Of all Arab countries that experienced a popular uprising, Tunisia seems to be the most stable. The National Constituent Assembly (NCA), the democratically elected body is in the process of drafting the Tunisian constitution and the next presidential and parliamentary elections are due to be held on June 23, 2013. However, the security situation is still a roadblock in Tunisia as it approaches the second anniversary of the revolution triggered on December 17, 2010.
As political instability mounts, violence escalates in Tunisia’s north-west region of Siliana. For the fourth day in a row, thousands of people are still protesting in Siliana demanding that the local governor quits. The situation detoriorated when police started using shot gun shells against protesters and more than two hundred people have been injured so far, according to Mohamed Zaidi, director of Siliana’s regional hospital.
Residents of the impoverished town, 120 kilometres southwest of Tunis, are just like all other marginalized interior regions in Tunisia, desperately asking for social and economic development. Protesters said that they would not stop protesting until governor Ahmed Ezzine Mahjoubi leaves his position, police repression ends and a development plan for the region is established. What worsened the situation, is Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali’s announcement that governor of Siliana will not be fired. UGTT, Tunisia’s main trade union leading the protest called for a general strike in Siliana on Friday November 30, while Jebali has accused opposition parties and unions of inciting the protests.
According to Mohamed Amine Somrani, local journalist in the region, what triggered the protest is an act of disrespect towards a female trade unionist : « Residents of Siliana are demanding regional development and they are not happy with the government’s performance : they still feel marginalized. What sparked the protests is the disrespectful behaviour of the governor’s assistant towards a female member of UGTT. He was yelling at her and threw papers at her » stated Somrani.
Interior Minister Ali Laarayed explained
that the events in Siliana were in response to violent attacks by protesters
and that the security forces had to resort to buckshot in order to defend
themselves. In fact, so far, a police station and a regional delegation office were
set fire to according to locals.
Analysts believe that political stability cannot be established without a stable security system. « Violence threatens the democratization process in the country, » said Saleh Eddine Jorchi, a political analyst.
Continuous strikes, clashes and protests are plunging the country into a political impasse. The attacks on the US embassy on September (allegedly as a response to Innocence of Muslims, a US-produced movie that mocks Islam and the Prophet Mohamed) resulted in the death of six people, more than one hundred arrested and millions of dollars of damage.
Many have criticized the government’s way of handling the security situation in addition to rising discontent over the governement’s failure to improve living standards clear in Siliana’s protest.
In fact, poverty and widespread unemployment were driving factors behind the uprising that inspired reform across the Arab region, having brought about Ben Ali’s fall.