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Posts tagged ‘Tunisia’

Nigeria’s Retrogressive Anti-Gay Law By Abiodun Ladepo.

By Abiodun Ladepo

This past Wednesday, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan elevated crassness and primitiveness to the highest level imaginable by signing into law a bill banning homosexuality in Nigeria.  I deliberately crafted the previous sentence so unambiguously.  He did not just ban homosexual marriage; he banned homosexuality as a whole!  Perhaps if the law had only stopped at “persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” one might not feel so much outrage.  But it went on to state that “any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison”!  In essence, only heterosexuals are allowed to hold hands in public, sit on each other’s lap, hump each other while dancing in clubs or kiss publicly.  What, in the name of God, just happened to Nigeria?

Let me state upfront that I am a Straight (heterosexual) guy who is happily married to a beautiful woman.  So, this write-up is not about me or my sexual preference.  It is about Nigeria’s lack of originality and lack of creative instincts.  We the people, along with our leaders, fail to do the deep thinking, the due diligence, in many respects that will take our country farther and more quickly than we have hitherto done.  Lethargy is irredeemably ingrained in our psyche.  Otherwise, how does being openly gay draw our country back?  We already have thousands of gay people in our midst!  How does their gayness prevent those of us who are not gay from going about our businesses?

This law assumes that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community just arrived in Nigeria yesterday.  No, the LGBT has been with us since, at least, when I was a young boy over 50 years ago.  I recall growing up in (yes) Zaria, Kaduna State, of all places, and going to watch evening dances of members of the LGBT.  We used to call them “Dandaudu.”  We, the kids, used to marvel at their public display of amorous acts.  This was in the early 60s.  They were not hidden behind the walls of any clubs in the middle of the night; they danced in open spaces and in early evenings.  I have also personally witnessed “Dandaudus” doing their dances in Bukuru, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri in the 70s.  And if you lived in the hostel during your secondary school years, don’t tell me that you did not catch a few of your guy friends “doing it.”  I have heard from some of my secondary school female friends of the sexual trysts that went on in their hostel.  Let’s not even talk about what happens in the dorms of our universities.  So, why are we just now finding out that their presence in our midst is anathema and antithetical to our moral fiber?

Reuben Abati, that formerly celebrated anti-bad government champion, who is now a turncoat and who I now detest with so much passion, defended the law with the pedestrian argument that since 90 percent of Nigerians were opposed to same-sex marriage, “…the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs.”   Ninety percent?  First, how did we come up with that percentage?  When did we poll the country to ascertain that 90 percent of our people oppose same-sex marriage?  And even if they do, what right does the majority have to trample on the basic right of the minority – the fundamental human right to freedom of association?  What right does the majority have to deprive the minority of having sex with whomever it wants as long as it is consensual?  The worst that the Nigerian government should have been able to do should have been the denial of official recognition of such a union. But to criminalize it is akin to despotism, especially in a democratic dispensation.

And by the way, since when has this government or any past Nigerian government taken a decision in favor of an issue perceived to have received the support of the majority of Nigerians?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the removal or Stella Oduah as Aviation minister, Diezani Madueke as Petroleum minister and Reuben Abati as adviser?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the banning of government officials, especially the President, from seeking medical attention abroad until our medical facilities and personnel are of the same standard as those they use when they go abroad?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the supply of 24/7 uninterrupted electricity to all corners of Nigeria?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the revamping, rejuvenating and reinvigorating of the EFCC so it can better fight corruption?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support a massive overhaul of our educational infrastructures from elementary all the way to university systems?  Don’t 90 percent of our people oppose the blocking of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by mega-churches and mega-mosques?  Have our lawmakers crafted any laws that criminalize the failure by government to do the things mentioned above?  No.  But these nosey people are eager to get into the bedrooms of Nigerians.

I find this homophobic inclination that is so rampant in our country as yet another example of religious zealotry and self-righteousness that have been the bane of our society.  Everybody is stampeding and trampling each other today in their quest to out-do one another as they condemn homosexuality.  But we will find out one day – tomorrow maybe –  just as we have found out in Europe and America that even family members of influential government officials can be (and are indeed) gay!  In fact, we will soon find out that membership in the LGBT community cuts across all spectra of our society – from the ranks of elected politicians, to traditional rulers, military officers, police officers, teachers, technocrats, pastors, imams, babalawos, traders and what not.  And what are we going to do when we find out that one of these influential people whom we had thought was heterosexual was indeed bisexual?  Would we throw OBJ or IBB or GEJ or Mama Iyabo or Dame Patience or any of their children into 14 years of prison terms if any of them turns out to be gay? What would we do when we discover that Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye or his wife, Folu do engage in homosexual acts (with other partners, of course)?  What about Sheik Muhammad Yahaya Sanni and his many wives?  Are we going to give them immunity against prosecution?

This is why I stated earlier that our leaders did not subject this law to a rigorous and intellectual discuss before allowing their emotion, religion and communal bandwagon mentality to overtake their sense of reason.  Before the bill was adopted by the Senate in 2011, a few Nigerian members of the LGBT community, supported by some civil rights activists, appeared before the Senate to argue against enacting such a law.  The lawmakers and religious zealots in the chambers of the Senate booed and heckled these gay folks till they cried and left in disgrace.  Among the booing and heckling crowd were men who maintain two, three, four or more wives – wives who are subjugated, mentally and are physically abused.  Among this crowd were women who cheat on their husbands with their pastors and imams to the extent of making babies out-of-wedlock while their husbands thought the babies were theirs.  These people, in my opinion, lack the moral right to tell a gay man or woman whom to love and whom to cavort with in public.

Believe me, gays are the least of Nigeria’s problems.  Graft in high places, greed in high places, hired assassination, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, neglect of rural areas, neglect of urban areas, lack of functioning basic amenities like electricity, water, hospitals, education, transportation, youth unemployment – all take precedence over what my neighbor is doing in his/her bedroom.  I am ashamed that my leaders do not see this.

And I get it. I get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  Even if I wonder how truly religious we are when we watch our religious leaders steal from the religious houses and sexually abuse the laity; even if I sometimes wonder why our religious leaders live in obscene opulence while they watch their followers wallow in abject poverty, I still get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  It is the reason why an issue such as gay rights should have been thoroughly debated intellectually.  I hope the passing of this primitive and retrogressive law begins the rigorous discussion of how we allow members of the LGBT to bask in their rightful sense of belonging.  We should lead Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia out of the comity of nations still wedded to the archaic tradition of segregating their own people on the basis of sexual preferences.

We should join South Africa, Zaire, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali (yes, Chad, Niger and Mali), Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau in the comity of nations that embrace the diversity of their people’s sexual preferences and have legislated to protect the rights of their LGBT people.

By Abiodun Ladepo

Los Angeles, California, USA


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Report: US, Libyan Forces Capture Tunisian Militant Leader.

Image: Report: US, Libyan Forces Capture Tunisian Militant Leader

TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisian state media said the head of the country’s Islamist militants had been captured in Libya by U.S. and Libyan forces on Monday, though his organization denied he had been detained.

The U.S. army also said it had not played any part in any move against Ansar al Sharia leader Saifallah Benahssine — the man accused of inciting an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia in 2012.

Any U.S. involvement in an operation on Libyan soil would be highly sensitive. Libyan Islamists were furious at what they saw as Washington’s interference after American forces captured a top al-Qaida suspect in Tripoli in October.

If confirmed, the capture of such a high-ranking Tunisian militant in Libya would also highlight close ties between Islamist groups in North Africa.

After the fall of Moammar Gadhafi two years ago, Libya has drawn foreign militants because its weak central government, uncontrolled southern areas and porous borders to sub Saharan Africa allow arms and fighters to flow to regional hot spots.

Western powers have pledged to help Libya control its frontiers and train its nascent armed forces to build up its capacity to control the country’s territory.

Tunisia’s TAP agency, citing a senior security source, said Benahssine, also known as Abu Iyadh, had been arrested in the coastal city of Misrata on Monday morning.

“An authorized security source told TAP that Saifallah Benahssine, known as Abu Iyadh, has been arrested in Libya on Monday morning,” TAP said. “The source said special American forces arrested Abu Iyadh and other members of his group, helped by Libyan forces.”

The U.S. military said it had played no part in any operation, and U.S. security officials told Reuters that U.S. intelligence agencies and their personnel also were not involved.

Some U.S. officials believed that Abu Iyad had indeed been captured, while others said that reports of his capture had not been confirmed and cannot be considered reliable.

Libya’s LANA state news agency also published the TAP report on the capture. But there was no comment from the Libyan government.

Misrata officials denied he had been captured in their city.

“Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia denies any information stating that its prince, the Tunisian Abu Iyadh, may God protect him, has been captured,” the group said on its Twitter account.

Ansar al-Sharia was one of the hardline jihadist groups to emerge after the Tunisia’s revolt against its autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali three years ago when long-oppressed Islamist ultra-conservatives rose in influence.

Militant violence has also increased there since the government began a crackdown on the group this year, declaring it an outlawed organization.© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria: Are Nigerians Watching? By Chiechefulam Ikebuiro.

By Chiechefulam Ikebuiro

Tarek-el-Tayyib Mohammed Ben Bouazizi, a Tunisian street trader who was in debt and tried to keep his small business afloat, set himself alight on December 17 2010, in protest at the repeated confiscation of his goods.

This singular act by this frustrated lad was the catalyst that sparked street demonstrations which saw the Tunisian people turn out to protest against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisians rallied against unemployment, corruption and lack of freedom of speech and they remained on the streets protesting. This is despite clashes with the police and military. Boy did they win!…Well on the 14th of January, Tunisians proved right the saying, Vox Populi, Vox Dei, when president Ben Ali resigned after 23 years in power.

He is now wanted by Interpol.

On January 25th 2011, it was the turn of the Egyptians. These people demanded the outright resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. This particular protest was largely peaceful as thousands gathered at Tahir square in Cairo and remained there through attempts by the Government to move them.

The people of Egypt wanted freedom,elections as well as jobs, and on February 11, President Hosni Mubarak resigned after 30 year of running (or is it ruining?) his country.

Today it’s Algeria. You know this is a country with a history of civil unrest.

In January this year,there were protest on the streets against high food prices and high unemployment. The government moved against this protest by lowering food prices.
Poverty is still a major problem as corruption as well as poor living conditions in Algeria. Know how Algerians took to the streets in protest?

Algerians defied the law against public demonstrations which is in place due to the country continually being in state of emergency and gathered in May 1 square in Algiers. There is no disputing what the outcome would be. They would not rest until they win. Wonderful, never say die spirit!

There is an uprising in North Africa! They have awoken!

When will we? You know i just sit and wonder why exactly these people have decided to revolt. What suffering they are going through that we have not gone through here in Nigeria a hundred times. They have now realized that they can shape their destiny..and they grabbed it!

Are we ever going to wake up to this reality in Nigeria?

Recently on my Facebook status I asked how many people would come out if there was to be a protest today, and I was amazed at the responses. Most people said they would not move an inch out of their houses.

The truth is Nigerians have really had it up to ‘here’.This is a country where much abound and we live in penury. Nothing (in the real sense of it) works .

We have seen it all. In fact we are the best-best at taking shit,and of course shoving it down out throats. Plus,you know what? Our leaders do not even care what we feel or think. After all we all enjoy the way they treat us, or don’t we?

Over one hundred and fifty million Nigerians being molested by less than a hundred thousand few and we do not even have the nerve to say NO MORE? chaaaaii! We are actually double the population of Egypt.

A country that has been languishing for decades. A country where thousands die by the day via road accidents and one man smiles to the bank with money meant for road repairs.

Ask a Nigerian and he tells you “leave them, na God go judge them”…hmmm.

A country that makes so much via crude oil, and her people wallow in abject povery. Housing is a mess. Joblessness grow by the day!

Should a country like ours still be talking about lack of power at this time when it is just a normal thing to most of our neighbours? Ask an average Nigerian and he tells you”e go better”..funny!

Even if the whole of Africa protests and revolt over the injustice meted out on them by their leaders, Nigerians,the citizens of the so called giant of Africa would not! Any time a few start to protest over, say workers’ salary, most of the people start to beg the protesters to back down. Can you beat that? You get to hear disgusting words like “e don do now, no be ordinary salary? “Salary? Ordinary?..We need healing!” leave them, na only God go punish them”..Ever heard the voice of the people being the voice of God?

You know Fela was spot on when he sang that song about nobody wanting to die (for their rights). Is this how we intend to leave Nigeria ?Would our generations to come live this same way? Egypt, Tunisia and recently Algeria have all moved drastically to secure the future of their generations to come. Against all odds. Do you know that it’s a taboo to protest in the Arab world? Well, these people did, because they could not take the injustice anymore.

For how long are we going to remain like this? These guys (our leaders) are actually living in paradise at our expense. Their children do not school here. They do not use the hospitals here, neither do they use our roads frequently.

How long more are our graduates going to roam the streets for jobs?

The three hundred or so people that died during this course in Egypt did not die in vain. They are heroes. Something’s got to give!

Do you, yes you, want to (or think you can) live forever? How could we be so self centered and not think about our unborn generation?

As a child I shouted ‘up Nepa”. I still do after 29 years! Haba! E neva do???

I hope we all come to realize that we actually can change our country. We can make masquerades posing as leaders do our wish. We can have constant power supply, potable water, good roads, education, as well as employment and all the good things of life, IF we want.

I just hope we do not wake up late.

Chiechefulam Ikebuiro

This piece was first published on  02/21/2011.Today Egypt just decided Morsi has not met their expectations.He is gone(after 1 year).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Worries Mount Mostly Secular Tunisia Becoming New al-Qaida Base.

TUNIS, Tunisia — The hunt for al-Qaida-linked militants in a mountainous region near Tunisia’s borders with Algeria in recent days has raised alarm that the birthplace of the Arab Spring has become the latest battleground for violent jihadis.

With neighboring Algeria and Libya full of weapons and violent movements of their own, Tunisia is struggling to prevent the growth of armed groups while making its own tentative transition to democracy.

The news out of Tunisia in the past week has been depressingly familiar for the Middle East: roadside bombs badly wounding soldiers and police as they comb a mountainous region for al-Qaida linked militants.

What’s unusual is that the setting is this largely secularized middle class nation of 10 million.

For now the numbers are small compared to those found in Algeria, Libya, or northern Mali. But recent fighting in the Sahel — the arid region just south of the Sahara Desert — has sent jihadi fighters looking for new havens, raising fears that Tunisia is in their sights.

“We have discovered a terrorist plan targeting Tunisians and the state,” Mohammed Ali Aroui, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said Tuesday, without giving further details. He estimated that there were some 20 militants hiding in the rugged 70 square kilometers (27 square miles) of Jebel Chaambi, near the southern city of Kasserine.

He said that another dozen were at large 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the north, around the town of al-Kef.

The mountain hunt is the culmination of a string of relatively minor incidents with armed groups since Tunisians overthrew the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, kicking off the pro-democracy uprisings of the Arab Spring around the region.

Ben Ali’s repressive regime was known for its harsh oppression of all forms of Islamists. After his fall, a once-banned moderate Islamist party, Ennahda, went on to dominate parliamentary elections.

At the same time, prisons were flung open, letting out many militants with connections to violent groups that appear to have restarted their activities. Ennahda is often accused of tolerating these more radicalized militants or not taking them seriously enough.

The retiring head of the United States’ African Command, Gen. Carter Ham, visited Tunisia at the end of March and warned that “it is very clear to me that al-Qaida intends to establish a presence in Tunisia.”

Ben Ali’s secular-minded dictatorship long bred extremist sentiments but most radicals then sought jihad outside the country’s borders, first in Iraq and later in Syria and Mali. Recently, it appears that some Tunisian radicals have decided to do their fighting inside the country — with a failing economy feeding militant views.

Most incidents over the past two years have involved armed groups using Tunisia’s southern desert to pass between Algeria and Libya. But in December the Interior Ministry announced the dissolution of a seven-man cell linked to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the same group that had formed an Islamic emirate in northern Mali in alliance with Tuareg tribesmen.

There were also discoveries of what was described as training camps in the border region with Algeria.

“The terrorists were looking to establish a logistical base to conduct their operations,” announced Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Mokhtar Ben Nasr on Tuesday, adding that in the past week, four bombs made of ammonium nitrate fertilizer had wounded 13 soldiers and police, including two who lost legs and two who lost eyes.

The campaign around Jebel Chaambi, Tunisia’s highest mountain at 1,500 meters (4,900 feet), has transfixed Algeria, which fears that Tunisian violence may start roiling its own shaky security situation.

Since the fall of Ben Ali, there has been a rise not just in moderate Islamist groups but also hardline ultraorthodox Muslims known as salafis, who have railed against what they call the secular elements of a country long known for its progressive attitudes, especially concerning women’s rights.

Critics of the government say these salafi groups, including those advocating violence, have been allowed to run rampant. On Sept. 14, several salafi groups converged on the U.S. Embassy, burning cars and destroying a nearby American school. Seifallah Ben Hassine of the Ansar al-Sharia group, a former denizen of Ben Ali’s jails, has gone into hiding after being linked to the embassy attack.

In February, a leftist politician, Chokri Beliad, was assassinated and the men eventually arrested were described as being linked to salafi groups.

The attacks sent the country’s delicate political transition into turmoil, prompting then-Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to resign in February and raising fears that the Ennahda-led government was failing not only at the economy but security as well.

“The terrorist threat has moved to a higher level,” Jebali said in a recent interview with the French-language daily La Presse. “The top priority is to launch a decisive campaign to recover all the weapons circulating in the country.”

He added that the country is still in the delicate process of writing a new constitution and holding elections for a new legislature and president, by the end of the year. The process has been riven by angry disputes between Ennahda and the opposition parties, partly over Ennahda’s alleged laxity towards salafis.

“Please don’t add political and social landmines to those already on Jebel Chaambi,” said Jebali, calling for national unity in face of the threat.

Part of the problem is the hundreds of mosques under control of radical preachers that are filling disaffected youth in the impoverished interior with ideas of jihad, whether at home or abroad. A third of the 32 attackers against an Algerian gas facility in January were Tunisian and there are reportedly hundreds fighting in Syria.

Alaya Allani, an expert on North African Islamist movements, estimated that some 500 of 4,000 mosques are outside state control — several times the number the government has acknowledged.

“For now the warning light is orange but it risks turning red if the appropriate measures are not taken,” he said, recommending a national conference of all political parties to forge a common anti-terrorism strategy.

But Riccardo Fabiani, the North Africa analyst of the London-based Eurasia group, said that some of the alarm over the recent attacks has been overblown when taken in a broader regional context.

“If we compare the situation in Tunisia to the rest of the region, particularly Libya and Algeria, it is pretty much under control,” he said, adding that state and foreign interests were not under any significant threat.

He said that part of the problem is how demoralized security forces have been since the fall of Ben Ali, sapping their ability to maintain border security as well as in the past.

“They are countering the problem with limited resources and security forces are downbeat,” he said. “They feel powerless.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thousands of Tunisians call for Islamist government to quit.

  • Young women calling for a stop to violence against women, chant slogans and hold pictures of assassinated secular politician Chokri Belaid, as they demonstrate against the government, along Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis March 9, 2013. REUTERS/Anis Mili

    View PhotoReuters/Reuters – Young women calling for a stop to violence against women, chant slogans and hold pictures of assassinated secular politician Chokri Belaid, as they demonstrate against the government, along …more 

By Tarek Amara

Tunis (Reuters) – Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets of the capital Tunis on Saturday to call for an end to an Islamist government they blame for the assassination of a leading secular politician 40 days earlier.

It was the biggest demonstration since Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside his house on February 6, igniting the worst unrest since the Jasmine Revolution that toppled strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and started the Arab Spring.

In a bid to quell the protests, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned and was replaced by Ali Larayedh, a fellow member of the Islamist Ennahda party, who formed a new coalition governmentincluding independents in key ministries.

But protesters on Saturday blamed the ruling party for Belaid’s murder and chanted “Ennahda go,” “The people want a new revolution,” and “The people want to bring down the regime.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the killing, which Belaid’s family blames on Ennahda. The party denies involvement and police say the killer was a radical Salafist Islamist.

Belaid, a left-wing lawyer, was shot at close range outside his Tunis home by an assassin who fled on a motorcycle.

His nine-party Popular Front bloc has only three seats in Tunisia‘s Constituent Assembly, which is acting as parliament and writing a new national charter, compared to some 120 for Ennahda and its partners. But Belaid spoke for many who fear religious radicals are stifling freedoms won in the Arab Spring.

The North African state’s new Islamist-led government won a confidence vote on Wednesday although the death of an unemployed man who set himself on fire underscored popular discontent with high unemployment, inflation and corruption.

“They killed Chokri but they cannot kill the values ​​of freedom defended by him,” Belaid’s widow Basma said in front of her husband’s grave on Saturday.

Tunisia’s transition has been more peaceful than those in Egypt and Libya, and has led to freedom of expression and political pluralism. But tensions run high between liberals and the Islamists who did not play a major role in the revolt but were elected to power.

The government is also pressing ahead with tax rises and subsidy cuts to reduce this year’s projected budget deficit of 6 percent of gross domestic product, despite a storm of public criticism.

Lacking the huge oil and gas resources of neighbours Libya and Algeria, Tunisia’s compact size, relatively skilled workforce and close ties with Europe have raised hopes it can set an example of economic progress for the region. Tourism is a major foreign currency earner.


By Tarek Amara | Reuters

Tunisia’s broadened government begins mission to ease unrest.

By Tarek Amara

Tunis (Reuters) – Tunisia‘s new Islamist-led government, broadened to include independents to defuse unrest after the assassination of an opposition leader, began work on Thursday pledging to tackle grave economic woes before elections later this year.

The new leadership got a reminder of the volatile discontent it is grappling with when Adel Kehdri, an unemployed 27-year-old man, died on Wednesday after setting himself on fire to protest at economic and social hardships.

Kehdri’s act recalled the self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, whose death in December 2010 ignited popular upheaval in Tunisia that toppled dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and then spread across the Arab world.

New Prime Minister Ali Larayedh replaced Hamadi Jebali, a fellow leader of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party who quit after the February 6 murder of secular politician Chokri Belaid ignited the worst violence in Tunisia since Ben Ali’s overthrow.

A formal ceremony at the Kasbah Palace inaugurated the new government, which will lead the North African state until elections expected towards the end of this year.

Larayedh’s cabinet retains two junior secular coalition from the previous government but Ennahda gave some key ministries to independents to quiet critics who say Tunisia’s relatively secular society is under threat from Islamist hardliners.

Larayedh said the government’s mission – steps to ease an official 17 percent unemployment rate and high inflation – would be difficult but he was “confident of success”.

The economic and social problems that fuelled Tunisia’s 2011 uprising have yet to be solved and often spark unrest. Feuding politicians have missed deadlines to produce a new constitution and set dates for parliamentary and presidential elections.

The malaise worsened when Belaid was shot dead in broad daylight in what the Tunis authorities said was an attack by Salafi Islamist militants. Ennahda denied any involvement but mass protests erupted, often targeting the party.

Hundreds demonstrated again on Thursday during Kehdri’s funeral in the town of Jendouba, shouting anti-government and anti-Ennahda slogans and demanding attention be paid to their economic difficulties.

Kehdri, who set himself ablaze in the centre of the capital Tunis on Tuesday, was the latest of several Tunisians to emulate Bouazizi’s self-immolation in desperation over daily hardships.

The government this month raised most fuel prices for the second time in six months, lifting petrol levies by 6.8 percent, and slapped a 1 percent tax on monthly salaries above 1,700 dinars to help fund remaining fuel and food subsidies.

Taxes on alcohol were also increased this month and the state-controlled milk price was put up a few weeks ago.

The Tunisian Organization for Consumer Protection has called for protests on Friday against the fuel price hike and high inflation and thousands of people are likely to turn out.

Taxi drivers plan a one-day walkout on Monday while petrol station owners have announced a three-day strike in April, saying higher fuel prices will spur petrol smuggling from Libya.


By Tarek Amara | Reuters

Tunisia forms new government, hopes to end crisis.

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP)Tunisian politicians have formed a new government that they hope will defuse the country’s deepest political crisis since it overthrew a decades-long dictatorship and inspired similar uprisings across the Middle East.

The killing of an opposition leader last month set off the crisis and led to violent protests against the Islamist-led government. Some have criticized the ruling party of not doing enough to rein in extremist violence.

Ali Larayedh, the former interior minister tapped to be the new prime minister, announced thegovernment Friday. It will include independent politicians in the key posts of the Interior, Foreign, Defense and Justice Ministries — a concession aimed at calming tensions ahead of elections later this year.

Tunisia‘s transition to democracy is being closely watched since its revolution sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.


Associated Press

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