News / Middle East

VOA Reporter in Tunis Discusses Political Uncertainty in Tunisia

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in the center of Tunis, 19 Jan 2011
Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in the center of Tunis, 19 Jan 2011

Multimedia

Audio

Hundreds of anti-government protesters marched in the Tunisian capital calling for allies of the ousted president to leave the government.

Earlier in te week, Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced a coalition government that included the current ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs and finance. He announced lower-level cabinet positions for several opposition figures.

At least four opposition ministers have quit the unity government, aligning themselves with the anti-government protestesrs. Reporter Lisa Bryant has been out on the streets of Tunis. VOA's Paul Westpheling asked her to paint a verbal picture of what is happening there.

Westpheling: You have been on the main street in Tunis, the capital.  What have you seen and what are people telling you about their hopes for the future?

Bryant: It’s a dual picture. Once again we have demonstrators on the main Habib Bourguiba Boulevard.  This is where the main hotels are. It is where thousands thronged last Friday to protest against the government and it ended up ousting the ex-president [Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali. Now we have probably more like hundreds of protesters. They are asking for the RCD Party, the old ruling party, to leave. And that means pretty much most of the ministers in this new interim government, including the Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi and the interim president, the former Speaker of Parliament, Fouad Mebazaa. 

There’s also a new tone in this crowd which is they want the end of foreign interference. They were particularly condemning the United States and France. Tunisians can handle their problems on their own they were chanting - we don’t want any interference when it comes to elections, we can decide ourselves. That’s one side of it.

Key players in Tunisia

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for more than two decades. He fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14.

Mohamed Ghannouchi

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi is a close ally of the ousted president. He announced a new unity government this week.

Fouad Mebazaa

Fouad Mebazaa was sworn in as Tunisia's interim president last week. H previously served as the speaker of parliament.

Najib Chebbi

Najib Chebbi is the founder of the largest and most credible opposition group, the Progressive Democratic Party.

Moncek Marzouki

Moncek Marzouki is the head of the small Congress for the Republic party. The formerly exiled political activist and opposition leader returned to the country Tuesday.

The other side of it is Tunis really is getting back to normal. This is a fragile normality I would say. You go down the streets, you see people in the coffee shops. I spent much of the morning before covering the demonstrations in a very poor neighborhood. This is a neighborhood where really the demonstrations were unleashed in Tunisia. Jobless youths, women and men who were just going around their ordinary routines, going to the market to buy vegetables. They are very very proud of what they’ve accomplished to date.

Westpheling: What about the police patrolling the streets and trying to maintain order?

Bryant: I have had colleagues who have had their cameras grabbed and temporarily confiscated. Actually, in this case our cameraman literally just arrived at the hotel and they confiscated the camera saying you do not have permission to film. You do not have permission to bring the camera in. [That[ is completely irrelevant right now because the interim prime minister announced Monday the complete freedom of the press.

Half of these organizations which are supposed to give us permission to film are closed because of the riots here. So it’s chaotic here. This is some of the old mentality that still is struggling. The police have confiscated the cameras of other cameramen. The police do crackdown against the demonstrators.

Yesterday, as usual, they broke up the demonstrations with tear gas. There’s also the army out in force, but actually the army is very well-viewed [well thought of] here and people say we need the army now to keep the peace.

Westpheling: Do there appear if there are any anti-anti-government protesters out, demanding that the old government be returned to power?

Smoke rises from fire left after clashes between security forces and demonstrators in Tunis, 14 Jan 2011
Smoke rises from fire left after clashes between security forces and demonstrators in Tunis, 14 Jan 2011

Bryant: No, no.  I wonder where these people are.  They must be there.  Nobody I talked to on the street said they wished [former President] Ben Ali would come back.  I did talk to a poor man today who said “we can’t have this chaos.”  This is a young man; one of the men who helped unleash this revolt, or maybe, revolution.  He said what we have now is terrible.  The evening before Ben Ali fled the country [last Friday, 1-14-2011] amid massive protests around the country there was a pro Ben Ali demonstration after he had gone on TV and promised some reforms.  

A friend of mine was here and said it was unreal.  It seemed like it had been staged.  I wonder where these people are today.

Westpheling: Can you explain how demonstrators were able to overthrow the government that ruled the country with an iron-fist for two decades?

Bryant: It’s absolutely shocking and surprising for me as well.  I lived in Tunisia for two years as a Peace Corp volunteer.  I was here when the first president was declared incompetent and too old when Ali took power.   I remember this clearly and I remember coming back afterward as a journalist and interviewing people and they were too afraid to talk.  Now, I’ve talked to Tunisian journalists, to people on the street, and everybody will talk to me.  Sometimes people will grab the microphone.  It’s like this pent-up anger and frustration.  It’s all coming out.   It’s absolutely mind-blowing to a certain extent.

Analysts will say:  don’t be surprised.  This has been bubbling in the background for the last few years and it was going to come out.  But it is surprise because Tunisia does not have this reputation of being a revolutionary state.  It’s not like an Algeria where there was a blood-bath in the 1990s.  It is surprise but people say all the ingredients were there.

Reporter Lisa Bryant says she has not spoken to anyone on the streets, today, who is supportive of the fallen regime.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs