Hundreds of rural Tunisians on Sunday have reinforced on-going protests led by industrial workers and professionals in the capital Tunis, adding more pressure to quit on the remnants of the regime of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Braving overnight curfew, the protesters from the town of Menzel Bouzaiane, which witnessed the first fatality in December of the uprising due to police firing, have now converged for a sit-in around the Interior Ministry. Thousands of urban protestors organised by the trade unions are expected to join them later on Sunday, imparting to the Tunisian uprising, its second wind. The agitators are then expected to demonstrate outside the Prime Minster's office.
Overnight, the protesters from central Tunisia waving flags and holding aloft pictures of dozens killed during the month-long clashes with the police marched through the streets of Tunis shouting: “The people have come to bring down the government.” The crowd, which said was part of a “liberation caravan” had first walked around 50 km from its home base before boarding buses bound for Tunis.
The marchers targeted the interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi and the four belonging to the previous regime that had been given the plum Foreign, Interior, Defence and Finance Ministry portfolios in the new stopgap government.
Despite a pledge by Mr. Gannouchi to quit after proposed elections, the protestors are in no mood to wait. The protests have been growing over the last few days, with a section of the police forces splitting and joining the ranks of the agitators on Saturday. Around 2000 police officers, accompanied by members of the National Guard and the fire department had joined the march. They converged outside the interim prime minister's office and the historic Avenue Habib Bourguiba.
In an obvious bid to placate restive crowds, the interim government has put top loyalists of the former President under house arrest on Sunday. According to the state-run news agency, Abdelaziz bin Dhia, Mr. Ben Ali's spokesman and chief adviser, and Abdallah Qallal, a former Interior Minister are under house arrest. Police are also searching for Abdelwahhab Abdalla, Mr. Ben Ali's, now disappeared political adviser, the agency added.
Meanwhile, street protests, in the aftermath of the Tunisia uprising, are beginning to escalate in neighbouring Arab countries. On Saturday, police in Algeria broke a protesting crowd of around 300, which had been brought together by Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD). Street demonstrations in Algeria are banned since an emergency was imposed 1992. Five people were killed and 800 wounded when demonstrators had clashed with police earlier this month.
The contagion of street protests has also spread to Yemen and Jordan.
In Yemen, thousands protested on Friday against government's proposed political reforms and called for a limit to the duration for a President to hold office. In Jordan, demonstrators called for the formation of a new “national salvation government.”
Big protests are also planned in Egypt on Tuesday. Around 17 political parties have called for a “revolt against poverty, inflation, corruption, injustice, oppression, torture, fraud and tyranny,” a joint statement said. The statement added that Tunisia's uprising had generated hope that “change is possible.”