Prime Minsiter Habaib Essid’s first cabinet meeting on 9 February took place on the backdrop of violent protests in Dheheba and Ben Guerdane on the Tunisian-Libyan border. The protests were triggered by the introduction of a border-crossing tax of 30 TD ($17). Tear gas and live ammunition were reportedly used by security forces which led to the death of Saber AlMilian, a young protester from Dhehiba, gouvernorat of Tataouine. The protests then spread to nearby Ben Guerdan, Tataouine- the cradle of Tunisian south uprising of 2008 and Ben Bouzid in 2011. Essid dispatched Slim Chaker, minister of Finance and Nejib Derouiche, minister of sustainable development to Tataouine; and promised an investigation would be opened in the killing of Al Milian. The instability in south Tunisia is a very delicate political and security issue for the current government. The legacy of marginalisation of the south since Tunisia’s independence coupled with the polarisation caused by the electoral campaign statements of Beji Caid Essebsi (in which he considered that Islamists and Jihadists voted for Ennahdha) dag a gulf between the north and south of the country. Most political and public opinion leaders called for calm and dialogue to address the justified demands of southern Tunisians for better wealth and power sharing.
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