Tunisian police fired tear gas to disperse angry protesters who burned a police station in a mining town to demand jobs and development, witnesses told Reuters.
Phosphate production, a big contributor to the Tunisian economy, resumed earlier this month after protests halted operations and exports at mines in Mdhila, Redayef, Om laaryess and Metlaoui in the south for nearly two months.
Tensions flared up again two weeks after a deal between government and protesters, who agreed to temporarily end their sit-in over job demands.
In Mdhila, police clashed with protesters on Wednesday and fired gas to disperse youths who shouted slogans, “Work is a right, not a gift.”
Protesters also burned a police station in the town.
‘’Protesters tried to close roads and stop transfer of phosphate workers, they burned the police station … There is great anger among the people here due to unemployment in the region,” Houssem, one of the residents told Reuters.
The phosphate mining region is a poorer part of the country with high unemployment among young people.
Last week, the finance minister Ridha Chalgoum said government would recruit about 1,000 employees into the state-owned phosphate company in Gafsa (CPG), but protesters rejected this and said it was not enough.
Once one of the world’s largest producers of phosphates, Tunisia’s market share has fallen after a 2011 uprising against then president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
Since then protests and strikes have cut into production and caused billions of dollars in losses. The CPG is the biggest employer in Gafsa, one of Tunisia’s poorest areas.
Tunisia has been hailed as the only democratic success of the Arab Spring because it toppled a long-serving leader without triggering widespread violence or civil war.