Concern mounts as protests continue
By Emmanuel Timeyin
Government forces in Tunisia have continued battling protesters who have in the past three days crowded the streets of Tunis, the state capital and several other parts of the country, to vent their displeasure on the worsening economic situation in the country.
Indeed, what started as a peaceful protest has since turned violent, leading to the death of at least one protester, with 240 people detained and 49 policemen injured according to official reports.
The exact cause of the protests is being linked to a series of austerity measures introduced by the government to try and boost the economy.
More directly, the protests are coming after the government announced an increase in value added tax and social contribution in the budget. The demonstrators are demanding the suspension of the 2018 budget and more welfare packages for struggling families. The new year has also brought a hike in the price of fuel, imports and other goods.
Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has promised a crack down on the demonstrators who have targeted police vehicles and government buildings but analysts say there is a need to probe deeper as the the problem is indeed deeper.
Ever since the Arab Spring forced former strongman, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who had ruled the country for over 20 years to flee as his government faced an unemployment and corruption crisis, Tunisia has been unable to recover fully.
Seven years on and an unstable political scene which has seen nine governments in seven years, the same economic and political problems still persist.
Incidentally, the protests are coming only days into the seventh anniversary of the world-famous Arab Spring, a series of protests that began in Tunisia in December 2010 and very quickly spread across vast swathes of North Africa and the Middle East, toppling a number of governments in its wake.
Already, analysts are asking what this new round of protests mean for North Africa and the Arab World and also for the rest of Africa. Would this protest led to another Arab Spring?
The situation in Iran which also bears similarities in a general sense with the Tunisia protests shows that the near-inevitability of a second Arab spring might not be completely ruled out if the governments do not take steps to address the fundamental economic and demographic challenges that experts say are at the root of the ferment.
For mainland Africa, there is equally a point of concern given that many African countries – from Nigeria to Egypt, Libya, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia to name just a few – are presently grappling with serious economic challenges.
Tunisian Prime Minister, Youssef Chahed