Tunisian workers fight on

This video from the USA is called Juan Cole: Tunisia Uprising led by Labor Movements, Internet Activists… It’s a Populist Revolution.

At least five ministers have been forced to quit Tunisia’s National Unity Government, less than a day after it was formed, in the face of mass hostility to its domination by the party of deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali: here.

American foreign policy specialists have described the events in Tunisia over the past week as the “first WikiLeaks revolution”: here.

Tunisian opposition leader Moncef Marzouki was greeted by ecstatic fans as he returned home after years in exile in Paris: here.

Hundreds of protesters have gathered in the Tunisian capital to protest against the inclusion of allies of the ousted president in that country’s new unity government. President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in a wave of street protests earlier this month, but his party kept the key positions in the new government.

The French government blocked the export of riot-control equipment to Tunisia just hours before the fall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, reports say. The move marked a reversal of a policy which saw ministers offering help in tackling the protests which toppled the unpopular president: here.

Mohammed Bouazizi, the 26-year old Tunisian whose act of self-immolation led to an unprecedented popular revolution in Tunisia, is quickly turning into a symbol for disgruntled Arab youths angry at their autocratic rulers and poor economic conditions – a development that Arab leaders in the region are clearly taking note of: here.

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3 thoughts on “Tunisian workers fight on

  1. The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)

    Tanzania: Lessons for All From the Tunisia Revolution

    18 January 2011


    Last Friday, January 14, 2011, the President of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee his country following street protests all over the country that seemed to gain fresh impetus every time they were brutally suppressed.

    President Ben Ali was a good friend of the government of the United States of America in its so-called war on terrorism.

    He was in power for 23 years and he was supposedly a good liberal democratic Muslim who got elected to a fifth term in office, with a landslide victory of 89.62 per cent of the vote, in a supposedly free and fair election in 2009, the year before last.

    Indeed, the United States legislators are reported to have just recently voted to advance President Ben Ali’s Tunisia a whopping $12 million in military aid.

    The European and North American media are now busy falling over themselves charming out condemnatory tirades against what they are terming a so-called Jasmine Revolution against yet another of the usual Middle Eastern Arab dictators.

    But a lesson for all of us is reflected in an editorial that is reported by the World Socialist Web Site to have recently been published in the United Kingdom’s Guardian that observed that: “The prize for brazen hypocrisy goes to President Nicolas Sarkozy, who declared, through clenched teeth, that France stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tunisian people.

    Do, please, forget the speech his foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, made in the National Assembly, shortly after the authorities in Tunis announced the deaths of 21 civilians killed by police bullets. The one in which she offered Tunisia the help of the French riot police.”

    The other lesson for all of us is that mass demonstrations that within 29 days gave rise to the still unfolding revolution began innocently enough on December 17 last year. On that date, a 26-year-old university graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, who was working as a street vendor, set himself on fire in an act of self-immolation.

    He did this in protest against the lack of meaningful employment of educated youth that were led to do his petty business in conditions that gave the police the lame excuse to harass him, by seeking to confiscate his unlicensed produce stand, as they do to most petty street vendors in similar Third World economic conditions. Mohamed Bouazizi died from the injuries sustained in his aborted suicide attempt on January 4.

    His death triggered several other unemployed youth to seek to try committing suicide, and it is reported that at least one of them commit suicide. The mass protest thereafter spread from Tunisia’s poorer eastern and southern regions, on to the entire country.

    The lesson here is that educated but unemployed youth roaming around in urban and peri-urban poor ghettoes, constantly harassed by police and city militia are a time bomb not only in Arab Middle East but also in African countries like Tanzania. Similarly, the demographic situation in Tunisia parallels that obtaining in countries like Tanzania, with a fast growing population of whom two-thirds are age groups under 25 years.

    The other lesson for the political elite in the Arab and African contexts is that once one increases access to primary, secondary and tertiary education, even when such education is relatively of poor quality by advanced countries’ standards, the recipients of such education often tend to pitch their material expectation higher and higher.

    The liberal economic model that has been adopted by most of the relevant countries further fuels extravagant aspirations in terms of personal material accumulations. Unfortunately, such aspirations are often disappointing where the majority of the youth are concerned.

    Rampant corruption and nepotism are reported to have contributed immensely to the emergence of educated youth in Tunisia who were so disappointed and desperate that they were not afraid to die from police gun shots, police batons, as well tear gas and water cannons.

    It is reported that as the ousted Tunisian dictatorship became more and more oppressive, it locked away most of the opposition leaders of the older generation and thus left itself in a situation where it hardly had anybody to talk to when negotiation was forced on it by the growing mass unrest in its last dying days.

    Its rule became even more tenuous when the rulers could not even be sure that they had the complete loyalty of many among the rank and file elements in the armed and intelligence services on whom they had in the past relied in suppressing opposition to its autocratic and corrupt hold on power.

    Dr Lwaitama is a senior lecturer, Philosophy Programme, University of Dar es Salaam


  2. The Monitor (Kampala)

    Uganda: Why Museveni is the Political Cousin of Tunisia’s Ousted Dictator

    Charles Onyango-Obbo

    19 January 2011


    Except for the fact that Tunisia’s president-for-life Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted last week after 23 years in power, there are uncanny similarities between him and our own President Museveni. If nothing else, Museveni has clocked 24 years and wants to keep on going, going and going, like the Energizer battery cartoon in the TV advertisement.

    First though, to the facts: Last Friday, following days of protests by angry youth, Tunisian former strongman Ben Ali sent his wife to bank vaults to collect the family’s silver and gold, and on Friday he fled to Saudi Arabia.

    And so vote-stealing Ben Ali’s two decades plus in office ended ignominiously.

    You have read, of course, why the Big Men in the Arab countries are quaking in their jalabiyas (robes). Tunisia is the first Arab country where street protests have ousted a dictator in modern times. In that sense, it has set a bad example for the other Arab youth who face exactly the same problems as those in Tunisia under Ben Ali – high unemployment, high cost of living (especially skyrocketing food prices), and opportunities robbed by a corrupt political elite.

    I was discussing Ben Ali’s fate with a friend in Kampala on Monday, and we noted the irony of his fall. Ben Ali fell not just for the things he did wrong, but mostly for those he did right.

    Outside of a few island states like Mauritius, no other African country has done so much to give its population higher education. Nearly 50 per cent of Tunisians between ages 20 and 45 have a university education, one of the highest in Africa. It also has one of the continent’s highest school enrolments – 92 per cent.

    Master degree graduates and graduates with advanced technician diplomas represent 90 per cent of graduates in Tunisia, the highest in Africa.

    Most of these were educated during Ben Ali’s rule. So what went wrong?

    Well, 46 per cent of young Tunisian graduates do not have a job 18 months after leaving college. Unemployment among youth between 20-30 years is 30 per cent.

    Nearly 50 per cent of Master degree graduates and graduates with advanced technician diplomas are unemployed! It’s these highly educated, unemployed, tech-savvy young people who ousted Ben Ali. If Ben Ali had not pursued an aggressive education policy, and the mass of the youth were illiterate, he would still be in power.

    Which brings us to Uganda. For all its one thousand and one problems, Uganda’s Universal Primary Education (UPE), and lately Universal Secondary Education (USE) have revolutionary possibilities. That is why it is shortsighted for sections of the opposition to criticise it.

    According to a 2008 World Bank report, Uganda had the world’s highest youth unemployment rate in the world (of a country that was not in civil turmoil). The report said that unemployment among young Ugandans ages 15 to 24 had been recorded at 83 per cent! Other data indicate that the situation has not changed over the last two years.

    There were progressive people in the NRM who believed in the social and economic value of democratising education, and giving opportunity to children from poor families to go to school. But there were also many political opportunists and cynics who saw UPE and USE as vote winners, and therefore they were given as a bribe. Indeed, in both 2001 and 2006, the Museveni campaigned milked UPE for votes.

    UPE and USE will not produce tomorrow’s rocket scientists. What they do, is turn out people with expectations of a life better than growing potatoes and raising goats in the village for sale in the weekly local market. These fellows expect good paying jobs in the towns and city.

    These UPE and USE graduates also recognise corruption when they see it, and understand its destructive effects when they hear it discussed on FM radios or read about it in newspapers. They see some fellows they went with to UPE school nevertheless get jobs in the state, and scholarships, and they quickly figure that it is because the chaps are from the Big Men’s tribes.

    The government has built many medical centres in the country, most of which are now empty. The fellows who went through USE and UPE understand that corrupt officials and their business allies stole the money, as they watch their children, relatives, wives die because they don’t have medical care although they may live 50 metres away from these centres.

    If these fellows had remained in the village, scratching their lice-infested hair and unable even to write their names, their expectations would be very low – or none. And they would have been very easy to meet. Museveni used to say, “NRM brought peace, at least now Ugandans sleep soundly”. These uneducated fellows are content with that. The USE and UPE blokes will say; “Yes, but man doesn’t eat sound sleep”.

    Museveni has a Ben Ali problem; you cannot take people to school, and then let your government leaders and state bureaucrats steal the very future you promised them and expect that there will never be a price to pay one day. A government that gives UPE and USE, cannot afford to be corrupt like Uganda’s is. Even DRC’s former kleptocrat and dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, understood that.


  3. Pingback: Don’t attack Syria, Tunisian trade unions say | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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