AFRICA: Tunisian Spark Spreads Extreme Protests
More Self-Imolations Over Conditions
The fiery suicide of a young Tunisian street vendor that sparked a popular revolt – driving a long-time dictator out of power – is apparently prompting similar extreme protests across North Africa, according to Arabic and Western news outlets.
At least six protestors have set themselves on fire publicly in Mauritania, Algeria and Egypt. The suicide of Muhammad Bouazizi, a 26-year-old vegetable seller who set himself afire Dec. 17 after police seized his cart, struck a nerve in Tunisia among mostly young people angry and depressed about unemployment, rising food prices, continued housing shortages and other poor living conditions.
Their swelling street protests over a matter of weeks pressured Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s president for the last 23 years, to flee the country on Jan. 14.
Now the question is whether the popular “Jasmine Revolution” will spread to other authoritarian Arab states in the region, known as the Maghreb, and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
The head of the Arab League told reporters at an Arab economic summit in Egypt that “there is a lesson and there is a message from what happened in Tunisia, Reuters reported. Amr Moussa did not mention the specific issues that led to the Tunisian revolt but he added: “we can’t just consider Tunisia an isolated incident.”
Young people are restive in places like Algeria and Egypt and leaders in those countries and elsewhere are keeping a close eye on the Tunisian situation, the Guardian reports.