News24

Tunisians rally to denounce violence

2011-07-22 13:06

Tunis - Hundreds of Tunisians rallied in the capital on Thursday, denouncing the "violence and chaos" that persist six months after the toppling of authoritarian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

The protesters marched for 3km to the central Pasteur square, closely watched by police, while chanting "Yes to unity", AFP reporters witnessed.

The group had responded to a call to protest by eight political parties, which did not include the Islamist Ennhda group.

The protesters denounced the Rally for Constitutional Democracy party of Ben Ali, which was banned after his demise but whose members they suspect of trying to exert behind-the-scenes influence.

"No to regression, no to fanaticism," they chanted outside a mosque as the faithful emerged from their afternoon prayers.

A wave of protests by young Tunisians demanding more freedom and jobs led to the shock January ouster of Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for more than two decades with an iron fist.

The revolt tipped the first domino of the Arab Spring still raging across the region but demonstrations have continued in Tunisia, where many have complained over the slow pace and depth of reform.

A series of incidents - demonstrations against the government and attacks against police stations - left one dead and several wounded over the weekend.

Many Tunisians fear Ben Ali cronies or other groups are trying to derail the democratic process and Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi on Monday urged all parties to commit to polls scheduled for October 23.

"We shall stay awake until October 23," chanted Thursday's demonstrators who also adopted a battle cry of the January protesters: "Liberty and Dignity".

"We wish to denounce the recourse to violence and appeal for the success of the revolution and the democratic process," Progressive Democratic Party deputy secretary Issam Chebbi told AFP.