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January 19, 2011

Tunisian Interim Ministers Resign from Ruling Party Following Continuing Protests

Tunisian state television reports that ministers from Tunisia's interim government have resigned from the ruling party of the ousted former president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The move comes days after four opposition ministers quit the interim cabinet to protest the ruling party's continued influence in politics.

On Monday, Prime Minster Mohamed Ghannouci announced a coalition government that retained the ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs and finance from the previous cabinet.  The new government was expected to hold its first cabinet meeting Thursday.

Some political analysts think there are lessons for African countries in the Tunisian crisis.

Among them is Abubakar Momoh, lecturer in political science, Lagos State University, who says the ripple of effects of the crisis will be felt in several parts of the continent.

“There are crucial lessons to be learnt.  The first is that we must try as much as possible not to shy away from analyzing the politics of North Africa.  Western scholars, western commentators, western donors and international agencies have tried to make this distinction of sub-Saharan Africa, Maghreb and the Middle East.  And what has happened is the whole process of political transition and democratization that has taken place in the last 20 years scarcely got to North Africa.”

Momoh says the reaction of the rest of the continent will depend on internal pressure and the expectations of the people.

“It depends on the balance of forces.  In Tunisia lot of people had thought that the country was a tourist haven, quiet, peaceful and everything is fine and that the opposition is not in existence.”  He said it was true that the opposition was weak, “but it’s because the repressive apparatuses of the state had been unleashed against them.”

He says it might be difficult for the Tunisian example to be replicated in West Africa.

“The case in Ivory Coast [for example] is slightly more complex.  The person who is currently recalcitrant and unwilling to leave power even though he has been defeated at the polls is angling for a civil war.”