[Photograph: tank guarding la Kasbah, the site of recent and future demonstrations]
Three days ago (Monday, March 28, 2011), Interim Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi was fired,… or perhaps he quit, or… well, something definitely happened behind the scenes. The government was far from clear as to the reasons for his sudden replacement. Criticism for Mr. Rajhi’s removal spiked exponentially after his replacement was announced to be Mr. Habib Essid, who’s political resume is nearly 100% agricultural, with the one exception of having served as Under-Secretary to Interior Ministers Ali Chaouch (1997-1999) and Abdallah Kallel (1999-2001). The picture becomes horrifyingly problematic given Abdallah Kallel’s notoriety as ruthless and torturous, particularly when it comes to political opposition, among whom his name still raises hairs to this day.
Just when Farhat Rajhi was beginning to win back the trust of the Tunisian people with his humor, approachability, and transparency, he was sacked. Questions linger, and suspicions arise.
There remain hundreds of criminals on the loose - that much is certain - and the string of crimes in recent weeks are a testament of that unfortunate fact. But to replace an increasingly popular minister with one whose frightening reputation precedes him is not the brightest move this interim government could have made.
My mother called me yesterday from the United States, worried and fearful of the abrupt and inexplicable changes taking place as of late in the country, and what they might mean in terms of clashes on the streets.
A new wave of demonstrations are planned tomorrow - Friday, April 1, 2011 - and no, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke.