3 December 2012

Tunisia: Siliana Protestors End Strike

Tunis — After days of violent protests, calm returns to the restive Tunisian town.

The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) on Sunday (December 2nd) called an end to a general strike that triggered five days of violence in the central town of Siliana, AFP reported.

The move came a day after the union reached a compromise deal with the government. The protesters had demanded the resignation of the regional governor, funds to boost development and the release of demonstrators arrested last year.

Under the agreement, governor Ahmed Ezzine Mahjoubi would be side-lined and his deputy would assume responsibilities.

"The deal meets all the demands of the residents of Siliana. We call for calm, because there is no excuse for the protests and the violence", government spokesman Samir Dilou said.

The day before the parties came to terms, President Moncef Marzouki warned that the Siliana crisis could spread and thus "threaten the future of the revolution".

Tunisia was at a crossroads between "the road to ruin and the road to recovery", Marzouki said in a televised speech on Friday.

More than 300 people were injured in the five days of violence.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali last Thursday vowed that the government would enforce the law.

"The current government is legitimate and was formed based on election, and can only be replaced through electoral legitimacy. The mayor represents the government, and his dismissal in this way is a desire to topple the government. However, this will only happen through ballot boxes", he added.

He added that the events in Siliana were "the continuation of a previous condition of marginalisation".

Interior Minister Ali Larayedh accused the Popular Front, and its leadership under Shokri Belaid of inflaming the situation, noting that the "security forces intervened as per the law to protect government facilities, including the seat of government in Siliana province."

In her turn, journalist Sihem Amar, who was in Siliana, commented that the demonstrators "had not stormed the security centres or the seat of government". She accused the government of lying about the events.

The protests spurred an outpouring of solidarity in several areas around the country. Many accused the government of continuing the policy of marginalisation.

"Nothing has changed in Tunisia; rather, things are getting worse under an immature government whose only concern is to stay in power at any cost," Mourad Bou Ali said.

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