News / Africa

Tunisian Protesters Challenge President's Grip on Power

Tunisians shout slogans as they demonstrate against Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, 14 Jan 2011
Tunisians shout slogans as they demonstrate against Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, 14 Jan 2011

A political drama continues to unfold in Tunisia, where thousands of demonstrators marched through the capital, Tunis, Friday demanding President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's resignation. The street protests come a day after the president sought to tamp-down the political unrest by pledging not to seek another term in office and to push through political and media reforms.

Listen to Kate Woodsome's report:

President Ben Ali's concessions appear to be a dramatic reversal of a long-standing policy of repression.

Protestors marching down the main boulevard in central Tunis shouted slogans against the president, calling him an assassin and demanding his removal. Friday's demonstrations were the first test of President Ben Ali's pledge to loosen restrictions on the media, slash food prices and stop security forces from using firearms on demonstrators in a country where freedom of speech has long been suppressed.

Slideshow of Tunisian protests Jan 13 - 14, 2011



"As for your political requests, I understood them," Mr. Ben Ali said in a televised address Thursday evening. "Yes, I understood them and I decided to give press freedom on all levels and will not block access to the Internet, and there will be no more scrutiny over the media. However, we have to respect our principles and behavior."

The president appeared shaken during his speech, hastily called to try to stop deadly riots over food prices and high unemployment.

The unrest has at times turned deadly, with hospital officials reporting 13 new killings late Thursday. The latest deaths, not officially confirmed, add to the 23 people already reported by the government to have died since the turmoil erupted in December. Rights groups and the opposition say that number is far higher.

Mr. Ben Ali's conciliatory tone in his national address initially sparked celebrations, with one-time critics blessing the president for recognizing his mistakes. Thousands of people poured into the streets to praise Ben Ali’s name.

But a day later, the president's history of alleged corruption caught up with him, sparking new protests. Mr. Ben Ali has ruled Tunisia for 23 years, and he and his family are accused of stealing the country's wealth for their own gain.

One protestor, Dilou Thoraya, says a promise to reform is not enough.

"He has done that under the pressure of the people," she noted. "It is too late, there are 70 dead people. While he was doing his speech, there were people dying in Kairouan. We don't have any trust anymore. The police are in charge here, the Ministry of Interior is in charge."

The unrest began in December when an unemployed university graduate set himself on fire after police confiscated his produce stand. Authorities say he was selling the goods without a permit. But the graduate’s suicide struck a chord among Tunisians frustrated by their lack of influence in the country’s long-running political leadership.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid