Tunisian president names new interior minister


Tunisia’s interim President Fouad Mebazza named a new interior minister, the official TAP news agency said, continuing a cabinet overhaul after the January overthrow of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Habib Sid replaces Farhat Rajhi in the post. TAP said Mebazza made the appointment on the recommendation of Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi, without giving details.

Sid was previously a junior minister in the interior and agriculture ministries in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Reuters reports.

Rajhi, a judge, was appointed interior minister earlier this year in the second caretaker administration since Ben Ali was driven from office by a popular revolt in January. He remained in his post when Tunisia’s interim authorities appointed a new government on March 7 and disbanded the state security apparatus, notorious for human rights abuses under Ben Ali.

Seeking to assert their authority and gain legitimacy in the eyes of protesters who forced Ben Ali to flee, the caretaker authorities are attacking the vestiges of his 23-year rule.

Caid Sebsi unveiled a new cabinet of technocrats rather than career politicians, none of whom had served in previous governments under Ben Ali.

On Monday, a Tunisian court rejected an appeal by Ben Ali’s RCD party against a ruling that it be dissolved, TAP said.

Tunisia has been struggling to restore stability since Ben Ali’s departure. The protests that led to his overthrow have provided inspiration for uprisings in other parts of the Arab world, but repeated outbreaks of violence have threatened to derail Tunisia’s own transition to democracy.

Caid Sebsi, 84, was appointed on February 27 after two previous caretaker administrations collapsed under pressure from protesters demanding that Ben Ali’s old guard, including his long-time prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, be removed.

The new prime minister has said his priority is security.