Eight cities were saturated with throngs of protesters waving Tunisian flags, amid chants of “Tunisia is not for sale”. The presence of a heavy police or cannon water would not stop them. They rather pushed past the police as well as the metal barricades. Their demand was simple: Kais Saied, who had seized power about a year and a half ago, should step down. He should step down over the aggravating economic woes and the arrest of anti-government figures.
In Sfax where the largest demonstration took place, some of the unionists raised loaves of bread to signify the soaring costs of living. Others also chanted “No to removing subsidies”, “The people demand the fall of the regime,” among others.
The Tunisian economy is deteriorating such that even staple goods are disappearing from shelves. Amidst state finances facing bankruptcy, the Saied-led administration has made moves to secure an international bailout from the IMF. In the midst of these crisis, government has arrested opponents including politicians, two judges, a journalist and a senior UGTT official, Anis Kaabi. The Trades Union has described the action as a blow to union work and a violation of union rights while opponents have also accused president Saied of dragging the country back into authoritarianism.
In addition, the UGTT workers’ federation has warned government that IMF supposed bailout could entail painful austerity measures and further plunge the country into financial and economic crisis. Meanwhile, the demands of the people have since fallen on deaf years.
18TH FEBRUARY, 2023
By Gwendolyn E. Dickens