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More Unrest in Tunisia as Interim Government Is Announced

January 17, 2011 at 5:12 PM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn once again to Tunisia.

A public uprising led the country’s longtime ruler, President Ben Ali, to flee on Friday. Today, a new interim coalition government was formed, but members of the ousted president’s party still hold major posts. And that led to a new wave of protests.

We begin our coverage from Tunis with a report by Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: It was on this street last Friday that thousands of Tunisians ousted their president. And, today, several hundred of them were back. They have tasted people power here for the very first time, and they like it. And today’s new government is not, they say, what this revolution was all about.

Riot police have been deployed here in downtown Tunis for the first time since Friday, when there was a revolution. The problem is that there are protesters on the streets again who fear that today’s announcement of a coalition is a political fix.

The army is still occupying the capital. And it’s far more respected than the police, who were shooting civilians last week. “Continue rebelling against dictatorship,” the crowd shouted, furious that the yes-men who had served their ex-president are now in the new coalition.

So, this temporary government?

MAN: It’s like theater. You know, we are in a theater. We found out that things are not correct, as the conditions have to be.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: So, the revolution continues, does it?

MAN: Still continues. And it’s very, very scary.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: You’re going to have opposition people in — in the government now, aren’t you?

MAN: Yes, even the opposition, I (INAUDIBLE) them.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: You don’t trust them?

MAN: No, I don’t trust them. I don’t trust anybody.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Well, where is the leadership for this country going to come from, then?

MAN: We want the leadership to come from the people.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: You’re going to have elections in 60 days. Is that not a…

MAN: No, no, no, impossible. We can’t organize the elections in two months. It’s impossible, because we want a new constitution. We don’t like this constitution, no. We don’t like it at all, because they made it — Ben Ali made it for himself. He made it for himself. We want a new constitution.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: A policeman saw what he thought was a sniper on the rooftop and he took aim, and no wonder, because Tunisian security forces have been fighting gun battles with their former colleagues, who are still loyal to the ex-president.

To some, all this might look like chaos. But, to Tunisians watching nearby, the fact that they can demonstrate at all is proof of a country on the road to freedom.

MAN: You know, this revolution will give — will give hope to all the countries which are suffering from dictatorship and oppression.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Eventually, a crowd demanding the release of political prisoners broke through police lines. The police responded with tear gas, and leaderless street revolution paying the price for confronting the old state machine.

We ran for cover from security forces who now serve today’s interim government, including six ministers from the (INAUDIBLE) regime. The prime minister is one of them.

“Our priority is security,” he told his nation this afternoon. As he confirmed that last week’s defense and interior ministers have kept their jobs.

The hope is that today’s compromise coalition restores normality. State television urged people to get back to work, and many in the capital did. Tunisia’s uprising began last month, when a poor vegetable seller burned himself to death. And what he started still hasn’t finished.