Tunisia's president promises to honour demands of revolution

Tunisia's president promises to honour demands of revolution
Tunisia's president promises to honour demands of revolution

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - President Kais Saied, an independent academic elected in a landslide victory in October, has made few statements since he took office in November. 

But on Tuesday, he made an unscheduled visit to Sidi Bouzid, where the first protests of Tunisia's revolt erupted, sparking the Arab Spring movements in the region. 

He promised to realise the key demands of the revolution - freedom, work and dignity -  within the "framework of the constitution and with legitimacy". 

"I will work despite manipulations... and plots... to honour your demands," he told a dense crowd in the centre of Sidi Bouzid, according to an AFP correspondent.

Saied also announced that December 17 will henceforth be a national holiday. 

Tunisia already marks January 14, the date Ben Ali was deposed. The former autocrat passed away in Saudi Arabia in September. 

On December 17, 2010, protests broke out after a young street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself alight to protest against police harassment. 

Since then, the Sidi Bouzid region has experienced further bouts of unrest fuelled by unemployment and poverty.

In early December, protests broke out in the region after the death of a 25-year-old who set himself on fire in the centre of the impoverished town of Jelma in desperation over his economic situation. 

Read more: Can Tunisia survive foreign attempts to derail its democracy?

Hablani, who found occasional work as a casual labourer, was buried in Jelma, near Bouazizi's home city of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia's deprived interior.

The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights expressed "deep concern at the state of social tension in Jelma” in response to arrests made during the protests, saying it reflected the government’s failure to heed calls.

“This showed the failure of successive governments to devise concrete solutions to unemployment and lack of development in Tunisia's interior, the NGO said. 

"Ignoring social demands" and reliance on security forces to respond was increasing tension, it warned, calling for a "radical change in economic and social policies".

Since Bouazizi's death, several other young Tunisian men have set themselves alight in protest against the country's continuing economic difficulties.

Tunisia held free parliamentary and presidential elections in September and October this year. Economic frustrations and the perceived failure of former governments to provide adequate public services led voters to largely eschew the major parties.

Similar concerns have motivated mass protest movements this year in Lebanon and Iraq.

Protests erupted in Iraq in early October, with the mostly young and Shia population of the capital and country's south voicing anger with endemic corruption and economic mismanagement.

The demonstrations have swollen in size, scope and fury since then, with protesters targeting symbols of Iranian influence and calling for a new government. 

Iraqis have been faced by a brutal crackdown in what amounts to the country's biggest crisis since Islamic State group militants seized large swathes of the country five years ago. More than 420 people killed and 15,000 wounded so far, according to an AFP tally.

Later in October, protests against a proposed tax on WhatsApp calls in Lebanon ballooned into an unprecedented unaligned mass movement calling for an end to corruption, poor public services, financial mismanagement, sectarianism and an entrenched political elite.

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