Tunisia’s Revolution

Donald Douglas
American Power

PARIS – After four weeks of steadily escalating riots across Tunisia, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali lost his grip on power Friday. The country’s prime minister announced that he was taking over to organize early elections and usher in a new government.

U.S. officials confirmed that Ben Ali, 74, had fled the North African country, but his whereabouts were not publicly known. Wherever he was hiding, the day’s events suggested that his 23 years as Tunisia’s ruler were over, submerged by a wave of unrest set off by economic deprivation, official corruption and political frustration in the mostly Sunni Muslim country.

The spectacle of the iron-fisted leader being swept from office was certain to resonate elsewhere in the Arab world…

…The prime minister, Mohammed Ghannoushi, 69, in a solemn appearance on national television, vowed to abide by the constitution in laying the groundwork for a vote to choose a new government as soon as possible, in consultation with all political factions and social groups. He was not flanked by military officers and gave no explanation of Ben Ali’s removal.

“Since the president is temporarily without the capacity to carry out his duties, it has been decided that the prime minister would exercise his functions,” Ghannoushi said from the presidential palace in Carthage, near the capital, Tunis. “I call on Tunisians of all political and regional tendencies to show patriotism and unity.”…

Arab Bloggers Cheer on Tunisia’s Revolution.”

First thoughts on Tunisia and the role of the Internet.” A slideshow as well, “The Tunisian Moment.”

Some raw video here: “Tunisian Unrest: View from the Streets.”

Read the entire article and watch additional video at American Power.

From the BBC (video at their website):

Nearly 50 people are reported to have been killed in shooting and rioting at two Tunisian prisons, amid continuing unrest following the removal of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

There was looting and gunfire in the capital, Tunis, after the celebrations marking his flight to Saudi Arabia.

Troops are patrolling the city centre and a state of emergency is in force.

The violence came as the Speaker of parliament, Foued Mebazaa, took over as interim president.

He said he had asked Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi – who had earlier said he was in temporary charge – to form a national unity government…

…In the past four weeks, protests have swept the country over unemployment, food price rises and corruption. Security forces used live ammunition against protesters and dozens of people died.

The African Union has condemned what it called “excessive use of force against the demonstrators”.

Mr Ben Ali, who had been in power for 23 years, conceded power on Friday after the unrest culminated in a giant rally against him in Tunis.

He flew out of Tunisia with his family and, after the French government rejected a request for his plane to land there, was allowed to refuel in Sardinia before landing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi palace statement said: “Out of concern for the exceptional circumstances facing the brotherly Tunisian people and in support of the security and stability of their country… the Saudi government has welcomed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family to the kingdom.”…

Fall from power

  • 17 Dec: Man sets himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid over lack of jobs, sparking protests
  • 24 Dec: Protester shot dead in central Tunisia
  • 28 Dec: Protests spread to Tunis
  • 8-10 Jan: Dozens of deaths reported in crackdown on protests
  • 12 Jan: Interior minister sacked
  • 13 Jan: President Ben Ali promises to step down in 2014
  • 14 Jan: Mr Ben Ali dissolves parliament after new mass rally, then steps down and flees

Read the entire article at BBC News.

Update: neo-neocon has written a very good account about events in Tunisia, and includes this warning:

Nobody seems to know what will happen next in Tunisia. The sense is of chaos, which can provide an opportunity for even more sinister and repressive forces to enter the scene. Let’s hope not—but think Iran when the Shah fell.

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