Tunisia minister retracts promise of 5,000 new jobs as curfew imposed

#Tunisia

Finance minister says 5,000 unemployed people will receive training and help with CVs rather than new jobs

Days of protest have turned violent, with a police officer killed and hundreds treated for tear gas inhalation (AFP)
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Last update: 
Friday 22 January 2016 13:25 UTC
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Tunisia’s finance minister has said the announcement of 5,000 new jobs in a protest-racked province of the country was a “communications error,” as the government announced a nationwide curfew overnight on Friday.

The minister, Slim Shaker, told local radio station Jawhara FM on Thursday night that the government would not be creating 5,000 new jobs in Kasserine, a province in west-central Tunisia where protests broke out last week over high unemployment.

Instead, 5,000 unemployed people in Kasserine will get help with writing their CVs and places on training schemes.

The retraction came after government spokesperson Khaled Chouket announced that the local government would create 5,000 new posts to combat joblessness, following an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Anti-government protests had spread nationwide on Tuesday and Wednesday after demonstrations began on Saturday in Kasserine.

Angry protests broke out in the province after the death of an unemployed young university graduate, named locally as Ridha Yahyaoui.

Yahyaoui had climbed a telegraph pole and threatened suicide after learning that he had been removed from a shortlist of names for employment.

While at the top of the pole he became entangled with the wires and died by electrocution, local news site Tunisia Live reported.

His death, and that of a man who burned himself alive in the port city of Sousse on Wednesday, have sparked nationwide protests over high unemployment and a lack of opportunities.

The unrest has frequently turned violent, with a police officer killed on Wednesday when protesters attacked his car, and hundreds of people receiving hospital treatment for tear gas inhalation.

On Thursday evening 16 young men were arrested in Etadhamen, a deprived suburb of the capital Tunis, on suspicion of a series of lootings and thefts from local shops and banks.

Tunisia’s government has sought to quell the unrest, with Interior Minister Hadi Majdoub warning on Friday that “terrorist elements” were planning to infiltrate demonstrations and attack protesters in order to “implicate the interior ministry”.

A senior member of the Ennahda party, which is a junior member of a fragile ruling coalition, condemned the protests on Friday, accusing organised gangs of “committing theft and plunder”.

Noureddine Bhiri, head of Ennahda’s parliamentary bloc, asked in a Facebook post on Friday morning whether protesters would continue “calling for a revolution under the name of murder, looting and arson”.

The situation on the ground was calm on Friday morning, with the government announcing a curfew effective from 8pm local time until 5pm on Saturday.