Tunisia: interim regime makes cabinet changes, issues Ben Ali warrant

Tunisia’s Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi announced Jan. 25 that the National Unity Government has issued an international arrest warrant for ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his family. The transitional government also announced that a new cabinet is to be named this week, as well as new governors and ambassadors. Protesters continue to mobilize in the capital to demand the resignation of former members of Ben Ali’s regime.

The transition government has announced it will offer compensation to families of those killed or injured during the uprising. Authorities will also offer a monthly 150-dinar allowance and subsidized transport fares to jobless university graduates in exchange for part-time volunteer work. Army Chief of Staff General Rachid Ammar broke his silence on Jan. 24, speaking for the first time since Ben Ali fled the country. “The army will protect the revolution,” Gen. Ammar said, speaking through a megaphone amid throngs of protestors gathered outside government offices in the Tunis Kasbah. He called on protestors to return to work and allow the National Unity Government to complete its job.

Protestors have continued to gathered outside government offices in a “Caravan of Liberation” to force the removal of former regime members in the interim government. The Caravan has established a public vigil in the Kasbah, in defiance of a curfew and cold weather. The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) has mounted a strike aimed at forcing the government to resign.

Gen. Ammar specifically addressed the Caravan’s demands. “Our revolution, your revolution, the revolution of the young, risks being lost,” Ammar said. He warned against those “taking advantage of the Jasmine Revolution”, saying that “there are forces calling for a vacuum, but vacuum begets terror, and terror begets dictatorship.”

In the first pro-government demonstration since the uprising began, dozens of people marched in Tunis Jan. 25, chanting “No to the vacuum of power.” The marchers called on Tunisians to give the government time until new elections can be held. They were later dispersed by hundreds of anti-government demonstrators. (Magharebia, Jan. 26)

NOTE: Our source, Magharebia, while providing more detailed coverage of North Africa than most English-language media outlets, is sponsored by the US Africa Command. In a clear slant against the protest movement, its account emphasizes that “Citizens have criticised” the UGTT strikes. “When the UGTT called for a Tunisian teacher strike on Monday, some parents voiced their outrage to Magharebia.” Quotes from irate parents follow. No quotes from protesters or their supporters are offered.

See our last posts on Tunisia and the Tunisian virus.

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