Protesters demanding jobs clash with police in Tunisian town

Tunisian workers shout slogans against the government in front of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) headquarters in Tunis. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Protesters demanding jobs clash with police in Tunisian town

TUNIS: Tunisia police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators demanding jobs in the southern town of Metlaoui on Sunday, witnesses said, days after violent protests across the country against price hikes subsided.
The protesters closed roads and burned tires to demand jobs after the state-owned phosphate company Gafsa (CPG) released the results of a recruitment campaign.
“Police are pursuing protesters and firing gas bombs, as youths closed the streets in Metlaoui,” Issam Chahbani, a resident, told Reuters.
“There is feeling of injustice and marginalization here ... We’re only asking for jobs and development.”
In Mdihla town in the same region, protesters clashed with police to press for jobs in CPG, witnesses told Reuters.
Violent protests erupted this month in several towns and cities across Tunisia following tax and price hikes imposed on Jan. 1 by a government seeking to reduce a budget deficit to meet an agreement with its international donors. One demonstrator was killed during the protests.
The unrest subsided last week after the government responded by pledging extra aid for poor families and those in need.
Tunisian unemployment is running at 15.6 percent, rising to about 30 percent among the young.
Once one of the world’s largest producers of phosphates, Tunisia saw its market share fall after a 2011 uprising against then president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. Since then protests and strikes have steadily cut into production and caused billions of dollars in losses. The CPG is the biggest employer in Gafsa, one of Tunisia’s poorest areas.
Tunisia has been hailed as the only democratic success of the Arab Spring: the one Arab country to topple a long-serving leader in that year’s uprisings without triggering widespread violence or civil war.
But Tunisia has had nine governments since Ben Ali’s overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems. The economy has worsened since the vital tourism sector was nearly wiped out by a wave of deadly militant attacks in 2015, and has yet to recover despite improved security.


Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

Updated 38 min 36 sec ago
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Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

  • The UN statement said both sides ‘made important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces as envisaged in the Hodeidah agreement.’
  • Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil.

NEW YORK: Yemen’s government and the Houthi militias have agreed on the first stage of a mutual pullout of forces from the port city of Hodeidah, a key entry point for humanitarian aid, the United Nations said.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the government agreed in talks in December to withdraw troops by Jan. 7 from Hodeidah under a truce accord aimed at averting a full-scale assault on the port and paving the way for negotiations to end the four-year-old war.

“The parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces,” the UN spokesman’s office said in a statement without giving details on what was agreed.

Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil. This would be met by a retreat of Saudi-led coalition forces from the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah, where battles raged before a cease-fire went into effect on Dec. 18.

The Houthis occupy Hodeidah, the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial and aid imports, while Yemeni government forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi are massed on the outskirts.

The UN statement said the two sides also agreed “in principle” on Phase 2, entailing full redeployment of both parties’ forces in Hodeidah province.

Two sources involved in the negotiations said both sides had yet to agree on a withdrawal timeline or on a mechanism for local forces to take over security at the ports and city.

“The UN is still discussing how to reduce the gap between the two sides on how to choose the forces that will control the city,” one source told Reuters.

The parties could decide within 7-10 days on where they would reposition forces, said the other source, adding that Houthi fighters could pull back as far as 20 km from the port.

Disagreement on withdrawal had delayed opening humanitarian corridors in Yemen.

Under the first phase, the two sides agreed to reopen main roads linking Hodeidah to the Houthi-occupied capital Sanaa and in Yemen’s third city of Taiz, said a UN source.

They also agreed to enable access to Red Sea Mills, which holds some 50,000 tons of World Food Program grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month, the source said. Access to the site has been cut off since September due to fighting.

The Hodeidah truce has largely been respected but there have been intermittent skirmishes in flashpoints on the city’s edges.

Hodeidah became the focus of the war last year when the coalition twice launched an offensive to seize the port and weaken the Houthis by cutting of their main supply line.