Protesters oust Tunisia president; Meles next

Widespread protests across Tunisia over economic crisis has forced the President of the northern Africa country. Ethiopia’s genocidal junta led by Meles Zenawi could also be facing the same fate soon as Ethiopia currently is engulfed in a debilitating economic crisis. Recent price hikes prompted Meles to impose price caps. This week, the Woyanne junta police arrested close to one hundred businessmen who have not complied with the price caps.

President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia forced out

(BBC) — Tunisia’s President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has stepped down after 23 years in power, amid widespread protests on the streets of the capital Tunis.

In a televised address, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said he would be taking over.

Tunisia economic crisisA state of emergency was declared earlier, as rumbling nationwide protests over economic woes snowballed into anti-government demonstrations.

Unconfirmed reports say Mr Ben Ali has left the country.

Earlier, police fired tear gas as thousands of protesters gathered outside the interior ministry.

Doctors say that 13 people were killed in overnight clashes in Tunis, and there are unconfirmed reports that five people have been killed in protests on Friday outside the capital.

Troops have surrounded the country’s main international airport, Tunis Carthage, and the country’s air space has been closed.

A state of emergency decree bans gatherings of more than three people and imposes a night-time curfew. Security forces have been authorised to open fire on people not obeying their orders.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he stood side-by-side with the citizens of Tunisia, his country’s former protectorate.

“Only dialogue can bring a democratic and lasting solution to the current crisis,” said Mr Sarkozy in a statement.

The US, a staunch ally of Tunisia, said all people “had the right to choose their own leaders”.

Mr Ghannouchi, 69, a former finance minister who has been prime minister since 1999, will serve as interim president.

In an address on state television, he promised to “respect the law and to carry out the political, economic and social reforms that have been announced”.
Stranded tourists

The BBC’s Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says Mr Ben Ali’s demise will go down in history as the day that an Arab population rose and brought down a head of state they regarded as a dictator.

He says it may rattle the entire post-colonial order in North Africa and the wider Arab world.

Earlier, Mr Ben Ali – who had said in a TV address on Thursday night that he would relinquish power in 2014 – said he was dismissing the government and dissolving parliament, and that new elections would be held within six months.

Human rights groups say dozens of people have died in recent weeks as unrest has swept the country and security forces have cracked down on the protests.

The protests started after an unemployed graduate set himself on fire when police tried to prevent him from selling vegetables without a permit. He died a few weeks later.

UK tour operator Thomas Cook said it would pull out all 1,800 of its customers currently on holiday in Tunisia.

Thomas Cook and another holiday company, Thomson First Choice, are cancelling departures to Tunisia scheduled for Sunday 16 January. However, Thomson are not bringing home visitors already in Tunisia early.

Tourism is key to Tunisia’s economy and an important source of jobs.

The UK, the US and France are among the countries advising against non-essential travel to Tunisia.

“The situation is unpredictable and there is the potential for violence to flare up, raising the risk of getting caught up in demonstrations,” the UK Foreign Office said in its latest travel advisory.

In his speech on Thursday night, Mr Ben Ali, who had governed Tunisia since 1987, announced he would stand down in 2014.

He said there was “no presidency for life” in Tunisia. But he said he did not intend to amend the constitution to remove the upper age limit for presidential candidates, which would have allowed him to stand for a further term in 2014.

The president, who earlier this week had blamed the unrest on “terrorists”, also said he felt “massive regret” over the deaths of civilians in the protests.

Mr Ben Ali, 74, was only Tunisia’s second president since independence from France in 1956. He was last re-elected in 2009 with 89.62% of the vote.