Protesters levied accusations against Ennahda – the dominant, Islamist party in the tripartite coalition government – for recent, coordinated acts of vandalism targeting UGTT offices around the country. In response to the protests, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, a member of Ennahda, claimed that “Ben Ali militias” had infiltrated the demonstration – eager to witness the new government’s failure.
In a radio interview on Tunisia’s, Mosaique FM, Jebali stated that “businessmen” from Sousse and “Ben Ali militias” coordinated bus transportation to the capital from the coast to escalate the situation. Jebali continued to explain that the people of Tunisia are aware of the involvement of these “militias” in the demonstrations, and will not allow them to reacquire power .
However, according to Imed Gurira, the Assistant Secretary General of the UGTT office in Sousse, Jebali’s statements are “nonsense.”
“Jebali has attempted to distort our public image many times. He seeks to weaken the UGTT,” stated Gurira.
Gurira explained that seven buses were rented by the UGTT to provide transportation for its supporters to the demonstration in Tunis, and that none of the passengers on the buses were “Ben Ali militia,” or “business men.” With approximately two million supporters nationwide, the UGTT frequently utilizes the services of local bus companies to provide transit when needed Gurira explained.
Gurira also condemned the violent reaction of the police during last Saturday’s protest, declaring, “These are the same, old practices of the police that we saw under the Ben Ali era. They still exist after the revolution.”
The UGTT has organized another demonstration in response to Jebali’s statement. This event will be held on March 3, at 12:00pm in the front of the UGTT office in Sousse.
Faten Bouraoui contributed writing to this article.