Scenes of the frustrated fruit and vegetable vendor Mohamed Bouazizi who set himself ablaze following the despair and meaninglessness of life in Tunisia still remain fresh in the memories of many as this orchestrated the downfall of the dictator Zine El Abedine Ben Ali.
What followed was a revolution that swept across North Africa in 2011. It was massive, seismic, unprecedented and much longed for. Seven years after the revolution, Tunisians are in a quandary. While a sizeable number of the population are savouring the political freedoms they have, the economic situation has dampened all their hopes of a bright future.
As the New Year began, Tunisians were pre-occupied with venting their frustration and disappointment with the government in a wave of protests. What Tunisians were bitter about during the “Jasmine Revolution” of 2011 is synonymous with what they are complaining about this time: no jobs, no money, and no future.
The recently instituted austerity measures have made the Tunisians almost reach breaking point. New increased taxes that came with a new budget combined with devastating high standards of living are raising the ire of many Tunisians. Some, while they cherish the revolution, are now arguing that perhaps it was not a revolution, but just a “coup d’état”. Some are becoming disillusioned. Which is totally understandable as the government is failing to address the plight of the ordinary citizen decisively. For some, despite the current economic woes, the fall of Ben Ali is still a worthy cause to celebrate.
The problems are not new, and they cannot be tied to the current government, some argue in Tunisia. 25-year-old Tunisian activist Mounib Baccari says, “The reality is that we had all of these same problems before the revolution, but Ben Ali's government was really, really, good at covering them up. These problems aren't new - we’re just talking about them more openly now."
What the 2011 brought were new civil liberties that were unheard of under the old regime. What some of the authorities in Tunisia are hoping is for the protests to pave way for dialogue with the government in mapping a way forward towards easing the current debilitating economic problems.