Fresh Tunisia protests break out in southern region over jobs

On Thursday, the army intervened to stop a dozen protesters from accessing the El-Kamour oil production site and blockading a pipeline.

Friday 12/02/2021
Youths burn tires and block roads in the southern city of Tataouine, on February 12, 2021. (AFP)
Youths burn tires and block roads in the southern city of Tataouine, on February 12, 2021. (AFP)

TATAOUINE, Tunisia - Dozens of Tunisian youth on Friday blocked roads in the long-marginalised southern Tataouine region in disagreement over the implementation of government promises to provide work and investment in the region.

Last November, the administration of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi pledged to create hundreds of jobs and a fund to launch economic projects in Tataouine after talks with union leaders and protesters after a months-long blockade of an oil installation.

Three months later, the protest movement launched further demonstrations, saying concrete measures had not materialised.

On Friday, some protesters burned tires and chanted slogans while others made businesses and institutions shut and take part in the demonstration, which has been criticised by some residents.

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has denied that the authorities had reneged on their pledges and said that the government has continued all along its talks with the protesters about implementing the agreement.

On Thursday, the army intervened to stop a dozen protesters from accessing the El-Kamour oil production site and blockading a pipeline, the protest movement said on its Facebook page.

The pipeline carries half of the crude produced by Tunisia’s modest oil sector and has been blocked several times, notably in 2017 by sit-ins that devolved into clashes with security forces.

Tataouine already suffered over 30% unemployment, one of the highest rates in the country, while poverty is around 17.8%.

The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out thousands of informal jobs and strangled illicit cross-border trading networks with Libya and Algeria that bring vital income to many of the region’s households.

Several protests have erupted in recent weeks in several parts of Tunisia with youths protesting lack of jobs and opportunities.

The latest protests come as Mechichi is at odds with President Kais Saied over a proposed cabinet reshuffle amid a constitutional impasse.