Rocks, Tomatoes Fly During Tunisian Revolution Anniversary

Article Summary
Frustrated by the slow progress of the Tunisian revolution, people gathering in the town of Sidi Bouzid to commemorate the start of the uprising threw rocks and tomatoes at the country’s new leaders, reports Noureddine Halaoui.

On this day, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, the celebration of the second anniversary of the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution did not go unnoticed in Sidi Bouzid. Rather, it was marked by two salient facts.

The first is the hostile, aggressive and discretely violent welcome from President of the Republic Moncef Marzouki and the President of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) Mustapha Ben Jaafar. Both were downright "cleared off by a population quite unhappy with its living conditions, two years after the revolution."

The second is the absence of the head of the government, Hamadi Jebali, officially due to a sudden flu. Thus, Jebali sided with those who did not attend this commemoration for the second consecutive year.

It should be noted that last year, on the same occasion, the head of the government invoked a strangely similar excuse: he allegedly received a false program! This year, as luck would have it, he suddenly fell ill. His flu required exactly two days of rest ... just enough time to skip the event in Sidi Bouzid.

In addition, Jebali has a very busy schedule on Tuesday [Dec. 18] from morning to night. In other words, the head of government’s chief of staff was more than certain that Jebali would recover within 48 hours and be in great shape to resume his normal intense activity.

The question is, is this a diplomatic illness, as they say, and as most analysts suggested? This is very likely, especially considering that it is in the interest of the head of government to skip this ceremony since he already is in deep trouble. Many observers believe that he is on shaky ground amidst talk of his possible departure, as part of the next reshuffle.

Some went so far as to say that Abdellatif Mekki, the current health minister, will be his successor.

It is true that the star of Mekki has been on the rise for some time, as we see him on most of the television and on radio programs. And for a Minister for Health, one would say he is too involved (along with the Minister of Agriculture Mohamed Ben Salem) in the business of politicking.

Moreover, when asked about this very point by Moez Ben Gharbia last Thursday [on a TV] program on Ettounsiya, Mekki neither confirmed nor denied the possibility. He only said that all of the Ennahda leaders form a cohesive team and each of them can occupy any leadership position in the government.

Back to the commemoration of Sidi Bouzid. One must note that both "presidents" Marzouki and Ben Jaafar were able to grasp the extent of the citizens' anger. This rage reflects the state of mind of all Tunisians, including those living in deprived areas of the country.

Both "presidents" have really tried to defuse the tension, but all to no avail. People continued to pelt them with stones, hurling hostile and aggressive slogans, among which the most famous line "clear off." In the end, the crowd stormed the stage just after Marzouki and Jaafar left.

The protests were understandable and legitimate in the eyes of the city's citizens, who have long waited for salutary actions that would relieve them from their long-lasting straitjackets. However, one must note that these protests took on a violent aspect at both the physical and moral levels, insofar as one can say that the scenes that were witnessed today in Sidi Bouzi dealt yet another blow to the prestige of the state and its institutions. This ought to be condemned by all political and social forces.

In-depth work needs to be done to educate people so that they are able to distinguish between legitimate demands expressed peacefully and through legal means, and reprehensible acts of violence that produce the exact opposite of what is intended.

If people are rushing to make their voices heard and condemn assaults by politicians from the opposition or civil society, they should act the same when it comes to people occupying top ranks of the state's hierarchy.

The President of the Republic Moncef Marzouki and President of the NCA Mustapha Ben Jaafar were pelted with stones and tomatoes, among other things, by protesters who came to celebrate the second anniversary of the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution. This clearly suggests that there is a problem.

There is a problem with leaders who have failed to understand the real discomfort of Tunisians. There is a problem with citizens, who are frustrated to the extent that they no longer have respect for anything.

For his part, Jebali seemed to have momentarily "understood" the situation and the economic conditions and decided to escape the vengeance of the people, who do not seem to appreciate his way of saying through a television screen, that all is well in the best of worlds.

Found in: tunisian politics, tunis

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