UN says Libyans must allow return of stranded Tawergha group

Displaced women from the Libyan town of Tawergha, 260 km east of the Libyan capital Tripoli, are seen at a temporary camp, 20 km from Tawergha, after they were denied entry to their hometown: (Mahmud Turkia/ AFP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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UN says Libyans must allow return of stranded Tawergha group

CAIRO: A UN human rights expert is urging Libyan authorities to ensure the safety of hundreds of former residents of the northern town of Tawergha, “who are stranded and even dying in the desert despite an agreement allowing their safe return.”
The group, mostly dark-skinned Libyans who were due to return on Feb. 1 under an agreement with the neighboring city of Misrata, have been barred from entry and harassed by militias.
The entire population of around 40,000 people was forcibly evacuated in 2011 as collective punishment for their perceived support for deposed leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Special Rapporteur Cecilia Jimenez-Damary says in a Tuesday statement she was “appalled” at the situation, in which “two men have died already following strokes, possibly as a result of the harsh weather conditions.”


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.