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Why have thousands of police taken to the streets of Tunis?

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Why have thousands of police taken to the streets of Tunis?

  • 3000 police hold peaceful protest in Tunis
  • Demanding more pay
  • Curfew shortened by 2 hours, now 10pm-5am
  • Tunisia rocked by weeks of protests

The news

Several thousand Tunisian police officers have marched to the presidential palace in Tunis to demand more pay.

It is the latest challenge to Prime Minister Habib Essid’s government, after a week of protests and riots over jobs.

The police are demanding an increase in wages which they say have not kept up with inflation.

Chanting “Wages still in the red” and “We defend the nation, we want our rights,” police in civilian clothes marched to the palace in Carthage on the outskirts of the capital, Tunis.

Presidential guards blocked the road near the palace where the 3,000 police officers had gathered in peaceful protest.

Unemployed youths also held a sit-in at a government building in the city of Kasserine. Similar protests took place in the southern town of Gafsa and the northern town of Beja.

“We are here to call for jobs,” said one woman. “We want you to listen to our demands, to take them seriously. It is our right. Don’t hire your relatives and leave others in need. We want you to hire people in need, no to bribery, no to corruption, no to injustice, no to oppression and no to tyranny.”

“We want them to provide education, jobs, social services and hospitals,” said another. “We have not damaged or burned anything. We don’t want to make a fuss, we just want to work, that is all.”

The context

Tunisia’s security forces are at the forefront of the country’s war with Islamist militants.

The latter have attacked army checkpoints and patrols.

They also launched major assaults on a tourist hotel, a museum and the presidential guard last year. Dozens were killed, including many foreign tourists.

Tunisia’s government is facing increasing challenges including a split in the ruling party Nidaa Tounes, an insurgency by Islamist militants and a weak economy.

Tensions boil over

Tension over jobs and oportuniities boiled over last week.

Thousands of young men took to the streets in Kasserine after an unemployed man committed suicide when he was refused a job.

It sparked protest and riots across the country. The government declared a nationwide curfew, which has now been shortened by two hours and will start at 10pm.

Officials say this is because the security situation has improved.

The protests are the worst since the uprising that toppled autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali five years ago.

Tunisia – what is the problem?

Tunisia avoided the violent after-shocks that toppled long-standing leaders in Egypt, Yemen and Libya

Free elections and a new constitution were brought in, a political compromise between secular and Islamist parties.

But economic improvements have not materialised.

  • Unemployment stood at 15.3% in 2015
  • That is up from 12% in 2010
  • Growth less than 1% in 2015
  • Tunisians worry about jobs, the cost of living and lack of opportunities.

What they are saying

“We want to improve our situation, especially as we are in the frontline in defending the country.” – Chokri Hamada, police union spokesperson.

“Given the relative improvement in the security situation, it has been decided to shorten the curfew by two hours from 25 January. It will now begin at 10pm.” – Tunisian Interior Ministry

“We don’t have any trust in the government after all their promises.”- Chokri Hamada.

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