The governor of Sidi Bouzid has been sacked after weeks of violence in the central region of Tunisia that was also the birthplace of last year’s revolution, local media reported on Monday.
Mohamed Nejib Mansouri was replaced by Amara Tlijani, previously governor of the southern region of Kebili, a government statement carried by the official TAP news agency said.
His departure follows weeks of tensions in central Tunisia, where protests have multiplied amid rising discontent over poor living conditions and other social grievances.
Tlijani, an economist who worked in the regional development sector under the regime of ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, took charge of Sidi Bouzid’s development after the revolution, before becoming governor of Kebili.
On Friday, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse about 1,000 people who had gathered in the town of Sidi Bouzid accusing the outgoing governor of “incompetence” and calling for him to go.
Some activists welcomed Mansouri’s departure, while strongly criticising his successor as a figure from the deposed Ben Ali regime.
“The transitional government has appointed as governor someone who failed to manage the development of Sidi Bouzid for five years, under the ousted president,” said one group, which claims to promote the goals the revolution.
The People’s Movement, a nationalist opposition party, said Tlijani’s appointment was aimed at “diverting attention” away from more pressing popular demands.
But Tunisian premier Hamadi Jebali, speaking on radio station Mosaique FM, rejected the criticism, saying: “We are trying to find the most competent, most efficient, most honest person.”
The events in Sidi Bouzid have symbolic resonance, being where the uprising began that toppled Ben Ali and touched off the Arab Spring when a street vendor set himself on fire in December 2010 in protest over his own precarious livelihood.
But neighbouring regions have also been touched by the growing social unrest.
A general strike paralysed the town of Thala on Monday, in the Kasserine region, called in protest at the government’s perceived failure to promote economic development.
And protesters with similar grievances blocked a road in the nearby Kebili region, TAP reported.