Tunisia arrests 237 after clashes and protests


Teargas has been fired in a desperate bid to disperse crowds in the capital Tunis and the nearby small town of Tebourba, where the protestor was killed on Monday, according to eyewitnesses.

The spokesman for the Tunisian interior ministry Khalifa Chibani told local media outlets on Wednesday that 49 police officers were also wounded during clashes with protesters across the country and that 206 "troublemakers" were arrested.

With large-scale street protests in Tunisia showing no signs of abating, the government is threatening to crack down on activists to restore order in the long-troubled North African state.

Tunisia has experienced a relatively smooth transition to democracy since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

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Tunisia's economy is experiencing difficulties but 2018 will be the a year ago of hardship, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed promised on Tuesday. The army was also deployed in several other cities, including Sousse, Kebeli and Bizert to protect government buildings that have become a target for protesters. In Sidi Bouzid, the hometown of the Arab Spring, and in Meknassy, a neighboring city, young jobless people have been marching to protest the high cost of living and the lack of jobs. More than 600 people have been arrested this week for their part in the unrest.

"The violence has been amplified", he argues, "by some politicians calling for protests at night", rather than during the day, which is the usual custom in Tunisia.

One protester was killed on Monday, fueling anger although police said they were not responsible.

The leader of Tunisia's main opposition party Popular Front, Hamma Hammami, said they would step up protests until the government changed its "unjust" 2018 budget.

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The revolution in Tunisia began in the town in December 2010 after street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and later died in a protest over unemployment and police harassment that spiralled into Mr Ben Ali's overthrow.

Chahed has said 2018 will be Tunisia's "last hard year" as he seeks to reduce the country's deficit from 6% to 4.9%. "Successive governments have consistently failed to address this issue and to invest in developing the central and southern regions".

Tunisia's current government reached an agreement late last year with the International Monetary Fund for a four-year loan programme, worth about $2.8bn, in return for economic reforms.

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