Monday, January 17, 2011

African Union Envoys Hold Crisis Meeting on Tunisia

Tunisia: African Union envoys hold crisis meeting on Tunisia

The African Union's Peace and Security Council (PSC) held an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the situation in Tunisia, following the exit of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power following weeks of protests over rising food costs and unemployment.

The meeting came a day after the Tunisian President fled as protesters advanced on key state institutions, reportedly burning a train station and continuing on a looting spree in protest over escalating domestic food prices, lack of jobs and the absence of freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.

African Union Commission President Jean Ping, earlier reacting to measures announced by the President before he fled the country for Saudi Arabia, said he hoped those measures would help end the weeks of political unrest that had gripped the North African nation, which he described as 'an AU Member state known for its stability.'

Ping expressed 'his deep sympathy' for the victims of the mob violence in Tunisia, hoping that the North African nation would emerge from the crisis 'a stronger and more democratic nation.'

In a series of measures announced in a televised address, President Ben Ali, 74, pledged not to change the constitution to remove the Presidential age limit.

He also pledged to leave when his current term expires in 2014, reduced price of staple foods and laid out a series of democratisation measures for the Tunisian regime, including democracy, free elections, the right to protest, freedom of the press and of association.

But all the measures came too late as they failed to pacify the protesters.

Ping said he would continue to monitor the situation and extended his encouragement to the Government and People of the Republic of Tunisia.

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