Tunisian gov't signs deal with protesters to end blockade of oil plant

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 16.06.2017 00:00
Updated 16.06.2017 15:24

Protesters agreed Friday to end a blockade of a Tunisian oil and gas plant that saw bloody clashes with police last month after the government met many of their demands.

The mainly young unemployed protesters had held a three-month sit-in at the El-Kamour pumping station demanding jobs and investment in the impoverished southern Tataouine region.

Amid growing fears the social unrest could spread, Employment Minister Imed Hammami signed a deal with representatives of the protesters brokered by Tunisia's influential General Labour Union, ending the sit-in the southern province of Tataouine.

"This agreement satisfies everyone... and will be very beneficial for Tataouine and Tunisia," Hammami said at the signing ceremony, which was streamed live by Radio Tataouine on its Facebook page.

"The demands of young people in Tataouine are going to be met" in terms of jobs in the oil companies and the creation of an investment fund for the region, and the plant will resume production "immediately", he said.

On May 22, the sit-in at El-Kamour turned violent when protesters tried to storm the plant and police responded with tear gas.

One protester, Anouar Sakrafi, in his early 20s, was run over by a national guard vehicle and later died of his injuries in hospital.

Sakrafi's father was one of the representatives who signed Friday's agreement on behalf of the protesters. Hammadi described it as a "noble gesture on their part".

But in a mark of the distrust of the government in the region, the protesters' spokesman Tarek Haddad said they would not remove their camp outside the remote desert plant two hours' drive from the town of Tataouine until the deal had been honoured.

"The tents will remain in place until they start to implement the measures," he said.

In recent months, several parts of Tunisia have seen demonstrations against unemployment, raising fears of social unrest in the country.

The North African country has been in the grip of an economic slowdown resulting from the unrest that followed the 2010 revolt and a series of militant attacks.

Unemployment in Tunisia stands at around 15 percent, according to official figures.

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