Africans Rising Statement
As thousands of Tunisians march across their country to claim public spaces and voice their ongoing struggles for freedom and fundamental change, Africans Rising stands firmly in support of this pioneering African nation. We continue to be inspired by the Tunisian people and civil society in their diligent and peaceful pursuit of justice and dignity.
Ever since the start of the Tunisian revolution in December 2010, Tunisians have been practicing their right to shape each aspect of their country’s transition. The month of January marks the anniversary of the revolution and, Tunisians are no strangers to asking their government all the tough questions during this time of the year. This 14th January, however, hundreds of thousands of Tunisians seem to have one too many disappointments as the population enters the seventh year of a challenging and grim transitional period.
One person was killed in the western city of Tebourba and many more have been injured as violence flared in other regions. Several security officials were also injured amid chaotic clashes. Slogans such as “No fear, no horror, the streets belong to the people” and “ Inflation on top on inflation, the elite rule as usual” are a testament to the Tunisian people’s commitment to defining the future of their country and exercising their right to peaceful assembly.
The protests broke out after the government's announcement of austerity measures in the 2018 Finance Act, which took effect on 1st January hiking fuel prices and sales taxes on goods such as cars, phone calls, internet, and hotel accommodation. A new, informal youth movement called “Fech Nestannew”/فاش نستناو ؟, “What are we waiting for?” sprang up at the beginning of this year and is using social networks to rally people against the 2018 Finance Act. The austerity measures were introduced at a time when Tunisia's economy is struggling and inflation is eating away at the average Tunisian’s earnings.
Africans Rising is concerned about the widespread arrests of almost 800 people since Monday, 8th January. In, response, the Tunisian government issued a statement saying that those who have been detained were involved in vandalism and violent attacks on public property. However, Tunisian civil society activists and numerous protest witnesses have described the arrest as arbitrary and uncalled for. The UN human rights office expressed concern over the alarmingly large numbers of detentions while 200 of the detainees are believed to be between 15 and 20 years. Africans Rising urges the Tunisian government against the ramifications of such a crackdown and urges the authorities to practice restraint.
Following these anti-austerity protests, Social Affairs Minister, Mohamed Trabelsi, announced reforms aimed at providing relief for the economically disadvantaged, including free medical aid for unemployed youth, increased state pensions, and the establishment of a national housing fund.
“We encourage the Tunisian government to continue developing this raft of social reforms and release Tunisians who have been indiscriminately arrested in hopes to stop this national unrest from escalating", said Coumba Toure, Africans Rising Coordinator. Africans Rising accordingly urges the Tunisian Prime Minister, Youssef Chahed and his government, to listen to the Tunisian people’s concerns and to have solution-driven conversations with all entities of the Tunisian civil society.
Issued by Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity.