Tunisia: speech by President Ben Ali

This was the last speech to the Tunisian people by President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali before his resignation four days later.

January 10, 2011

Full text:

Citizens, citizens,

I am addressing you today, inside and outside the country, following disturbances and acts of violence and degradation that have targeted public and private property in some villages and towns, located in several inland regions.

Violent incidents, sometimes bloody, which have killed civilians and caused injuries to several officers of the security forces, have been perpetrated by hooded gangs who have attacked during the night, to public institutions and even assaulted citizens at home, in a terrorist act that cannot be tolerated.

Incidents [were] committed at the instigation of parties who have not hesitated to engage our children among the students and unemployed youth. These parties, which incite violence and going out into the street, spreading hollow slogans of despair and fabricating, from scratch, misleading and erroneous information, have dishonestly exploited an incident that we all regret and a state of understandable despondency occurring in Sidi Bouzid, for two weeks.

Just as we express our regret for the deaths and damage generated by these incidents, just as we reiterate our sympathy to the address of the families of the deceased, may God have mercy on their souls, and the injured, we share their pain and sadness, we give them our sympathy and we reaffirm our feelings of affection to all of our sons and daughters, without exception or distinction.

Justice has taken its course to clarify the conditions and the ins and outs of these incidents, to determine those responsible.

Citizens, citizens,

These incidents are the work of a small group of hostile elements who are offended by the success of Tunisia and who are are filled with resentment and grievance, because of the progress and development achieved by the country, as evidenced by the reports of institutions and international and UN organisations known for their objectivity and impartiality.

These ill-intentioned elements have used the issue of unemployment, exploiting an isolated act of desperation, as happens in all societies and in many situations.

Hostile elements in the pay of foreigners, who have sold their souls to extremism and terrorism, manipulated from outside the country by parties who do not wish well to a country determined to persevere and work.

A country that has for a resource the intelligence of its sons and daughters, over which we have always taken a gamble and we continue to do so, since we prefer to face the challenges and difficulties, strong in that of an educated and cultured people rather than to enjoy an illusory peace with a illiterate people.

Everyone knows how much effort we put into employment, the sector that we have always ranked among our top priorities. Some people know the great concern with which that we surround the graduates.

We are, as we have already said, proud of their growing number and we will work to meet the challenge it imposes on us, since our educational choices figure among the constants of our political and civilisational project, that the compulsory and free nature of education is one of the inviolable principles, despite the social and economic costs they entail, and that the spreading of academic institutions across the country, without exception, is a reality that we we use, irreversibly, to consolidate in each phase.

Our education policy, like our policies related to family, women, youth and children, as well as efforts by the state to ensure the care of the poor, preserve purchasing power and to subsidise the prices of commodities which cost the state budget, more than 1,700 million dinars a year (I say 1,700 million dinars), make us proud.

We will spare no effort to further boost it further, despite the smallness of our financial and natural resources.

Citizens, citizens,

Our agenda for the coming stage and twelfth Development Plan and the specific programme for the development of inland areas, and bordering the Sahara, decided prior to these events, in addition to all the additional programmes established, aimed at solving the problem of unemployment continues to reinforce our efforts to achieve equitable and balanced development between the categories and regions, ensuring employment and income sources, to give priority to children from needy families and to stop in favour of graduates the appropriate programmes.

All these policies and all these programmes are commensurate with the policies adopted in different countries, which all suffer from unemployment, a phenomenon not specific to Tunisia and Tunisia is not the most affected by the matter. It remains only to those who seek to mislead to exploit these desperate cases, to serve the purposes of the parties to resort to hateful and hostile satellite channels.

Citizens, citizens,

To those who are deliberately harm the interests of the country, abuse the credulity of our youth and that of our daughters and sons in schools and colleges or incite unrest and agitation, we say, quite clearly, that the law will have the last word. Yes, the law will have the last word.

We continue to be attentive to the concerns of all. We are working to address the collective and individual situations and strengthen our programmes in employment and the fight against unemployment, without compromising our efforts towards improving the level and quality of life or question the prosecution of higher wages, without interrupting a round of negotiations to another.

We decide that:

First: double the capacity of employment, create revenue streams, diversify and strengthen the areas in all specialties over the years 2011 and 2012 through a major extra effort from the state and public sector by the combined efforts of the private sector, banking, and international cooperation of all parties concerned. This is for the hiring of more unemployed than other university graduates among the unemployed in all categories and all regions.

This effort will also reduce by the end of 2012 (Yes, before the end of 2012. I commit myself), all university graduates whose duration of unemployment has exceeded two years. The total capacity of job creation during this period and will reach to 300,000 new jobs.

We have, a few days ago, given the Prime Minister instructions to contact businessmen and meet the leaders of the Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts to encourage them to bring their assistance in this effort by recruiting the equivalent of 4 per cent of executives of their firms among graduates, nearly 50,000 new hires in all regions. They responded positively to this call, which we thank them. We, likewise, ordered the government to assist in the implementation of this initiative and monitor.

Second: Convene a national conference to be attended by representatives of constitutional bodies, political parties, national organisations and components of civil society, a number of academics and skills of various sectors, as well as representatives of the regions set out their views and propose approaches to even further boost employment and initiative in order to meet job demand expected over the coming years. This conference will take place next month.

Thirdly, a new impetus to regional newspapers devoting space daily to all governorates of the country on television and radio, while strengthening the network of regional radio and print media presence in the regions and by consolidating units of audiovisual production in order to strengthen this qualitative change. This in order to multiply the spaces of expression of concerns and expectations of citizens and be in tune with reality in the regions.

Fourth: Ask the people's representatives, members of the House of Councillors and the central bodies of political parties to increase their presence in their regions and to intensify their periodic contacts with citizens to listen, to deal with cases which they would be seized and refer to the relevant authorities that it be remedied and that their solutions are made.

In this same context, we call again the administrators at the regional and local levels to improve the channels of contacts with people, to listen to their concerns, to meet the conditions of management of problems and overcome obstacles that may arise, and in cooperation with various organizations and associations concerned network.

Fifthly, in addition to future efforts to promote employment, we hereby hold harmless, over a period of ten years, any new job-generating project, launched in areas of internal development and whose ratios over 10 pc of income tax and employers' contributions to social security coverage.

We urge parents and all citizens to protect their children from these agitators and these criminals to take better care of themselves and aware of the risks to be instrumented and operated by such extremist groups.

I take this opportunity to reiterate my thanks and my appreciation to my dear Brother Leader Muammar Gaddafi, Leader of the Libyan revolution, for his honourable initiative that our people have received with great satisfaction and of facilitating the movement and activities of Tunisian Libya sister and treat them just like the Libyans. This confirms a sincere brotherhood and the strong support we have always received from him and to the brotherly Libyan people.

Citizens, citizens,

These incidents will never break down our determination nor undermine our achievements. Rather, they should encourage all parties to draw the necessary lessons and never detract from the imperative to continue our work with determination and enthusiasm because the dignity and invulnerability of Tunisia are a burden which are invested all Tunisian men and women.

Thank you for your attention.

[This is a Google-assisted translation of theFrench versionposted on the Tunisie7 website.]