Tunisia: speech by President Ben Ali

In the face of growing protests against his authoritarian rule, President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali delivered a seven-minute speech to the Tunisian people on 27 December 2010. A video was alsoposted on Facebook.

During the speech a telephone could be heard ringing, which gave rise to amused speculation about who might have been trying to call him. See commentary: "No answer from Ben Ali"

27 December 2010

Full text:

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Fellow citizens,

I have been following with anxiety and concern the events that took place over the recent days in Sidi Bouzid.

While these events were triggered by one social case, of which we understand the circumstances and psychological factors and whose consequences are regrettable, the exaggerated turn that these events have taken, as a result of their political manipulation by some sides who do not wish good to the homeland and resort to some foreign television channels which broadcast false and unchecked allegations and rely on dramatisation, fabrication and defamation hostile to Tunisia, requires from us to clarify some issues and confirm the truths that must be taken into consideration:

First, we do understand the feelings of any unemployed person, particularly if his search for a job goes on, his social conditions are difficult and his psychological structure is fragile, which may lead him to resort to desperate solutions in order to draw attention on his situation.

We spare no efforts to prevent such cases by providing them with a special and appropriate treatment.

Thus, we pursue our policies and programmes of employment, protection of the disadvantaged categories, care for poor families and vitalisation of regional development, through successive investment programmes covering all regions of the country, the latest being those we decided at last December 15 Cabinet meeting and the announced additional programme which appropriated funds will reach 6500 million dinars.

This initiative is part of our concern to meet all attributes of balanced and fair development among regions and ensure fair distribution of its fruits among all categories.

Second, unemployment is a major concern in the different countries of the world, be they developed or emerging; and we, in Tunisia, are straining every nerve to curb it and deal with its effects and impact, particularly on families who lack resources. The State will exert additional efforts in this area during the period to come.

Indeed, the considerable results we have achieved in the area of education at the qualitative and quantitative levels, and which have earned consideration and tribute from specialised international and UN bodies, materialises a fundamental and constant choice in our policy to produce an educated people.

Among these major results, there is the significant increase in the number of university graduates shared out between all regions of the country without exception and whose number exceeded, last year for instance, 80,000 graduates, a figure of which we are proud; in the same way we accept the challenge it imposes for the employment of this high rate of graduates among the job applicants, and this, thanks to the different employment mechanisms and programmes.

Despite the difficulties posed by this new category of unemployed, it remains a source of optimism for the future, an optimism of an educated people who perseveres on the path of well-being and more progress.

Third, we have constantly sought since the Change to entrench dialogue as principle and method of communication among all national and social sides on issues and developments that occur.

Consequently, there is no possible way, in spite of our understanding, that we accept the exploitation of isolated cases, an event or a fortuitous situation, to achieve petty political targets, at the detriment of the national community’s interests, its gains and achievements, first and foremost, concord, security and stability.

It is not acceptable that a minority of extremists and agitators in the pay of others, and against the country’s interests, resort to violence and street disturbances as means of expression, whatever their form is in a State of law like ours. This is a negative and anti-civil behaviour that presents a distorted image of our country and impedes the flow of investors and tourists which impacts negatively on job creation, while we need them to curb joblessness. Law will be enforced rigorously against these people.

Fourth, we reassert the need to respect freedom of opinion and of speech and keenness to enshrine them in law and entrench them in practice; and we respect any position if it is expressed within the framework of law, the rules and dialogue.

The State will strive to find solutions likely to meet job applications which will carry on increasing in the coming years, as it will act in the meantime to further increase wages and household incomes and, in general, improve living standards of all Tunisians.

Fifth, we are aware of the hardships generated by unemployment and its psychological impact on those who experience it. Consequently, we call on the administration to avoid all shortcomings in dealing with these difficult cases and perfectly follow them up.

It is the duty of all regional and local authorities to shoulder their responsibilities of listening to the citizens and joining efforts of all to identify situations that require special care to find appropriate solutions and meet the most urgent cases or those whose waiting time for employment has lasted too long.
We are always committed to the social dimension of our development policy so that no region or category be deprived of its opportunity for employment and investment.”