or headed by Mestiri.

Jan 25 2011 12:39

From the Moor Next Door blog, in response to the last blog entry by the Arabist...

A new role for the Tunisian army?

This is a point of risk that deserves serious attention. The public perception of the army as a mediating force and one with both moral credibility and revolutionary legitimacy is potentially destabilizing. As Issandr writes (and this blog has written previously) the current government’s lack of legitimacy and charisma create an opportunity (or temptation) for the armed forces to enter politics in a way that could lead to continued authoritarianism (as it has in virtually every other Arab polity where the military is politicized). In times of crisis people often rally around what are seen as defensive and stabilizing forces such as military and religious figures. Because Gen. Ammar played such a key role in managing the fallout of the uprising it is understandable that some Tunisians would look to him as a solution to the current political crisis, an outsider that could help clean out regime rot. Whatever Ammar’s ambitions are politically the claim that the army will “protect the revolution” is significant: it could be an attempt to reassure a public afraid that conservative forces will co-opt their movement by reiterating the army’s role and it could be an active attempt to feed on Ammar’s newfound popularity with an eye toward a more (or increasingly) active political role. In the process, Ammar is linking the army and himself to a political current, staking out a role for the army that did not exist before. Once the military begins to participate in politics it will difficult to stop; the Algerians, Libyans, Egyptians and Syrians have all learned this with some regret. If Tunisia’s experiment proves durable it may be due to the “protection” of an army that was able to leverage popular demand with its own power to intimidate members of the old regime into accepting political outcomes in this interim period. At the same time Gen. Ammar’s statement might foreshadow a less fortunate path for Tunisia’s transition into the unknown. The general remains relative obscure and more research will perhaps shed some light on his overall disposition. Issandr’s future dispatches will help fill the gaps. More thoughts on this to come.
Jan 25 2011 12:55

From the Tunisia Scenario blog

Mass strike/more vacation

Tuesday January 25

There have been peaceful protest Marches on my street the last few days. This, like the amplified Mosque sermon on friday, would have been impossible a month ago.

The protests are part of a campaign, organized by the main labor union to completely purge the current government of all regime creatures (members of Ben Ali's RCD party).

The main part of the protest is a nation-wide mass strike. It doesn't affect cafes (of course) but everyone else, (including me) is getting a revolutionary vacation.

There is going to be an anti-RCD protest today, since they have been peaceful in Sousse I might go.

Jan 25 2011 15:22

UGTT in Sfax, Tunisia's second largest city calls for a general strike tomorrow: for the dissolution of the RCD and the resignation of the government:

La section régionale de l'Union générale des travailleurs tunisiens (UGTT) de Sfax, deuxième ville du pays, a appelé mardi à une "grève générale" mercred pour la dissolution du gouvernement de transition dominé par des caciques de l'ancien régime de Ben Ali.

"L'Union régionale appelle à une grève générale dans la province de Sfax mercredi 26 janvier pour soutenir les revendications du peuple, qui demande la démission du gouvernement et la dissolution du Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique" (RCD, ex parti au pouvoir), selon un communiqué.

Tous les adhérents sont appelés à se rassembler mercredi matin devant le siège de la section de Sfax de l'Union générale des travailleurs tunisiens (UGTT) pour participer à une manifestation.

L'union de Sfax, importante métropole économique et bastion historique du syndicalisme tunisien, a toutefois demandé d'assurer un "service minimum" dans les secteurs essentiels pour la vie de la population (eau, électricité, hôpitaux...).

L'UGTT, la puissante centrale syndicale tunisienne, a joué un rôle important dans l'organisation des manifestations de la "révolution du jasmin" qui ont abouti à la chute du régime autoritaire du président Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, qui a fui le 14 janvier en Arabie saoudite.

Elle pèse aujourd'hui fortement dans le mouvement de protestation qui réclame le départ des membres de l'équipe de Ben Ali qui occupent tous les postes clés du gouvernement de transition formé par la chute de l'ancien président le 14 janvier.

Les instituteurs du primaire observent mardi une deuxième journée de "grève illimitée" tandis que le syndicat national de l'enseignement secondaire a appelé à une journée de grève jeudi et à participer aux manifestations pour "la dissolution du gouvernement qui a été imposé" aux Tunisiens.

Jan 25 2011 16:50

Tunisie: les pro-gouvernement dispersés

Tunisie: les pro-gouvernement dispersés

25/01/2011 | Mise à jour : 17:28 Réagir
Plusieurs centaines de jeunes opposants ont dispersé aujourd'hui dans le centre de Tunis une manifestation de soutien au gouvernement d'union nationale, lors du premier face à face musclé entre partisans et adversaires du cabinet de transition.

"Dégagez, vermines", ont scandé des centaines de jeunes sur l'avenue Habib Bourguiba, artère centrale de Tunis, à l'adresse du premier cortège de soutien au gouvernement de transition formé le 17 janvier. Les manifestants pro-gouvernementaux, qui remontaient l'avenue, se sont heurtés à des centaines de jeunes, parmi lesquels des supporters ultra de football, arrivant en sens inverse et les repoussant brutalement vers les rues latérales. Les opposants ont arraché à leurs adversaires banderoles et pancartes affichant leur soutien au gouvernement, sans que les policiers présents à proximité n'interviennent.

La rue tunisienne demande chaque jour la démission du gouvernement d'union nationale, dominé par des caciques de l'ancien régime du président Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, renversé le 14 janvier par la "révolution du jasmin".

Tunisia: Pro-government rally dispersed
25/01/2011 | Updated: 17:28

Several hundred young oppositionists have now scattered in the center of Tunis a demonstration in support of a national unity government, when the first physical confrontation between supporters and opponents of the current transition cabinet.

"Clear out, vermin, " chanted hundreds of young people on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tunis central artery, directed at the first parade to support the transitional government formed on January 17. The pro-government demonstrators, who ascended the avenue, ran into hundreds of young supporters including football ultras, coming the other way and were brutally pushed back towards the side streets. Oppositionists have torn from their grasp their adversaries' banners and placards supporting the government, without the police present nearby intervening.

The Tunisian Street daily demands the resignation of the national unity government, dominated by caciques of the former regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ousted Jan. 14 by the "jasmine revolution".

Jan 25 2011 17:26

edit: removed, duplication of info on Egypt 25 Jan thread.

Jan 25 2011 17:25

edit: removed to Egypt 25 Jan thread

Jan 25 2011 17:59

The Register have finally got the scoop on the details of that country-wide Facebook, Gmail etc password hack that we were hearing about a few weeks before the 14th.

It's got a high geek content, but I would suggest it should be of interest to anybody who uses FB, Gmail, Yahoo, etc. just as a cautionary tale.

Tunisia plants country-wide keystroke logger on Facebook

Also on Monday, The Atlantic reported that members of Facebook's security team first became aware of the mass credential slurp in the days immediately following Christmas, when they began receiving similar reports of mass deletions of Tunisian dissidents' pages.

“After more than ten days of intensive investigation and study, Facebook's security team realized something very, very bad was going on,” The Atlantic article stated. “The country's internet service providers were running a malicious piece of code that was recording users' login information when they went to sites like Facebook. By January 5, it was clear that an entire country's worth of passwords were in the process of being stolen right in the midst of the greatest political upheaval in two decades.”

Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan reportedly responded by programming his site to automatically establish an encrypted, HTTPS connection with anyone trying to view the site from inside Tunisia's borders.

“It wasn't a totally perfect solution,” The Altantic noted. “Most specifically, ISPs can force a downgrade of https to http, but Sullivan said that Facebook had not seen that happen.”

Facebook's response is problematic for another, more basic reason: Tunisia's government, with its control of The National Digital Certification Agency, already has the authority to generate valid SSL certificates. That gives it the ability to create HTTPS addresses for Facebook or any other website that it wants to impersonate.

Still, it's nice to see Facebook offering Tunisians a more reliable way to connect over encrypted channels. If only the site would only offer the rest of the world the same basic ammenity.

Jan 25 2011 20:56
Jan 25 2011 22:45

Slideshows: 14 January ----- 22 January

Jan 26 2011 11:38

I'm going to dispense with including the original French version of these stories, as people can always check out the original via the links, and it's just taking up space for people who only read english.

TF1: Tunisie : les ministres de l'ère Ben Ali écartés lors du remaniement ?

January 26, 2011 at 12:08

The reshuffle of the national unity government [announced Monday] should be declared in the day. A general strike is underway in Sfax, the second largest city, to demand the resignation of Ministers of the Ben Ali era.

It was expected Tuesday. Finally, it is delayed one day. The redesign of the criticized Tunisian transitional government will be announced on Wednesday, said Tuesday the government's spokesman, Tayeb Baccouch, quoted by the Tunisian agency TAP. Another announcement by the government spokesman, also Minister of Education, allowances will be paid to long-term unemployed graduates in Tunisia.

Both announcements will they permit the reduction of the tension that has continued to mount these days? Not sure. This morning, the UGTT, the largest union which played an important role in the revolution, has launched a general strike in Sfax, the second largest city, still in pursuit of the resignation of ministers of the RCD, the former party Ben Ali. According to the union centre, the strike call is well followed.

Enhanced security in Tunis

Above all, the situation seems to be becoming more radicalised in the capital. Security has been stepped up at the residence of the Prime Minister, in front of which the demonstrators have stayed overnight [for the second night] despite the curfew.

Tuesday, several hundred young oppositionist have scattered, in the center of Tunis, a demonstration in support of the national unity government, during the first muscular face to face between supporters and opponents of the transition cabinet. In the evening, the Tunisian army also fired Tuesday into the air to disperse hundreds of demonstrators in Gafsa in the centre of the country, where a young man set himself on fire at the regional headquarters of the union, are reporting witnesses. It seems that he, the first time that the army intervenes in protests since the overthrow, January 14, President Zine El Ebedine Ben Ali.

On the Gafsa thing, the union are saying:

le Monde: Tunisie : sécurité renforcée avant l'annonce d'un remaniement

The union centre of the UGTT accused nostalgics of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of attacking its facilities. "militiamen and criminal gangs linked to the old regime attacked on Tuesday, the regional headquarters of Gafsa, Kasserine, Beja, Monastir and Mehdia" said Iffa Nasr, spokesman of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT). He said the attackers were armed with clubs, stones, knives and chains. "They ransacked the premises and injured unionists in Gafsa, " he said. "On Tuesday, gunmen tried to attack the regional headquarters of Gafsa UGTT, but the army intervened to protect the building, it has emerged, firing into the air, "said Ben Ammar Amroussia. "The gangs made up of businessmen associated with the former regime and the senior Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD, a former ruling party) attacked the union within the union regional headquarters, " said the unionist

No mention of anyone setting themselves on fire. NB it's hard to know exactly what the state of the internal wranglings are within the UGTT at the moment, but in the past the word of the leadership of the union centre may not have been trustworthy on events in Gafsa, considering that the indications are that they may have played a role supportive to the Ben Ali regime in suppressing the 2008 uprising there, expelling local union militants and making no protest over their subsequent imprisonment. Nb those militants have now released and, under point 12 of the UGTT declaration of Jan 18, all previously expelled union sections and militants have had their explusion revoked:

12 - Decide to give an amnesty to the trade unionists whose activity was suspended in all sectors and regions.

from UGTT - National Administration Commission Statement, Jan 18

Jan 26 2011 11:42

Clashes this morning

BBC: Tunisia protests: Clashes near government compound

Tunisian police have clashed with protesters during an anti-government rally near the main government compound, witnesses say.

Some of the protesters had apparently tried to breach barricades, and riot police responded by firing tear gas.

Many of the protesters have been camping out near the prime minister's offices demanding all politicians with links to the old regime step down
Witnesses said hundreds of protesters - mainly young men and teenagers - gathered and chanted "down with the government" at Wednesday's rally.

Many of them began throwing stones at police during the rally, and the police then tried to disperse them with tear gas.

Jan 26 2011 12:06

La lucha de clases

machine translation

Tras una semana de unanimidad festiva y libertaria, una linea de clase comienza a dividir la sociedad tunecina. Se trata de una división territorial - que comienza a separar la avenida Bourguiba de la Qasba - y es también una división cibernética, en la que los mismos que utilizaban facebook para atizar la revolución hoy llaman a la calma y al restablecimiento del orden contra el proletariado insurgente. Se percibe una contracción inquietante. Hamida Ben Romdhane, director de La Press, que el día 13 elogiaba sumisamente las últimas medidas de Ben Alí, el día 20 exhibía en portada las presuntas joyas confiscadas a la familia Trabelsi y ensalzaba la revolución del digno pueblo tunecino. Hoy, día 25, La Press recula de nuevo y en distintos artículos condena las huelgas sectoriales convocadas por la UGTT y se pregunta si no se está yendo demasiado lejos. Al mismo tiempo llegan noticias de asaltos a los locales del sindicato en Gafsa, en el Kef y en Mahdia. En los teléfonos móviles se reciben mensajes invitando a apoyar a Mohamed Ghanoushi y a oponerse a las protestas. Y una primera manifestación progubernamental, portando consignas contra las huelgas y a favor de un proceso tutelado, se enfrenta en la avenida Bourguiba, a las 5 de la tarde, con un nutrido grupo que reclama la disolución del gobierno provisional. El inesperado discurso de ayer en la Qasba de Rachid Ammar, el héroe militar que se negó a aceptar las órdenes del dictador y al que se vincula con los EEUU, da toda la medida de una rápida involución que se refleja en ese espacio de libertad abierto o consentido por el gabinete en funciones. Se vuelve a hablar de censura, de opacidad, de discreto control sobre jóvenes y opositores.

El conflicto es palmariamente ya un conflicto de clases…

Jan 26 2011 13:04

Tunisia protests turn violent (Al Jazeera)

Demonstrators have clashed with Tunisian police as peaceful protests demanding those loyal to the ousted government quit turned violent.

It was not clear how the clashes near the government offices in the capital, Tunis, began on Wednesday, but the Reuters news agency said that witnesses saw riot police use tear gas on hundreds of demonstrators, mainly teenagers and young men who threw stones.


Nazanine Moshiri Al Jazeera's reported in Tunis, said on Wednesday hundreds of protesters, who appear to be from rural regions, have been camping out at the government compound to make their voices heard.

"They want all members of the former ruling party out of the coalition government," she said.

"Rocks were thrown at the police, tear gas and water cannons were used against protesters. There have been numerous injuries. It is calm right now but tension is growing [among people from these areas].

"They say they are not going anywhere till the coalition government resigns. They do not want any members of Ben Ali's regime still in government," she said...

Jan 26 2011 17:02

En Tunisie, c’est de plus en plus la rue qui décide. Et celle-ci refuse les replâtrages du régime Ben Ali. De partout monte l’exigence d’un démantèlement pur et simple du système précédent et de son parti-État. Bravant le couvre-feu, des manifestants sont venus de tout le pays pour camper sous les fenêtres d’un gouvernement dont ils exigent la démission.
Nous laissons la parole à des Tunisiens engagés dans cette révolution.
Déclaration constitutive d’un Conseil local et d’un Conseil régional pour protéger la révolution et gérer les affaires (extraits)
Siliana, le 16/01/2011

[...] Nous appelons à continuer la lutte et la mobilisation pour s’opposer aux manœuvres qui visent la récupération de notre intifadha et l’instrumentalisation du sang de nos martyrs.
Nous rejetons l’installation de Mebazaa (président du Parlement) et la décision de confier à Ghannouchi (ancien Premier ministre de Ben Ali) la mission de la formation d’un gouvernement provisoire se basant sur une Constitution illégale et un Parlement non représentatif.
Nous considérons toute unité avec les assassins et les corrompus, un coup scandaleux contre la révolution et une tentative misérable que notre peuple va abattre. Nous appelons également les forces vives à prendre la place qui est la leur, au sein des masses et à assumer leurs responsabilités historiques, politiques, et morales.

Et, suite au vide administratif dans la wilaya* de Siliana, en raison de la fuite de la plupart des fonctionnaires régionaux et locaux corrompus, affiliés au parti RCD, face aux demandes populaires à rendre des comptes judiciaires,
Nous déclarons une élection publique :
- d’ un conseil local pour la protection de la révolution et la gestion des affaires (de la ville)*,
- d’un conseil régional pour la protection de la révolution et la gestion des affaires (de la wilaya).
Pour la gestion des affaires de la ville et de la wilaya dans le cadre local et régional et la coordination sur le plan national jusqu’à la rédaction d’une nouvelle Constitution garantissant les droits de toutes les sensibilités nationales et l’élection d’un nouveau Parlement représentatif et populaire.
La détermination des tâches et des plans sera confiée aux membres des conseils élus en consultation avec la base.
Vive les luttes de notre peuple sur le chemin de la liberté et de la dignité !

*ajouté par le traducteur, Mohamed Amami
Déclaration constitutive du conseil local provisoire pour gérer les affaires de la ville de Sidi Bou Ali

Suite à la décision de confier à Mohamed Ghannouchi, la mission de former un nouveau gouvernement chargé d’organiser les nouvelles élections présidentielles dans le pays ;
Après le vide administratif et de gestion dans les villes de Sidi Bou Ali, wilaya de Sousse ;
Nous, citoyens de la ville de Sidi Bou Ali rassemblés à la « Place du Peuple » en ville déclarons :
- nous rejetons cette décision qui se base sur une Constitution antidémocratique et impopulaire, et qui ne garantit pas les droits de toutes les sensibilités nationales dans le pays ;
- nous refusons la domination du parti au pouvoir et à sa continuation à contrôler la vie politique dans le pays, à travers ses symboles et ses valets dans le gouvernement;
- nous élisons, d’une façon publique, un Conseil local temporaire pour qu’il gère les affaires de la cité et pour travailler dans le cadre de la coordination régionale et nationale pour retrouver le fonctionnement normal de la vie civile, économique, culturelle et politique dans le pays jusqu’à ce qu’une nouvelle Constitution d’une société démocratique et populaire ouvre la voie à des élections pour assurer la dévolution pacifique du pouvoir et sans aucun monopole. Et veille à ce qu’il représente l’ensemble des parties nationales.
Les fonctions de ce Conseil sont :
- La formation de comités de sécurité pour protéger les quartiers,
- Aider à reprendre la vie économique quotidienne et à assurer les nécessités de la vie quotidienne des citoyens,
- Assurer la réouverture des institutions civiles (banques, hôpitaux, municipalités, écoles, instituts, ...)
- Assurer la propreté de la ville,
- Coordonner avec les conseils locaux et régionaux formés,
- Communiquer et assurer la liaison avec l’armée nationale tant qu’elle est la seule institution qui veille, aujourd’hui, sur le pays.

Nous décidons de nous répartir sur les comités suivants :
- Comité de la propagande et des médias ;
- Comité de la communication avec l’Armée nationale ;
- Comité de la protection des quartiers ;
- Comité de la propreté de la ville ;
- Comité de la logistique ;
- Comité de sensibilisation, d’orientation et de culture.

Jan 26 2011 17:05

Some information on the situation in Tunisia and Algeria, by an Algerian.


1) Tunisie-Algérie, différences syndicales

Si le régime de Ben Ali a éliminé d’importantes médiations possibles entre lui et la population (partis crédibles, associations...), il n’a pas réussi à concrétiser le rêve caressé par Habib Bourguiba de transformer l'Union générale tunisienne du travail (UGTT) en un syndicat-maison. Contrepoids au pouvoir politique depuis l’indépendance et terrain d’action privilégié pour la gauche radicale, l’UGTT n’a pas soutenu la jeunesse de la Tunisie profonde seulement par des sit-in, dont deux devant son siège central, le 25 décembre 2010 et le 7 janvier 2011. Elle l’a aussi soutenue en portant sa voix dans la presse mondiale, qui continue à recueillir ses informations auprès de « sources syndicales ».

La direction de l’UGTT a certes appuyé la candidature de Ben Ali à la présidence en 2004 et 2009 (au prix d’une crise intérieure) et la majorité de ses membres, rassemblés autour du secrétaire général Abdesselam Jerad, sont loin d’être indépendants. Toutefois, cette organisation n’en compte pas moins, à ses échelons intermédiaires (directions des syndicats de la fonction publique : santé, éducation nationale, etc.), des dirigeants suffisamment radicaux pour saluer l’intifada de Sidi Bouzid en des mots plus francs que ceux du bureau exécutif. L’implication de dizaines de syndicalistes dans les luttes démocratiques de ces dernières années est également un fait notoire. Leur radicalisme explique que la direction de la centrale ne cède pas complètement aux pressions des autorités, qu’elle appuie les populations révoltées et appelle même à élargir le champ des libertés (déclaration du 4 janvier 2011).

Ce n’est pas le cas pour l’Union générale des travailleurs algériens (UGTA), de plus en plus inféodée au régime depuis l’arrivée de Bouteflika au pouvoir, en 1999, et dont la majorité des secrétaires nationaux sont membres des deux « partis officiels », le FLN et le RND. Cette soumission au gouvernement a achevé de détacher d’elle des pans entiers de syndicalistes, qui l’ont quittée pour des syndicats autonomes plus combatifs. Elle explique sa quasi-indifférence aux contestations en cours dans le pays. Celles-ci n’ont fait l’objet que d’une seule déclaration (rendue publique le 7 janvier 2011) dans laquelle elle défend le point de vue du gouvernement qui accuse les « spéculateurs » d’être à l’origine de la crise actuelle.

[9 janvier 2011]

2) Les Tunisiens dépossédés de leur victoire.

La transition démocratique va-t-elle être menée par le parti officiel, le RCD moyennant un petit lifting et quelques figures honnies offertes en pâture à la vindicte populaire ? Au-delà de l’euphorie et des inquiétudes, les signes d’un changement politique radical ne sont pas évidents. Le système RCD relooké pourrait profiter des divergences de l’opposition pour rester au pouvoir.

Ils sont rares les signes d’un changement politique radical qui ferait de la chute de Zine El Abidine Ben Ali le début d’une époque nouvelle et non d’une autre « Ere du changement ». Le pays est gouverné par un symbole du Parti officiel, Fouad Mbazaâ, qui, pas plus tard qu’en novembre 2010, priait l’ancien président de se porter candidat aux présidentielles de 2014. Le Premier ministre, Mohamed Ghannouchi, est celui-là même dont le gouvernement a réprimé les manifestations de ces dernières semaines, et bien qu'il soit présenté comme un simple « technocrate », son image ne peut être dissociée de celle de l’Etat-RCD. Les élections présidentielles annoncées dans quelque deux mois seront organisées par ces deux hommes, qui traînent le boulet de leur appartenance à un régime massivement rejeté pendant un mois de troubles. Les manifestants arrêtés depuis le 18 décembre 2010 ont été libérés mais des militants politiques sont encore sous les verrous, dont Ammar Amroussia, un dirigeant du PCOT, le journaliste Fahem Boukeddous et Hassan Ben Abdallah, dirigeant de la contestation populaire dans le Bassin minier de Gafsa (janvier-juin 2008). L’armée, présentée comme « neutre », semble déterminée à assurer la continuité du système sous une forme aménagée. Si elle fait arrêter d’anciens ministres de l’Intérieur, elle offre sa protection à d’autres anciens responsables non moins impliqués dans les exactions policières de ces 23 dernières années. Le « modèle tunisien », célébré par le FMI et la Banque mondiale, et dont l’échec a été magistralement démontré, n’est pas remis en cause. On a presque déjà oublié que le feu de la révolte qui a provoqué la chute d’un des plus anciens despotes de la région s’est allumé dans l’arrière-pays déshérité, marginalisé par un système économique très dépendant de l’économie européenne. Seule la corruption est dénoncée et seuls Ben Ali et sa famille sont désignés à la vindicte populaire, comme si le pillage des ressources tunisiennes était le fait d’une poignée d’hommes et de femmes et que personne au sein du Parti-Etat n’avait profité de leurs largesses ou leur a offert sa protection.

[16 janvier 2011]

Yassin T.

Jan 26 2011 17:11

Not sure this source is very reliable, but it does offer another angle on the situation in Tunisia:

Jan 26 2011 21:24

English version of that last link posted by sitcom:
This is probably worth reading but definitely has elements of leftist conspiracy theory:

Hidden behind the pseudonym of Anonymous, the CIA cyber-command - already deployed against Zimbabwe and Iran - hacked Tunisian official sites, implanting a sinister message in English.

While this may be nonsense I'm sure there's a lot going on behind the scenes. It would be surprising if Western governments weren't trying to influence events. What this amounts to and how competently it is done is another question.

Jan 26 2011 22:53

Video posted up this afternoon, I'm not sure if the footage is from today.

Jan 27 2011 00:38

From the International Marxist Tendency. The usual caveats apply.

Tunisia – for a national general strike against the Gannouchi government!

Wednesday, January 26 was marked by yet more massive demonstrations throughout Tunisia against the “national unity” government, whose key ministers come from the government of the hated dictator Ben Ali. The same dictator that the masses forced to flee two weeks ago.

The regional structures of the UGTT had called for general strikes in Sfax, El Kef, Sidi Bouzid, Jendouba, Kairouan, Siliana, Gabés, Nabeul and others. The strikes and mobilizations had a common slogan and a united aim: to bring down the government, which the masses correctly consider simply a continuation of the hated RCD regime of Ben Ali.

A government suspended in mid-air

Meanwhile, in the capital, thousands of youth, arrived from all corners of the country as part of the Caravan for Liberation, were still camped outside the government buildings. Attempts by the riot police on Monday and Tuesday to remove them had failed. General Rachid Ammar, the Chief of Staff of the Tunisian Army, who was removed by Ben Ali for refusing to use the army against the revolutionary movement, also attempted to get the demonstrators to clear the way and allow the government to work. Using the enormous authority that the Army and himself have gained by appearing to be on the side of the people against Ben Ali, he addressed the crowd.

He told them that their demands were justified and gave them guarantees that the Army would defend their revolution. He also gave them assurances that the Army “would respect the constitution” (though he did not say which one) and asked them, politely, to leave: “I would love it if this place was to emptied, so that the government can work”. Without appearing to be too close to the current government of Gannouchi (the former Prime Minister under Ben Ali), he also added that inside the government compound that the demonstrators have been surrounding since Sunday “there are not only Ministers, but also functionaries who are attempting to make the country work”.

And then he added an ominous warning: “your movement can be manipulated by other elements, to create a vacuum of power, and when there is a vacuum of power, the Army would have to intervene”. Neither nice polite words, nor veiled threats worked. The crowd applauded, ecstatically; sang the national anthem, praised the army general whom they see as having sided with the revolution... but remained solidly in the Kasbah esplanade, blocking the government building. The revolutionary youth who have marched to the capital have a very clear idea of why they are there: “The battle will be decided in Tunis. This is the reason why we have come. The government must be overthrown. They are like a cancer, which needs to be cleaned out, not a shred can be left behind" (see video of the sit-in outside the Prime Minister’s office)

This really shows the enormous power of the revolutionary movement at the present time and the extremely favourable balance of forces. The Chief of Staff of the Army is forced to go and speak to the people directly and asks them to please go away and allow the government to work, and when they refuse there is nothing he can do. Who has power in Tunisia? The streets or the government and the state?

Inside, having entered through some back door, the council of ministers met and announced that there was going to be an “imminent government reshuffle”. But the announcement never came. And 48h later, it still has not arrived. There were also rumours of a “Committee of the Wise” being formed, but nothing has yet come out of it. This really shows the enormous difficulties of the Tunisian ruling class (and their imperialist puppet masters) are encountering in finding a government which is acceptable to the masses and has some legitimacy. The revolutionary movement of the workers and youth prevents them from regaining full control of the situation.

On Tuesday we saw the first attempts of the counter-revolution to regroup. Gangs of thugs and militias from the RCD attacked union offices in Gafsa, Kasserine (West) Béjà (North), Monastir et Mehdia (Centre). In the mining region of Gafsa a gang of men armed with sticks, knives and chains, attacked the offices of the regional union and injured a number of trade unionists present. The Army intervened, firing warning shots in the air and evicted them from the premises. Also in the capital Tunis, a demonstration had been called in favour of the national unity government. This was part of a growing media campaign “against strikes”, “against chaos”, against “disrupting the economy”, and generally against “extremist elements within the UGTT”. Showing the real balance of forces, the demonstration gathered about 200 people and was quickly dispersed by protesters against the government despite having heavy police protection (see video). If the situation is not decisively resolved in favour of the workers and youth, then such demonstrations might grow and reaction can gain support in the streets. But at the present time, they are extremely weak.

Regional general strikes and mass demonstrations

It is in this context that the regional strikes are taking place today, Wednesday 26, and they could be crucial to force the downfall of the government. In the statement calling for the strike, the regional UGTT in Sfax made clear what were the aims of the movement:

After examining the general situation in the country and the latest political and social developments on light of our people’s revolution, and what is being plotted against it by internal and external conspiracies aimed to circumvent its objectives and gains, we decided to start a general strike on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 in defense of the demands of our people to overthrow the government of the former regime and to dissolve the Constitutional Democratic Rally. (see full text in English and Arabic).

This, and the other regional strikes are quite clearly political general strikes for the overthrow of the government, showing the revolutionary character of the movement of the Tunisian workers and the extremely advanced character of their demands.

Also very significant is the fact that the regional trade union structures and the revolutionary committees are increasingly taking over tasks of the administration of public and economic life. As well as the examples we have already mentioned in Siliana (where the regional revolutionary council has expelled the governor and effectively taken power) and Sidi Bou Ali, the Sfax UGTT also started to make decisions over the economy. The statement says:

From the keenness of the Regional Executive Bureau to provide basic and vital services to the citizens, we decide to exclude from the general strike the workers in the vital sectors especially hospitals and clinics, water and electricity, gas and bakeries, and municipalities graves, we also decided to secure trips from and to to the island Kerkennah.

So, not only the unions are calling a political strike to overthrow the existing government, but also they decided which sectors of the workers will continue to work under their authority in order to guarantee basic essential services. This is an answer to all those who cry and shout about “chaos” and “disruption”. As a matter of fact it is precisely workers’ power, workers’ control, which can guarantee order, but revolutionary order, not capitalist order. This was already demonstrated by the setting up of neighborhood self-defence committees to maintain order against the RCD and police gangs.

The demonstration in Sfax, the country’s second largest city and the most important industrial centre was huge, of historic proportions. Some reports talked of 100,000 demonstrators, and even the bourgeois media put the figure at “over 50,000”. The mood was extremely radical and angry as can be seen in these videos (video 1, video 2).

Amongst the slogans which the demonstrators chanted were: “the people want to bring down the government”, “Tunisia is free – RCD Out!”, "Tunisia is Free - Down with the government!" and showing a great awareness of the international repercussion of the Tunisian revolution: “Thawra hatta’l nasr (revolution until victory) – from Tunis to Cairo”. Another slogan that was heard on the demo was "Tunisia is Arabic - No foreign tutelage" and "Tunisia is Arabic - no American tutelage," in opposition to the visit of US Assistant Secretaryof State for Near East Affairs Feltman, who is currently in Tunisia. Many fear that the US had a hand in the way in which Ben Ali was replaced by a government stack with his own ministers and there is a deep felt anti-imperialist anger at the fact that now it is still meddling behind the scenes to abort the revolution. The demonstration ended with an appeal by the regional UGTT for the demonstrators to march on Tunis on Thursday 27, to join the Caravan of Liberation for the overthrow of the government. That is also the day fixed by the secondary teachers’ union for their national strike.

Similar mass demonstrations took place in towns and cities around the country, including Nabeul (video), Kairouan (video), Djerba (video), Kelibia (video), as well as in Tunis, where there were clashes with the police and the presence of provocateurs from the RCD.

The situation, as we have been stressing for a some days, is one where the workers and youth could take power relatively easily. The government is suspended in mid-air, forced to enter its own meeting rooms through the back door, not able to use neither the Army nor the police to crush the movement and looking desperately for a way forward. One final push on the part of the revolutionary movement would bring it down. A nation-wide general strike combined with workplace occupations and a march on the capital could topple the current weak government. An appeal to the Army ranks and to the police officers wanting to set up a union would paralyse the effective force of the capitalist state.

Down with the government! But what is the alternative?

However, in order to bring down the government an answer needs to be provided to the question: what to put in its place. Here is where there is more confusion and this confusion and lack of leadership has prevented the movement from taking power so far.

The legal opposition parties are part of the current government and they have no authority amongst the masses, as they played no role whatsoever in the revolution and stayed with Ben Ali right until the end. The former Communist Party (Ettijdad) is probably the worst of all. Having conditioned its participation in the government on there not being any RCD linked ministers, then stayed in the government anyway and went on to organise rallies and campaign in favour of it! They must subscribe to the Groucho Marx version of Marxism, based on the motto: “Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others”!

The leadership of the UGTT, the Executive Bureau, was also in favour of participating in the government and was forced by the more radical forces in the Central Administration Council (the Central Committee) to withdraw its ministers and later on to call for action to overthrow the government. As we speak, the EB of the UGTT is conducting frantic negotiations at the UGTT national headquarters with all sorts of liberal figures, human rights advocates, lawyers, etc, to put together a proposal for a new government which they will then present to the interim president Fouad Mebezza for his approval! This is parliamentary cretinism of the worst sort. The executive of the UGTT is under enormous pressure from below, from the revolutionary workers and youth to lead the struggle for the overthrow of the current government. However, instead of bringing it down through action, the UGTT leadership wants to ask the current government, politely, to appoint a new one!

But even amongst the most advanced elements of the revolutionary left in the UGTT and also in the smaller left wing political parties which were illegal until very recently, there seems to be no clear idea of what or how to replace the Gannouchi government.

The general strike call of the Sfax UGTT talks of “replacing it with a national salvation government in which enemies of our people are excluded.” This is a very good slogan, and one that is similar to that of the recently formed January 14 Front, which talks of “an interim government which enjoys the confidence of the people, of the militant progressive political, social, and trade-union forces, and of the youth.“ The January 14 Front has been formed mainly by the Party of Tunisian Communist Workers (PCOT), the Tunisian Patriotic and Democratic Labour Party, and some smaller left wing, Nasserite and left Arab nationalist currents.

The declaration of the January 14 Front correctly talks about the need to widen the scope of the committees:

The Front hails all the committees, associations, and forms of popular self-organization and invites them to widen their sphere of intervention to all that concerns the conduct of public affairs and various aspects of everyday life.

Basically it is calling the revolutionary committees to take power, to become real soviets. What is missing is the crucial aspect of the need to link them up at a local, regional and national level, thus becoming the basis for dual power nationally, not only at a local or regional level as it is already the case in some places.

Amongst the organizations in the Front is the recently created Left Workers League, which on January 24 issued a statement calling for: “achieving a Constituent and a people’s democratic workers government, with a social and economic programme which puts an end to the neo-liberal approach imposed by world capital.” This is clearly a more advanced demand, as it defines that the new government should be a workers’ government, a democratic government and a people’s government. The formulation is a bit confused, but if what is meant is that there should be a government that responds to the interests of the revolutionary masses of the working people who have made this revolution, then there is no objection.

But, how is such a government to be formed? In our opinion a revolutionary government cannot be based on any of the institutions of the old regime, but should be set up on the basis of the existing revolutionary committees and councils, the regional trade union structures and workers’ committees in the workplaces. A national assembly of delegates from these bodies should be convened in the capital, taking advantage of the presence of the revolutionary youth from all provinces. They should elect, amongst themselves, a provisional revolutionary government of national salvation to convene a constituent assembly within the shortest space of time possible.

In the same way that the revolutionary left within the UGTT has imposed its withdrawal from the Gannouchi government and the call for its overthrow, they should force the CC of the UGTT to adopt such a program for a national salvation government based on the revolutionary committees.

Down with the dictatorship and the capitalist system it served

The January 14 Front also calls for the expropriation of “the former ruling family, their close relations and associates, and all the civil servants who used their positions to grow rich at the expense of the people,“ as well as “to renationalise those institutions which have been privatized”. These demands are absolutely correct, and as a matter of fact, the expropriation of the properties of Trabelsi clan and all those associated to it would go a long way in giving such a government control over the key levers of the economy. If you added to that the properties of all imperialist powers which supported and benefited from the Ben Ali regime, then you would have abolished capitalism in Tunisia. However the Front does not go all the way in calling for a break with capitalism and instead talks of the need ”to formulate an economic and social policy which breaks with the liberal capitalist approach”, as if there was another approach to capitalism which would be nicer to the workers and the people.

It has to be said clearly that the ruling class is already extremely worried about the revolutionary movement of the workers encroaching on the sacred right of private property. This is how a business magazine described the situation:

"The Tunisian revolution has entered like a storm in the companies and public institutions. Directors are being chased away in parking lots and workers collectives are moving into self-management mode."

The article continues: "Tunisian workers, in companies and public institutions have brought the revolution to their workplaces” and “directors and managers of public companies have had to run seeking refuge, followed by a crowd of vindictive workers”. It concludes: “the hope of the government and the businessmen is that the movement will limit itself to those corrupt functionaries linked to the Ben Ali – Trabelsi clan. But it is not certain that this will be the case.

If there was a serious appeal on the part of the trade union left, for workers to occupy the workplaces and implement workers’ control, such a movement would spread like wildfire. There are already instances where the workers have demanded the opening of the books of their companies in order to investigate the corrupt dealings of the Trabelsi clan. The workers at the tax office have kicked out their directors and taken over the dossiers which shed light into some of those. The potential is there for a movement which not only sweeps away the whole of the undemocratic state apparatus of the dictatorship, but also does away with the capitalist economic system it served.

Down with the national unity government! For a national general strike! For a revolutionary government based on the committees and the trade unions! For a revolutionary constituent assembly! For a revolutionary socialist Tunisia! For a Socialist Federation of the Arab World, with full democratic rights to all ethnic, national and religious minorities!

Jan 27 2011 09:30

As suspected the international arrest warrant for Ben Ali, Leila & co (and the even more annoying news that Imed is not only alive but was allowed to flee the country) was simply by means of a delaying tactic.

As the day dragged on yesterday with no announcement on the "reshuffle", Chebbi finally said that it wouldn't be til late hours, possibly Thursday morning. Finally, at ten past ten local time, the curt announcement was that it would be Thursday now. This for an announcement originally due on Tuesday.

9:10 p.m.. Scheduled Wednesday [Tuesday originally], the cabinet reshuffle intended to appease the anger of the street will finally announced Thursday. It is the spokesman of the transitional government, Baccouch Taieb, who announced the postponement. For two days, discussions on the cabinet reshuffle is intense, particularly because of internal disagreements about the extent it should take.

le Parisien

Jan 27 2011 11:46

Tensión en la Qasba

Si todo hubiese obedecido a un plan, si se hubiese matado a 120 personas para remozar el viejo país e inscribirlo mejor en un mundo árabe sometido a los designios de Washington, si se tratase de asegurar mejor la continuidad introduciendo algunos cambios cosméticos, ahora habría que barrer las ascuas que el viento - siempre imprevisible - ha reunido en la Qasba. El pasado vuelve con inquietante rapidez. En su primera página La Presse publica la foto de la minúscula manifestación progubernamental realizada el día anterior en la avenida Bourguiba. La misma foto la publican también As-sabah y el Quotidian, aludiendo al deseo general de normalidad entre la población. La televisión, donde todavía no han salido las figuras más señeras de la oposición (Ben Brik, Marzouki, Hama Hamami), ofrece imágenes en directo (“Túnez a las diez de la mañana”) de calles atrafagadas y tranquilas, de honrados ciudadanos entregados a sus tareas cotidianas. Como en el Anciene Régime, “kulu shai behi”, todo va bien. Tal y como se temía el joven parado Haydar Allagui, se ignora, se desprecia, se silencia la Qasba, que hierve hoy - fruto de este aislamiento - con una particular tensión. El cansancio hace mella y afila los nervios. El aire festivo y peleón de estos días deja lugar a una atmósfera de amenaza que se prolongará todo el día. Se juega con los manifestantes. Se trata obviamente de hacerles dudar del éxito de su empresa y de interrumpir el contacto con el resto de la ciudad. También de separarlos del resto de Túnez, desde donde inútilmente tratan de llegar nuevos elementos retenidos en las carreteras…

machine translation

Jan 27 2011 11:58

Tunisia may purge Ben Ali loyalists (Al Jazeera)

Tunisians have rallied for a fifth day outside the prime minister's offices in Tunis as the interim cabinet prepared for a crucial shake-up in response to calls for a clean break with the old regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the ousted president.

Thousands also took to the streets of Sidi Bouzid, an impoverished rural town in central Tunisia where mass protests that led to Ben Ali's ouster, first erupted.

"No to the theft of the revolution! Yes to the resignation of the government!" chanted the protesters on Thursday. Some of them waved Tunisian flags as the town held a general strike in a bid to mount pressure on the country's current leadership.


Clashes broke out on Wednesday near government offices in the old city. Riot police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters, mainly teenagers and young men, who threw stones.

Despite the clashes, the interim government announced it would reduce the curfew, in place since the revolt, by several hours, effective from Wednesday night.

The protesters appeared to be Tunisians from the rural hinterland who have been camping out at the government compound.

They shouted at the security forces that they were the "police of Leila", a reference to Ben Ali's unpopular wife, who was seen as having excessive influence and lavish tastes.

Trade unions held a general strike in Sfax, Tunisia's second biggest city, and declared another strike for Thursday in Sidi Bouzid, the town where the uprising against Ben Ali started with a social protest last month.


On Wednesday, the justice minister highlighted the scope of that unrest: Some 11,029 prisoners - about a third of the country's prison population - were able to escape amid the chaos, he said. Of those, 1,532 prisoners are back behind bars and 74 other prisoners died in fires that broke out...

Jan 27 2011 12:14

more delays
NouvelObs: Tunisie: nouveau report du remaniement ministériel

TUNIS (AP) - Expected in late Thursday morning, the announcement of the new composition of the transitional government of Tunisia has been postponed for a few hours, said a government source.

For two days, Tunisia holds its breath in anticipation of the resuffle of a government decried the street because of the presence within it of several ministers of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

According to the source who requested anonymity, the delay of a few hours would be linked to ongoing consultations within the executive office of the Central Association UGTT (General Union of Tunisian Workers), including three ministers announced their resignation just hours after the composition of the transitional government. AP

Jan 27 2011 13:01

From the Tunisia Scenario blog

Instability and military rule

The protest I went to yesterday was definitely different then the protests that went on before the Revolution.

First of all it was two sided.

Though both sides were ridiculing Ben Ali and Leila, I think (once again, I'm not sure) the much bigger group was also ridiculing the UGTT, (the main labor union and a major impetus behind the revolution) demanding an end to the mass strike and an acceptance of the interim government.

The side waving UGTT flags was much smaller, and was basically being protected by soldiers.

The UGTT and their supporters want the interim government to be completely purged of all Ben Ali's ministers, or at least the most powerful ones. (defense, interior, etc) However, many of Ben Ali's former cronies (members of the RCD party) have been able to hang on to power and as a result all attempts at creating a unity government have collapsed. This has left Tunisia in a state of parliamentary limbo.

Perhaps people in other regions blame this on the RCD, but in my region almost everyone I talk to thinks that the RCD ministers should be allowed to stay, for the sake of stability.

These people have a point. Even though the RCD did terrible things, most(/all) of the opposition has absolutely no experience running a government. People who were unemployed bloggers or working in Paris a month ago now have prominent positions in government. Many people I talk to say that RCD members should be allowed to stay, at least for the next two months (after which there will be fresh elections).

Also the terrorists killing people in my neighborhood last week were almost certainly security forces loyal to the RCD apparatus. I doubt the military got them all, and a real purge of the RCD would probably mean more indiscriminate violence.

Another reason that people around my way feel amicable to the interim government is that almost all the highranking RCD party members are from my region.(the Sahel)

Regionalism here is at least as bad as racism in the United States, and the Sahel has gotten a lot of investment and development as a result of the RCD's patronage. While everyone in Tunisia sees Ben Ali as a criminal, most people around here want to keep their regional privilege.

In any case all this instability is making an overt military take over of the government more and more likely. General Rachid Ammar is the head of the army, and basically allied the army with the revolution at a very critical moment. No one has a bad thing to say about him at this point, and so far he hasn't seemed particularly interested in making himself the next Ben Ali. However, if the political chaos remains General Ammar will be under pressure from America (supposedly) and even common Tunisians to step in.

I have one close friend who lives in my neighborhood, but whose family comes from Sidi Bouzid. He hates the RCD and thinks that every high ranking member should be deposed and put on trial. I asked him if this was worth instability and he basically told me "whatever, the military can just take control."

Jan 28 2011 00:16

From the Moor Next Door

Re: Algerian leftists & the winter uprisings: or, the weakness of political parties

The role of the Tunisian left in the winter uprising was critical. This has been widely noted. The communist tendencies are especially interesting to consider in relation to their Algerian cousins. The Tunisian parties have a broader base among students and workers than the leftist parties in Algeria do. While the Tunisian Communist Workers Party (PCOT) resisted co-optation by Ben Ali, the Algerian communists (PAGS and later Ettihadi) were supportive of and tolerated by the Algerian government. The major elements of the Algerian left took the government’s line during this winter’s uprisings directly contrasting with the Tunisian left’s decisive organizational function...
Jan 28 2011 00:32


2135 GMT: The Tunisian government was witness to a quick and major reshuffle today when 12 ministers - most loyal to former dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali - were replaced.

These include the minister of defense, finance and interior affairs while the minister of foreign affairs resigned earlier claiming it was in the nation's best interest. Prime Minister Mohammad Ghannouchi, however, remained in his position. The reshuffle on Thursday was a major demand of ongoing protests in Tunisia where after Ben Ali's departure, protesters now want all his allies out of the government too.

While Ghannouchi has promised that his government is a transitional one and will hand over power to an elected one as quickly as possible, many protesters want him out too since he's been an ally of Ben Ali.  

1800 GMT: Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane has resigned.

Morjane has been under sustained pressure to leave the Cabinet because of his ties with and service to the ousted Ben Ali Regime. He was expected to be replaced this week in a reshuffle of Ministers.

1348 GMT: In Tunisia, more demonstrations and political uncertainty....

The anticipated Cabinet reshuffle has been delayed for a second day in a row. In Sidi Bouzid, the province where the current wave of protests started last month, thousands of people have demonstrated to demand the resignation of the transitional Government, chanting, "No to the theft of revolution, Yes to toppling the Government."

Tunisia's trade union confederation UGTT has supported the protest with the call for a general strike.

In Tunis, thousands have turned up in front of the Central Theatre to demand the Government step down.