Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Tunisia uprising town losing patience

04 December 2012, 10:25

Thala - Patience is wearing thin for the people of Thala, one of the first Tunisian towns to join the revolution nearly two years ago, with an abandoned marble quarry a stark reminder that for them little has improved.

On the edge of town, hundreds of blocks of royal marble remain stacked at the quarry, a resource that could bring in millions of euros in revenue and provide work for some of the 40 000 residents.

Before the revolution in December 2010, relatives of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali rented the land for next to nothing and tapped its natural riches for their own benefit, according to local marble worker Mohamed Salah Jomli.

But since the fall of the regime, the mines have come under the control of the government, headed by the Islamist party Ennahda, which has yet to decide on the terms of their commercial exploitation.

"We are the children of this region... We want the state to give us mining licences. Then we will welcome anyone interested in investing, whether fellow Tunisians or foreigners," Jomli said.

But until such time, unemployment and tough living conditions in this poor western town, key factors behind the social discontent that sparked the uprising in Tunisia which touched off the Arab Spring, seem unlikely to improve.

As frustration mounts in Thala, where the proportion of people out of work hovers at around 50% compared with 18% at the national level, social unrest, including protests and strikes, is making a comeback.

Thala lies close to the Algerian border, and at the beginning of October, a group of residents announced a surprise threat - to secede from Tunisia if substantial economic aid does not materialise, after a year in which regional investment fell by 30%.

On  the other side of the marginalised central region, meanwhile, a worrying number of Tunisians are boarding boats and risking the often fatal sea crossing to Italy in search of brighter opportunities.

'We are the living dead'

"We are the living dead, we live in the void, we have nothing. We own nothing. The only thing they [the government] do for us is to put us in prison," a protester shouted at a recent demonstration in Thala.

"The socio-economic situation in Thala is as bad as it was under the old regime, and no government promise has been fulfilled," Adel, a schoolteacher, complained.

The authorities have cracked down on the numerous protest movements in central Tunisia in recent months, but have failed to curb the social unrest, with strikes multiplying.

Last week the town of Siliana, 120km southwest of Tunis, was rocked by violence after Tunisia's main trade union UGTT called for a general strike that triggered clashes between protesters and police for five straight days, leaving hundreds wounded.

Siliana protesters were demanding the resignation of governor Ahmed Ezzine Mahjoubi, financial aid and a development plan for the impoverished town and the withdrawal of police from the town, blaming it for the violence.

Calm returned to Siliana only after a deal was negotiated with the government which included sidelining of the governor.

Faced with the rising anger, the government has promised various development initiatives in central and western Tunisia.

In Thala, it announced the creation of an inter-ministerial commission last month tasked with resolving the impasse over the marble quarry, and has also vowed to reopen a marble treatment factory that could employ 200 people.

The ruling coalition defends itself by pointing out that the country has seen a return to economic growth this year - with a forecast of 3.5% - after the severe recession that followed the revolution.

But that argument falls on deaf ears among the residents of Thala, including Ennahda supporters.

"We have to differentiate between the state, the party and the government," said Dhafer Khalfallah, a local member of the Islamist party.

"The party is aware of the gravity of the situation," he insisted.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...