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

Mark.
Jan 12 2011 00:41

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Samotnaf
Jan 17 2011 18:48

Just seen national TV news in France and apart from the previously mentioned demos against the "new" regime's domination by ministers from the old one, there was an interesting, though short, clip of people in a poor area stopping cars (presumably with arms, though they weren't shown) and searching them because, as one guy said to the cameras, "supporters of the old regime are going around committing outrages".

baboon
Jan 17 2011 21:32

I don't think it semantics but political analysis not to characterise this as a "revolution". Revolt or uprising seems more appropriate.
The bourgeoisie of western Europe are talking about the "Tunisian revolution" and "Arab revoluton" in the context of their ideological defence of "democracy and freedom". These, and the United States, are the same people that backed the Ben Ali regime and continue to back the regimes of Algeria, Egypt and Libya. They are the same people that instituted a blackout of information through their media and the same, as in the case of France, that offered police support to Ben Ali only days ago. They would like us to believe in Arab "exceptionalism" and that the courageous uprising of the Tunisian masses had nothing to do with fighting for our own class interests in Britain, France, etc. I.e., fighting for dignity and a future that capitalism cannot provide. It is not only the bourgeoisie's of the Arab states that are looking at events in Tunisia with some trepidation.

A quick word on the trade unions: amid the unrest, early in January in Algeria, workers in the port of Alger went on strike over the port authorities' agreement with the union to withdraw extra payments for night work. The workers refused requests from union officials to postpone their action and carried on with the strike which took place in the context of demonstrations by employed and unemployed workers.
In Tunisia the UGTT had nothing to say until the second week of January when it came out with some mealy-mouthed statements about it 'not being normal to fire bullets at protesters' and other such crap. It also stated that it had to be with the movement and called for a two-hour general strike last Friday.

Mark.
Jan 17 2011 23:01

Khawaga - I hadn't seen that before and I suspect that generally the reporting and analysis in French is better than what we are getting in English. After all French is the main European language spoken in Tunisia and there's a big Tunisian community in France so this is natural enough. In a way it's more surprising that so much has come out in English and I think there has been a concerted effort by activists to get information translated as it comes out.

On the question of calling it a revolution, again I suppose I was thinking in terms of Portugal in 1974 where the overthrow of a dictatorship in a political revolution of sorts led on to a situation where workplaces and farms started to be occupied. I'm making the assumption that something similar may happen in Tunisia. As Taoufik ben Brik say in that quote, "Who can then honestly predict the consequences of this unfinished -- or perhaps stolen -- revolution".

That said I hadn't given much thought to using the word revolution in the title and I've no problem at all if anybody wants to change it. I take the point that "we shouldn't try to confuse "our" kind of social revolution with a change of state power". I'm still seeing this change of state power as the start of something rather than the end of it, though I may well be wrong.

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 00:30

baboon - Regarding trade unions in the Maghreb I think there's a distinction between the more autonomous unions of the kind that the CGT and CNT-F have links with and the ones that are closely tied in with the state. In the case of Tunisia this is less clear as basically there is only one union, the UGTT, and attempts to set up an alternative didn't get off the ground, but It seems that a more autonomous current exists within the UGTT which has played a part in the uprising. I think it's only realistic to acknowledge that this distinction exists even if you don't see unions as a way forward. I'm not disputing the official behaviour of the UGTT at all.

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 00:51

More extracts from today's liveblog

1720 GMT: In Algeria, the opposition party Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) has demanded that the Government "immediately and unconditionally" release trade unionist Ahmad Badawi, who was arrested by police in Algiers on Saturday after leaving a meeting with several officials of independent trade unions and civil society leaders.

1655 GMT: Egyptian stocks posted their biggest drop in seven months and the Egyptian pound dipped to its lowest level against the dollar in almost six years on Monday.

A trader at a bank said, "It's Tunisia, and then the man setting himself on fire in Cairo this morning.There's some hot money flying out of the market, mainly foreigners selling."

1620 GMT: Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has announced the new Government. Some of the "old guard", such as Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane and Minister of Interior Ahmed Friaa, have retained their posts. The Ministers of Defense and of Finance also stay in place.

Najib Chebbi, founder of the opposition Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), is Minister of Regional Development. Ahmed Ibrahim, leader of the Ettajdid party, is Minister of Higher Education, and Mustafa Ben Jaafar, head of the Union of Freedom and Labour, is Minister of Health.

Prominent blogger Slim Amamou, who was detained a week before the fall of President Ben Ali and released after the collapse of the regime, will be Minister of Youth.

Ghannouchi also announced a lifting of the ban on political parties, the release of all political detainees, and the free functioning of unions and syndicates. The Ministry of Communication has been abolished, while new committees will be established for political reform, accountability for recent incidents, and fact-finding into corruption and bribery.

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 01:04

Tunisians sceptical of new government (Al Jazeera)

Quote:
Up to 1,000 protesters gathered mainly near Tunis' Habib Bourguiba Avenue to demonstrate against the announcement.

Tanks and troops were deployed, and water cannons and tear gas fired against activists who demanded that members of Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally (CDR) be excluded from the new government.

"Who did the revolt? It's the people, those trade union leaders ... they need to find their aspirations in the government. This government does not answer those aspirations," Masoud Ramadani, a workers union activist, told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera's correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin said protesters were "rejecting the possibility that any incoming or caretaker or national unity government could possibly have figures or leaders from the previous regime".

"They want the CDR party completely abolished, completely removed from any form of government".

(…)

One of Tunisia's best known opposition figures, Moncef Marzouki, on Monday branded his country's new government a "masquerade" still dominated by supporters of ousted strongman Ben Ali.

"Tunisia deserved much more," the secular leftist declared. "Ninety dead, four weeks of real revolution, only for it to come to this? A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of  the party of dictatorship, the CRD,"said Marzouki on France's I-Tele.

According to Ahmed Friaa, Tunisia's interior minister, 78 people have been killed in the country during the recent turmoil, almost quadrupling the official death toll. He also estimated that the unrest had cost the country's economy $2.2 bn as a result of disruption of economic activity and lost export revenues.

Rachid al-Ghannouchi (no relation to Mohamed Ghannouchi), the exiled leader of the Nahdha Movement party, told London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper that leaders of his party had not been invited to participate in the negotiations in forming the new unity government.

He expressed anger at the exclusion, but said his party would consider joining the government if asked to do so. 

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 12:00

Tunisia liveblog

Quote:
1145 GMT: Ben Wedeman of CNN: "Tunisian police getting aggresive with protesters. The Army is not taking part."

Al Arabiya is now reporting five ministers have left the government.

1123 GMT: Three ministers, from the national trade union movement, have withdrawn from the Tunisian Government in protest at the presence of members from the Constitution Democratic Rally (RCD).

(...)

1115 GMT: Riot police on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, after a second round of tear gas into the crowd, are now reportedly harassing random pedestrians.

1055 GMT: Angelique Christafis of The Guardian reports protesters --- she estimates 200 on Habib Bourguiba Avenue singing the National Anthem and protesting the presence of the Constitution Democratic Rally (RCD) in the caretaker government. They have been tear-gassed and hit with batons, but keep regrouping. They are attempting to come back onto Habib Bourguiba Avenue but police won't allow the demonstration.

(…)

0945 GMT: Ben Wedeman of CNN reports, "Central Tunis getting back to normal. Stories, restaurants, cafes open again. No sign of protests."

But this is soon followed by "Small demonstration on Habib Bourgiba...getting bigger as it approached Place de l'Independence." And then: "Lots of police vans have arrived. Now two water cannons on Habib Bourguiba."

Tunisia: the need for vigilance (al-bab.com)

Quote:
Having got rid of Ben Ali and his family, the question now for Tunisians is how to dismantle the system of control that he established over the last 23 years – and it's looking far from easy. Without continuous pressure from the public, the Ben Ali loyalists are likely to retrench and continue running the country much as before – minus Ben Ali of course, and perhaps in a slightly less repressive way.

The "new" government announced yesterday is not a good start. Give or take a few opposition figures, it looks suspiciously like the old one: same prime minister, same people in all the key positions. And all the opposition parties included in it are those that Ben Ali approved of – with none of the parties that he banned ...

Tunisia's popular uprising sends ripples across Eurasia

Quote:
The popular uprising that swept Tunisia's longtime leader from power last week is sending ripples across other regions known for their autocratic rulers.

Following President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's ouster amid street protests, people in Central Asia, Azerbaijan, and Iran, have started to draw parallels between the situation in Tunisia and in their own countries ...

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 11:58

The brutal truth about Tunisia (Robert Fisk)

Tunisian academic: 'will not recognize this band of thugs'

Tunisia: 'Don’t allow your revolution to be stolen'

La centrale syndicale tunisienne ne reconnaît pas le nouveau gouvernement

Quote:
La puissante centrale syndicale tunisienne UGTT, qui a joué un grand rôle dans les manifestations ayant précipité la chute du   président Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a affirmé mardi qu'elle "ne reconnaît pas le nouveau gouvernement" de transition formé la veille.

La direction de l'Union générale des travailleurs tunisiens (UGTT), qui tient mardi une réunion extraordinaire près de Tunis, a pris la décision "de ne pas reconnaître le nouveau gouvernement", a indiqué à l'AFP son porte-parole,   Ifa Nasr.    

L'UGTT a appelé ses trois représentants au gouvernement à s'en retirer, a ajouté ce porte-parole, soulignant que ceux qui s'y refuseraient ne représenteraient qu'eux-mêmes.    

De nombreuses voix s'élèvent en Tunisie, notamment au sein de la gauche et   de la mouvance islamiste contre la présence de membres de l'ancien gouvernement   du président déchu Ben Ali dans la nouvelle équipe de transition formée lundi.

ocelot
Jan 18 2011 14:36
Khawaga wrote:
This is one thing I've been meaning to raise. Why are we calling it a revolution? Up until now it could be called a political one, but considering that the old regime is still in place but just with a new appearance, shouldn't we refrain from calling it a revolution? Uprising would be better. This is semantics, sure, but we shouldn't try to confuse "our" kind of social revolution with a change of state power as it appears happened in Tunisia.

I want to respond to this because I think it's of central importance that we understand what we mean by revolution.

I think there's a confusion of cause and effect here. To put it another way, what's the difference between a palace coup brought about by internal intrigue within the ruling clique and a palace coup brought about by widespread working class attack on the state? If you adopt a Linnean taxonomy approach to revolutions by attempting to divide them into separate apriori categories of bourgeois revolutions and social (or proletarian) revolutions based on their outcomes, you completely lose sight of agency.

By focusing on the outcome at the top - who is in control? - you lose sight of agency - who's action made change a necessity?

As Tronti said all those years ago: “We too have considered in first place capitalist development, and only afterward the workers struggles. This is an error. It is necessary to invert the problem, change the sign, and begin again: and the beginning is the struggle of the working class.

A revolution is a process social change brought about by the agency of widespread working class uprising against the existing structures of political power. It is not defined by it's initial programme. Once begun will carry on until it is defeated - it is defeated when the active power of the insurgent working class is broken... until the next time - or until social revolution destroys class society.

By adopting this peculiar back-to-front process of judging the apriori essentialist nature of a revolution retrospectively, by its eventual outcome, we risk rewriting history just as much as the bourgeois recuperators who wish to recast every revolution as a middle-class led struggle for liberal (capitlist) democracy.

If, when the revolution is defeated, what is left behind is a bourgeois democracy, then to say, "Sure, that means it was a bourgeois revolution all along". Is, imho, historical revisionism and politically indefensible. Taken to the extreme it can lead to the ultimate impossibilist error of denying that there even was a revolution at all. Revolution is a process, not a thing. Potentia not potestas. It is no more defined by its eventual outcome than a human being is defined by his or her eventual corpse.

On Friday the programme of the revolution was "Ben Ali, c'est fini!". Today it struggles to get rid of the RCD. We have a natural progression from the individual to the collectivity of the established power. How far that process will go before it is defeated we cannot say at this stage. What we can say, right now, is it's not over yet.

We we say "long live the revolution!" it's not simply an empty formula without meaning - it is expressing the avid hope that the revolution lives long enough to grow, go further and progress beyond targetting individual despots and clutches of crony despotisms, to a more generalised, systemic programme of social of transformation.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth. Back to scanning the news.

NB, on that. It's noticeable that since Friday we're getting virtually no news through to the media from outside of Tunis. We had some stories, written before Friday, that in towns like Kesserine, both the police and the army had withdrawn from the town, leaving it to the residents to set up self-organisation.

Since Friday, it appears that there are no foreign journalists outside of the capital, hence we have not had any news from Sidi Bouzid, Kesserine, Sfax, Bizerte, etc. There has been a brief mention today (see stream above) of anti-RCD protests in towns outside of Tunis, but no more than that.

ocelot
Jan 18 2011 15:27

Tunisian opposition party threatens to leave cabinet

Quote:
TUNIS Jan 18 (Reuters) - Tunisian opposition party Ettajdid threatened to pull its leader out of a coalition government if ministers from the party of former leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali do not give up party membership, state TV said on Tuesday.

A statement from Ettajdid, read out by Tunisian television, said the ministers must also return to the state all property they obtained through the RCD, Ben Ali's political party and power base for the 23 years of his rule.
[...]

That would leave Chebbi, Ben Jaafar and blog boy @slim404 (minister for youth and making the tea) in the fig-leaf roles.

Rob Ray
Jan 18 2011 15:44

Three UGTT ministers and one FDLT minister have all resigned now, relatively minor posts apart from Health Minister Mustapha Ben Jaafar but looks like they're getting out while the going's good. Puts Ghannouchi under a lot of pressure, especially if Ettajdid and Culture Minister Moufida Tlatli follow suit as they're threatening.

Could collapse the coalition, suggests maybe the opposition is scenting blood and reckons it can get more than a co-opted junior partner status - or is worried that things will keep moving and it'll be tarred with the same brush at just the wrong moment.

Auto
Jan 18 2011 16:57

What's the deal with Slim Amamou? He has the Sab Cat as his Twitter bacground - but I take it he's not an Anarchist or an Anarcho-Syndicalist?

Valeriano Orobó...
Jan 18 2011 23:29

Robert Fisk's article in The Independent points to what samotnaf and me were afraid of last week...We'll see.

Quote:
The brutal truth about Tunisia

Bloodshed, tears, but no democracy. Bloody turmoil won’t necessarily presage the dawn of democracy

By Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent

Monday, 17 January 2011

The end of the age of dictators in the Arab world? Certainly they are shaking in their boots across the Middle East, the well-heeled sheiks and emirs, and the kings, including one very old one in Saudi Arabia and a young one in Jordan, and presidents – another very old one in Egypt and a young one in Syria – because Tunisia wasn't meant to happen. Food price riots in Algeria, too, and demonstrations against price increases in Amman. Not to mention scores more dead in Tunisia, whose own despot sought refuge in Riyadh – exactly the same city to which a man called Idi Amin once fled.

If it can happen in the holiday destination Tunisia, it can happen anywhere, can't it? It was feted by the West for its "stability" when Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was in charge. The French and the Germans and the Brits, dare we mention this, always praised the dictator for being a "friend" of civilised Europe, keeping a firm hand on all those Islamists.

Tunisians won't forget this little history, even if we would like them to. The Arabs used to say that two-thirds of the entire Tunisian population – seven million out of 10 million, virtually the whole adult population – worked in one way or another for Mr Ben Ali's secret police. They must have been on the streets too, then, protesting at the man we loved until last week. But don't get too excited. Yes, Tunisian youths have used the internet to rally each other – in Algeria, too – and the demographic explosion of youth (born in the Eighties and Nineties with no jobs to go to after university) is on the streets. But the "unity" government is to be formed by Mohamed Ghannouchi, a satrap of Mr Ben Ali's for almost 20 years, a safe pair of hands who will have our interests – rather than his people's interests – at heart.

For I fear this is going to be the same old story. Yes, we would like a democracy in Tunisia – but not too much democracy. Remember how we wanted Algeria to have a democracy back in the early Nineties?

Then when it looked like the Islamists might win the second round of voting, we supported its military-backed government in suspending elections and crushing the Islamists and initiating a civil war in which 150,000 died.

No, in the Arab world, we want law and order and stability. Even in Hosni Mubarak's corrupt and corrupted Egypt, that's what we want. And we will get it.

The truth, of course, is that the Arab world is so dysfunctional, sclerotic, corrupt, humiliated and ruthless – and remember that Mr Ben Ali was calling Tunisian protesters "terrorists" only last week – and so totally incapable of any social or political progress, that the chances of a series of working democracies emerging from the chaos of the Middle East stand at around zero per cent.

The job of the Arab potentates will be what it has always been – to "manage" their people, to control them, to keep the lid on, to love the West and to hate Iran.

Indeed, what was Hillary Clinton doing last week as Tunisia burned? She was telling the corrupted princes of the Gulf that their job was to support sanctions against Iran, to confront the Islamic republic, to prepare for another strike against a Muslim state after the two catastrophes the United States and the UK have already inflicted in the region.

The Muslim world – at least, that bit of it between India and the Mediterranean – is a more than sorry mess. Iraq has a sort-of-government that is now a satrap of Iran, Hamid Karzai is no more than the mayor of Kabul, Pakistan stands on the edge of endless disaster, Egypt has just emerged from another fake election.

And Lebanon... Well, poor old Lebanon hasn't even got a government. Southern Sudan – if the elections are fair – might be a tiny candle, but don't bet on it.

It's the same old problem for us in the West. We mouth the word "democracy" and we are all for fair elections – providing the Arabs vote for whom we want them to vote for.

In Algeria 20 years ago, they didn't. In "Palestine" they didn't. And in Lebanon, because of the so-called Doha accord, they didn't. So we sanction them, threaten them and warn them about Iran and expect them to keep their mouths shut when Israel steals more Palestinian land for its colonies on the West Bank.

There was a fearful irony that the police theft of an ex-student's fruit produce – and his suicide in Tunis – should have started all this off, not least because Mr Ben Ali made a failed attempt to gather public support by visiting the dying youth in hospital.

For years, this wretched man had been talking about a "slow liberalising" of his country. But all dictators know they are in greatest danger when they start freeing their entrapped countrymen from their chains.

And the Arabs behaved accordingly. No sooner had Ben Ali flown off into exile than Arab newspapers which have been stroking his fur and polishing his shoes and receiving his money for so many years were vilifying the man. "Misrule", "corruption", "authoritarian reign", "a total lack of human rights", their journalists are saying now. Rarely have the words of the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran sounded so painfully accurate: "Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another with trumpetings again." Mohamed Ghannouchi, perhaps?

Of course, everyone is lowering their prices now – or promising to. Cooking oil and bread are the staple of the masses. So prices will come down in Tunisia and Algeria and Egypt. But why should they be so high in the first place?

Algeria should be as rich as Saudi Arabia – it has the oil and gas – but it has one of the worst unemployment rates in the Middle East, no social security, no pensions, nothing for its people because its generals have salted their country's wealth away in Switzerland.

And police brutality. The torture chambers will keep going. We will maintain our good relations with the dictators. We will continue to arm their armies and tell them to seek peace with Israel.

And they will do what we want. Ben Ali has fled. The search is now on for a more pliable dictator in Tunisia – a "benevolent strongman" as the news agencies like to call these ghastly men.

And the shooting will go on – as it did yesterday in Tunisia – until "stability" has been restored.

No, on balance, I don't think the age of the Arab dictators is over. We will see to that.

Edit: It lacked the 2nd and final part.

ocelot
Jan 18 2011 18:02

Humanité: Des milliers de manifestants à Tunis et en province contre le gouvernement

Quote:

Des milliers de Tunisiens ont manifesté à Tunis et dans plusieurs villes du centre du pays contre la présence dans le nouveau gouvernement de transition de membres de l'équipe sortante du président déchu Ben Ali.

Á Tunis, la police a violemment dispersé des milliers de manifestants, parmi lesquels des islamistes. "RCD assassins", ont scandé les manifestants. "On peut vivre seulement avec du pain et de l'eau, mais pas avec le RCD", chantaient-ils.

Environ 5.000 personnes ont manifesté à Sfax (centre-est) la métropole économique du pays, où l'imposant siège local du RCD, le parti du président Ben Ali, avait été incendié par des manifestants il y a quelques jours, a rapporté un témoin.

Une manifestation a rassemblé "des milliers de manifestants" à Sidi Bouzid (centre-ouest) d'où est partie à la mi-décembre la révolte populaire contre le régime autoritaire du président Ben Ali.

Une autre marche de protestation ayant rassemblé un millier de personnes s'est produite à Regueb, à 37 km de Sidi Bouzid, selon un autre correspondant.

Enfin, un rassemblement de 500 personnes, regroupant notamment des avocats et des syndicalistes, s'est tenu à Kasserine, autre bastion de la "Révolution du jasmin".
--
[soz for crap google trans. no time]

Thousands of Tunisians have demonstrated in Tunis and in several towns in the center of the country against the presence in the new transitional government of members of the outgoing crew of ousted President Ben Ali.

Tunis, police violently dispersed thousands of protesters, including Islamists. "RCD assassins, "chanted the demonstrators. "One can live only on bread and water, but not with the RCD, " they sang.

About 5,000 people demonstrated in Sfax (east central) the economic metropolis of the country, where the imposing local headquarters of the RCD, the party of President Ben Ali was burned by protesters a few days ago, reported a witness.

A demonstration was attended by "thousands of protesters" in Sidi Bouzid (West Central) which is a party in mid-December the popular revolt against the authoritarian regime of President Ben Ali.

Another protest march with a thousand people gathered occurred Regueb, 37 km from Sidi Bouzid, according to another correspondent.

Finally, a gathering of 500 people, including gathering of lawyers and trade unionists held in Kasserine, another bastion of "Jasmine Revolution".

Not much else to compare these numbers to, but nb compare the Tunis numbers to the 200 or so reported on the Guardian thread. Also bear in mind that l'Humanité might possibly be more inclined to inflate the numbers than the rest of the press.

ocelot
Jan 18 2011 20:06

if you'll pardon my use of a non-PC metaphor, it seems the ample aristo is not warming up her vocal chords just yet.

Al Jazeera

Quote:
Tunisia leaders resign from party

Mohamed Ghannouchi and Fouad Mebazaa, Tunisia's prime minister and president, have resigned from the (former) ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party of deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The move, announced on Tuesday, is seen as a concession to opposition cabinet members.

Earlier in the day, Tunisia's junior minister for transportation has said that he and two other ministers with ties to a top labour union have resigned from the newly formed government, leaving the new unity government in limbo.

Anouar Ben Gueddour said that he has resigned along with Houssine Dimassi minister of training and employment, and Abdeljelil Bedoui, a minister dealing with prime ministerial affairs. They are all members of a general national labour union.

Mustapha Ben Jaafar, the newly-appointed health minister, has also resigned.

Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Tunis, said other members of the opposition in the cabinet threatened to resign unless certain conditions are met.

"They do not want to be in the government with certain members of the ruling party," said Moshiri.
[...]
Tunisians not happy with the new cabinet gathered on Tuesday to protest in the capital and several major cities.

Blake Hounshell, managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, told Al Jazeera that it's clear that Ghannouchi made an error in reappointing so many ministers from Ben Ali's government.

"If you see what happened on the Tunisian streets today, the people who came out rejected the idea that the same old faces are going to still run the country,"said Hounshell.

"I think it remains to be seen whether this new government will even be able to stand and hold these elections in 60 days, as they're required to."
[...]

ocelot
Jan 18 2011 20:29

Just a minor detail. From a picture in the Guardian of Mebazaa getting out of a car at Govt. buildings yesterday. What's interesting is not him but the security detail. Clearly army (prob. special forces by the looks of the gear) rather than police and in balaclavas. This suggests that the normal police detail for politician protection has been replaced temporarily. Make of it what you will, but it doesn't look like business as usual.

ocelot
Jan 18 2011 21:51

Now this is just weird...

Torygraph: Ousted Tunisian president 'living in remote Saudi area known for al-Qaeda links'

Quote:
[...]
He stayed briefly there and is even rumoured to have paid a brief pilgrimage to nearby Mecca. But according to local reports, he has now been found somewhere to stay 300 miles to the south in Abha, the capital of Asir province, which neighbours Yemen.

Although Saudi al-Qaeda members come from all over the country, a high proportion come from relatively conservative, economically underdeveloped provinces such as Asir, including several of the 9/11 attackers. In a recording, Osama bin Laden later said of them: "Asir's tribes formed the lion's share."

Said al-Shehri, deputy commander of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is from Khamis Mushayt, not far from Abha.

That Mr Ben Ali, who banned Islamist parties and was well known for high-living, has been granted asylum by puritanical Saudi Arabia is already subject of a number of jokes in the Arab world.
[...]

Total side issue tbh. But feedstock for a hundred conspiracy theories. I guess with a new merc security force and paying off the local tribes Ben Ali gets left alone, but what exactly will his goodwill contributions be feeding? I'm very vaguely aware there's a unpublicised dirty war going on in and around Yemen, but if anyone can provide links to more Yemen info, please start a thread.

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 22:26
Auto wrote:
What's the deal with Slim Amamou? He has the Sab Cat as his Twitter bacground - but I take it he's not an Anarchist or an Anarcho-Syndicalist?

According to the Guardian

Quote:
It's a sign of the dizzying speed of change in Tunisia that today he was being sworn in by the prime minister as minister for youth and sport, live-tweeting that the first clash between members of the ruling RCD party was over the fact that "I'm not wearing a tie.".

Amamou is the CEO of a web development company and calls himself a "partisan of the neutrality of the net". A member of the Pirate Party, inspired by the Swedish movement, he has been active on the underground blogger's circuit for many years.

I can't say I know anything about the Pirate Parties beyond what I've read on wikipedia.

baboon
Jan 18 2011 22:29

Reference the mention of Robert Fisk and British imperialism above:
At a meeting at the British embassy in Tunis on November 30 last year, Alastair Burt, British Foreign Minister for the Middle East and North Africa said, addressing various elements of the Tunisian ruling class, "... your country has all the required assets to be a strategic partner in all sectors...", after emphasising the "climate of peace and stability" that existed in the country.

Last night the same minister, putting forward the view of the Foreign Office, said that "Britain wanted to see the streets quiet" (no denounciation of any of the massacres - unlike Iran, as Django points out elsewhere), " (...) supports an orderly transition of government" and "supports of the best interest of the British people", by which he means British imperialism.

The greatest solidarity that the working class in Britain can show with its class comrades in Tunisia is to spread and deepen its own struggle against its own class of murderers.

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 22:31

More from the liveblog

Quote:
1335 GMT: BBC's Lyse Doucet: "Protestors in Tunisia carrying olive branches, pushed olive trees in pots across street to stop police cars. They did."

1324 GMT: A spokesman for Slim Amamou, the prominent blogger and new Minister of Youth and Sport, tells the BBC that he will not leave the Cabinet.

Amamou confirms, "Je ne demissionnerais pas pour faire comme les autres, je démissionnerais quand je le deciderais." ("I will not resign like the others. I will resign when I decide to.")

1320 GMT: BBC's Lyse Doucet: "Protestors running again. Tear gas fired. Taste it. Smell it." And a few minutes later: "In this area, streets shrouded in tear gas. Police & army taking positions on corners. Protestors scattered."

1315 GMT: Video has been posted of a rally in Gabes protesting against a government which includes the Constutional Democratic Rally (RCD).

1245 GMT: Another twist in the protests, according to BBC's Lyse Doucet: "Extraordinary scene earlier..army stood between protestors and police. Told police to move back. Crowds cheered. Some hugged soldiers."

1225 GMT: BBC's Lyse Doucet reports, "Army still firing shots in air..but most protestors have scattered."

ocelot
Jan 18 2011 22:31

some folks, just no gratitude

Quote:
18h04. Ben Ali radié par son parti. Le Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique (RCD) annonce avoir radié le président déchu Ben Ali. Ce dernier avait lui-même créé le mouvement politique après sa prise de pouvoir en 1987. Six proches et collaborateurs de Ben Ali subissent le même sort.

6:04 p.m.. Ben Ali expelled by his party. The Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) announced that it has expelled the ousted president Ben Ali. He had himself created the political movement after taking power in 1987. Six family members and associates of Ben Ali suffer the same fate.
[...]
17H22. Le conseil national de l'Ordre des avocats tunisiens demande la formation d'un gouvernement de salut national écartant les membres de l'ancien parti au pouvoir ainsi que la saisie des biens du président déchu Zine El Abidine Ben Ali et de ses proches. Le bâtonnier Abderrazek Kilani a affirmé son rejet du nouveau gouvernement.

5:22 p.m.. The National Council of the Order of Tunisian lawyers demand the formation of a government of national salvation excluding members of the former ruling party and the seizure of assets of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his relatives. The barrister Abderrazek Kilani affirmed his rejection of the new government.

17h20.Le Forum démocratique pour le travail et les liberté (FDLT) a annoncé son retrait du gouvernement d'union nationale formée la veille, où le chef du parti,Mustapha Ben Jaâfar, était ministre de la Santé, peu après le départ de trois ministres issus de la centrale syndicale.

17h20.Le Democratic Forum for Labour and Freedom (FDLT) announced its withdrawal from the national unity government formed the day before, where the party leader, Mustapha Ben Jaafar, was Minister of Health shortly after the departure of three Central ministers from the Association.

So that just leaves Chebbi. And Mr. blog boy Pirate Party fella, Slim Amamou. The case of the latter being yet another object lesson for the use of beating over the heads of gormless geeks entranced by the vision of how cypherpunks and other cyberbuggery is going to transform "politics as we know it".

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 22:59

The Saudi plan for the Islamization of the Tunisian Uprising (angryarab.blogspot)

Quote:
The Tunisian Uprising (it is not a Revolution as of yet--it all depends whether it leads to thorough deep social and economic and political changes in Tunisia--and please stop using those cute Western labels like Jasmin Revolution and Batata Revolution, they annoy me a great deal) is going through a crucial phase. It all depends. No Revolution succeeds with one strike: the success of Revolution is a function of pushing through AFTER the initial successes.

The old regime is trying--with US/French/Saudi (and Arab state system) to be resurrected. The old regime bizarrely kept the key four ministries of the Tunisian cabinet. Leftist and nationalist rebels in Tunisia are aware of those dangers, as they tell me. They can't succeed until they push ahead for more radical changes.

Yet, there is also a danger to spoil what has been a secular uprising: Qatar AND Saudi Arabia are both pushing and promoting the lousy Tunisian Islamist, Rashid Ghannushi who will be returning to Tunis.  Ghannushi freely admits that he and his lousy Nahdah Party had no role whatsoever in the uprising and yet he is being promoted because the Arab state system is afraid of the consequences of a secular Arab uprising. The lousy tele-Islamist, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, is a friend of Ghannushi and he also pushes for his promotion--presumably at Aljazeera where Qaradawi unfortunately still wields great influence.

ocelot
Jan 18 2011 22:59

classic composition, although the dude on the left looks like he hasn't had his morning coffee, so a bit of cropping may be in order - pic

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 23:01

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 23:23

From a blogger in Tunis...

Quote:
Tuesday 18 January 2011

As night rolled around, I had just started changing out of my daytime clothes into my all black, athletic nighttime ensamble when I heard gunshots.

I was just starting to go outside to see what was going on, when a female canadian friend of mine who lives in my neighborhood (we're the only westerners here) called me. Her Tunisian boyfriend was out on the street already and she wanted to know if I had seen him or knew what was going on. Per usual I had no idea whatsoever what was going on and she told me that the shooting was coming from Rue Imam Muslem, and that she had seen people running down the street carrying electronics and other valuables. 

I ran over there and saw a huge group of people standing around a large, well built house with broken windows. There was an Army truck outside and soldiers were shooting in the air to make people give them room.

I saw my friend Leila there and she told me that the house belonged relatives of Ben Ali. The relatives had fled the country and now people were looting the house.

The soldiers had come on the scene midway through, but since everyone hates Ben Ali, the soldiers allowed people to take anything they could carry away. After everything was gone the people had wanted to burn the house down for good measure.

While the soldiers here are typically laisse faire when it comes to robbing the former ruling families, they have a strict "no burning anything" policy and began firing in the air to stop people from setting things on fire.

They then talked to a local group of stick wielding citizens who built a barricade around the house.

Then i went up the street and played soccer (football for all you non-Americans) with a bunch of kids at a barricade.

Mark.
Jan 18 2011 23:24

From the same blog

Quote:
xerocada asked
Quote:
Would you define "pro-army/government police"?

BBC's coverage today indicated that there is still a lot of sporadic violence in the capital as well as confusion as to the composition of the interim government. Please comment.

The worst violence  of the last few days involved the army and local citizens groups fighting (unidentified and partially identified) well armed and well organized cells of terrorists.

I generally have referred to these people as "terrorists" and Tunisians have been using the term "militia." They are the ones going around shooting random people and soldiers and burning down government buildings.

This "militia" is almost definitely made up of former security forces, most likely certain elements of the presidential bodyguard and/or high ranking "special police" linked to the interior ministry.

In the first day of the violence these men kept their uniforms on during the day, and my friend saw a bunch of non-military security forces in black uniforms open fire on a group of people peacefully celebrating the end of the regime.

At night they changed into plain clothes and drove around killing soldiers and civilians and generally doing nasty things.

These are the anti-military/government police.

However, it seems that most local police were not involved in this terrorism and they are currently working with the army, especially during the day. These are who i mean by the pro-army/government police (ie. they are not shooting at soldiers and they are not trying to terrorize the new government out of existence.

The clashes in Tunis have been protests, and I haven't heard of anyone being shot at them yet. As of yesterday my friends were seeing heavy-machine-gun toting Militia exchanging fire with Army helicopters. As far as I have heard those pitched gun battles are over.

Mark.
Jan 19 2011 00:25

Video: interview with Arabist about the impact of the Tunisia uprising in Egypt

Tunisia and the region (Arabist)

Quote:
The elation felt across the Arab world over the Tunisian uprising is deep and palpable. It is not simply that, like most people, Arabs are pleased to see a long-repressed people finally have a shot at gaining their freedom. It is also that many recognise themselves in the Tunisian people and share their hopes, their fears, and also their guilt.

Living in a dictatorship is not simply about shutting up and putting up. It is a humiliation, an abasement of the human spirit, that is reinforced on a daily basis. Every time you lower your voice when mentioning a political leader, every time you shrug off rampant corruption as a fact of life that has no redress, every time you bend the rules in a country where connections systematically trump the rule of law, every time you consider emigration simply to get away from the ambient mediocrity and stasis, you forfeit a little piece of dignity.

Tunisians lived this way for decades, and the Ben Ali regime, which inspired such dread, turned out to be rotten and hollow. This small, well-educated and relatively prosperous country of 10 million – despite the rioting, looting and score-settling that has taken place over the past week – has a real chance at making an unprecedented breakthrough for this region and become genuinely democratic. And if successful, this breakthrough will have been made in spite of western support for the Tunisian regime, and without palace plots and military adventurism. It may yet turn out to be the genuine item, a progressive popular revolution...

The denial of denial is confirmation (Egyptian Chronicles)

Quote:
The denial of denial is confirmation, something we have learnt in Arabic grammar and this is what the Mubarak regime is doing now day and night to prove to us that what happened in Tunisia can’t happen in Egypt despite all the bets and expectations, despite all the tensions and despite all the fiascos on all levels.

(...)

Yesterday in a basketball match in Alexandria the Alexandrian fans chanted “Tunisia, Tunisia, Tunisia” when they were harassed by the security by the way...

Mark.
Jan 19 2011 00:01

Tunisia crisis: live updates (Guardian)

Quote:
2.06pm: There's more evidence of protests spreading in the Arab world, this time from Yemen.

Videos have emerged of a demonstration in support of the Tunisian uprising in the capital Sana'a. Here's a sample:

Mark.
Jan 19 2011 00:40
ocelot
Jan 19 2011 09:24

[edit: sorry that picture link has expired]