Day By Day

Friday, January 14, 2011

Coup in Tunisia

When "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I were in Tunisia recently we were impressed by the ubiquity of unemployed youth who sat all day, every day in cafes watching the world pass them by. One person with whom we spoke put the unemployment rate at around 30%.

Tunisia is a land of extreme economic contrasts. On one hand you have a number of gorgeous Mediterranean resorts such as Hammamet, where the nation's elites congregate and wealthy Europeans flock. On the other there is widespread poverty as bad as anything we seen anywhere in the world. Also prominently on display were the symbols of authoritarian rule -- police, heavily armed guards, and portraits of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali whose image was prominently on display everywhere.

The potential for social unrest was palpable and bothered me the whole time we were in the country. One could sense resentment in the stares of the idle young men who lined the streets of villages, towns and cities. This week that resentment erupted into full-blown revolt. A diplomatic cable, exposed by Wikileaks, exposed the corruption of the current regime and crowds took to the streets in Tunis, Hammamet and other cities. Today comes news that Ben Ali has resigned and fled the country and the Prime Minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, has assumed presidential powers. Twenty-three years ago Ben Ali deposed the republic's first President, Habib Bourghiba, and proclaimed that the era of one-man rule is over. Let us hope that after a third of a century, that promise will finally be fulfilled.

Read about it here.

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