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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Police in Tunisia hold pay protest at presidential palace

Hundreds of police staged a protest on Monday outside Tunisia’s presidential palace to demand a pay rise, in the latest sign of the country’s economic and social woes.

Meanwhile, the authorities trimmed two hours off an overnight curfew imposed nationwide on Friday after anti-poverty and unemployment demonstrations in the worst social unrest since the 2011 revolution.

“We are defending our homeland but also our rights” and “Our accounts are in the red” chanted the police demonstrators, wearing civilian clothes rather than their uniforms, outside the palace in Carthage on the outskirts of Tunis.

Presidential guards, who lost 12 of their colleagues in a November bombing claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, did not join the protest but wore black armbands in solidarity.

Monday’s demonstration was organised “after the failure of negotiations with the government on salary increases”, Riadh Rezgui, spokesman for Tunisia’s domestic security services’ union, told AFP.

A government official who took part in the negotiations has said the cost of the pay increases demanded by police would come to one billion dinars ($480,000).

The police officers’ union says that wages have not kept pace with inflation.

Authorities appealed for patience after protests against poverty and unemployment in several towns last week.

In Sidi Bouzid, the town in central Tunisia where Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2011 in protest at unemployment and police harassment, sparking the Arab Spring, around 300 jobless graduates staged a demonstration on Monday. 

An AFP correspondent said security forces intervened with tear gas when the protesters tried to break into the governorate. 

But with the situation mostly calm across the country, the interior ministry eased an overnight nationwide curfew imposed on Friday by two hours, meaning it will now run from 10:00 pm until 5:00 am, instead of starting at 8:00 pm. 

While Tunisia is hailed as a rare success story of the Arab Spring uprisings, authorities have failed to redress the economy or resolve the problems of social exclusion and regional inequalities. 

Apart from the political turmoil of the past five years which has handicapped the economy, the North African country also faces jihadist violence that has devastated its vital tourism industry.



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