More than 200 protesters from around Tunisia have descended on the capital to join demands to rid the interim government of holdovers from the ousted former president’s regime.
The demonstrators rallied near the prime minister’s office in Tunis, waving banners and photos of a young man who set himself on fire, triggering the popular uprising that overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
“Bouazizi gave his life for his country,” read one banner honouring 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, who committed suicide in the central city of Sidi Bouzid last month to protest against official harassment under Ben Ali’s regime.
The “Caravan of Freedom” left on Saturday on a 200-mile trek to Tunis by car, truck and motorcycle from around Sidi Bouzid, said protester Tahri Nabil. Some protesters hitch-hiked.
“We don’t want Sidi Bouzid to continue to be marginalised like it was in the previous decades,” said Nabil, a French language teacher who lives in the town of Menzel Bouzayane near Sidi Bouzid.
Weeks of public upheaval and the shooting deaths of some protesters by police on orders from Ben Ali’s government helped send him fleeing to Saudi Arabia on January 14. Since then demonstrators have led peaceful protests daily in Tunis to call on the caretaker government to rid itself of his old guard.
Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have experienced similar rallies and self-immolations after what some are calling the “Jasmine Revolution” – after the scented flower that is common in Tunisia.
An Egyptian government minister warned that investors are beginning to question Egypt’s stability over fears the revolt in Tunisia could spur unrest elsewhere in the region.