Tunisian officials sacked after protests

Tunisia said Saturday it had replaced two senior officials in a southeastern region, days after protesters there booed the prime minister off stage following weeks of demonstrations.

Tunisia has faced a wave of protests and strikes over joblessness, corruption and perceived marginalization, six years since a revolution ignited by similar grievances.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed was shouted down and forced to leave a heated town hall meeting on Thursday in Tataouine, 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Tunis.

On Saturday, the government announced that “Mohamed Ali Barhoumi (was named) governor of Tataouine and Mohamed Cherif named sub-prefect.”

Their predecessors were dismissed, as was the regional head of the National Guard, a government source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Other officials will follow,” the source added, without elaborating.

Chahed and his delegation had announced measures to bring jobs and development to the region, which residents claim is marginalized.

Tataouine residents have long demanded more jobs and a bigger share of the revenues from oil extraction in the region.

Several ministers accompanied Chahed on Thursday to the town where the market, banks and shops were shuttered and burned tires lay in the streets — evidence of barricades erected during recent protests.

Dozens of protesters interrupted Chahed during a speech with cries of “Work! Freedom! National dignity!” — a slogan from the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

In Tunis on Saturday, several hundred people demonstrated against a bill that would allow an amnesty of Ben Ali-era officials being prosecuted for corruption, in exchange for paying a fine and reimbursing any illicit gains.

“It will not pass!” chanted the mostly young protesters in the center of the capital.

Some wore T-shirts and carried signs bearing the slogan “Manich Msamah” (“I don’t forgive” in Arabic) the name of the group that organized the protest.

“No reconciliation (with the corrupt). They must first be accountable, then we can talk about reconciliation,” Tayssir Jlassi, a 23-year-old student, told AFP.

President Beji Caid Essebsi backs the amnesty bill which he has said would “improve the investment climate” in Tunisia, battered by years of economic turmoil since Ben Ali’s fall.

The law had been put aside last year, but reappeared this week during a parliamentary committee hearing, triggering an outcry by civil society groups.