Written by Jorge Martín Friday, 21 January 2011
While the “new” Tunisian government of “national unity” (in fact, stacked with Ben Ali ministers) had its first meeting on Thursday, January 20, and attempted to rush through a series of measures which would gain it some legitimacy, the revolution continues on the streets and in the workplaces with workers taking on anyone in authority who had links to the old Ben Ali regime.
Tunis, 19 January, protest against new government. Photo: Nasser NouriThe “new” president Gannouchi was forced to announce the legalisation of all political parties, a general amnesty (though this was just a project, to be discussed in parliament) and the nationalisation of all buildings of the hated RCD ruling party. The government also declared three days of national mourning for the martyrs of the revolution. What utter hypocrisy, considering that the key ministers in this government were part of the government that killed these martyrs! There can be no mourning until those responsible for the killings are removed from the government and other official positions and put on trial.
Yesterday we reported that there had been demonstrations throughout the country of tens of thousands in every town and city, even the most remote. The growing anger against the government of Ghannouchi (Ben Ali’s prime minister) has developed into a national movement of protest which is spreading to all sections of society. Today there were even reports of a strike and demonstrations by police officers in Monastir, Bizerte and even parts of Tunis. Some were at work, directing traffic, but wearing red arm bands in protest.
The demonstrations continue and regional general strikes have already been called for today, Friday 21, in many different regions, with demands for the dismissal of the government of Gannouchi. “You stole the country’s wealth, but you will not steal the revolution – Resignation of the government – we will always be loyal to the blood of our martyrs” were amongst the slogans.
Yesterday we reported how a Provisional Council had taken over the running of all affairs in Sidi Bou Ali. We have now received a report that a similar development has taken place in the city of Siliana, in the North West where “the citizens have set up a local council for the protection of the revolution and the management of public affairs”. Their founding statement says that “faced with the vacuum of power created by the flight of officials linked to the RCD”, they have decided to create a local and a regional council “to protect the revolution and to manage the running of the city and the governorate.”
In a very significant development the Army seemed to be testing the ground as to how far they can go in restoring “order”, i.e. the old authorities, in the towns and cities which have been taken over by the peoples’ revolutionary committees. In the town of Sidi Bou Rouis, also in the Siliana governorate, the “Council for the Protection of the People’s Revolution” has issued the following statement:
“The Army Commander has called the Bou Rouis local committees and told them that within the framework of things being brought back to normal functioning, the return of council members and mayors has been approved.
“As a result of this dangerous development ‘the Bou Rouis Council for the Protection of the People’s Revolution’ has called an emergency meeting this evening to discuss the new situation and how to deal with it, and calls for the mobilisation of the whole people today and tomorrow in mass rallies and agrees the following urgent demands:
“1) The formation of a national transitional government consisting of national figures known for their integrity and who were not involved with the former regime to run state affairs and draft a new constitution and new electoral rules.
“2) The dissolution of the House of Representatives and the Council of Advisers, which lost all semblance of legitimacy during the people’s revolution for freedom and dignity.
“3) The issuing of a ban to prevent elements of the former regime from exercising any political activity on the grounds of complicity with the former ruling party which plunged the country into a dark period dominated by injustice and tyranny, corruption and unemployment and the wastage of an unprecedented amount of wealth of the country at the expense of the public who are subject to all forms of repression and deprivation.
“Long live the People… Long live the Revolution
“Glory to the people… Glory to the martyrs… Glory to the revolution of Tunisia for dignity and freedom.
“Time: 15:40, Bou Rouis, 20 January” [full Arabic original below].
This is, again, an extraordinary state of affairs, in which the people have not only taken power in the whole of the Siliana governorate, but are standing strong in the face of the attempt of the Army to restore the old mayors back in power. We see how, like in the statement from the Provisional Council of Sidi Bou Ali, they call for a provisional government to be formed, composed of nationally recognized figures not linked to the old regime. We think that it should be the revolutionary committees and councils themselves who should organise such a transitional body, which should be charged with convening a genuinely democratic national assembly.
Meanwhile, the masses continue their direct action, deepening the scope of the revolution also into the workplaces. There are many reports of journalists in state owned newspapers, radio stations, TV channels, etc., which used to be nothing but disgusting mouthpieces of Ben Ali’s propaganda, getting organized and taking over the editorial line.
This is the case at the state-owned La Presse. El-Heni, a journalist in the foreign desk explains:
“We had an important meeting and decided to create two elected editorial committees to supervise the editorial line, and we told the boss that he would no longer have any editorial control… He is only here for finance and administration. He was clever enough to understand that.”