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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Tunisia protesters force entry to oil production site

Tunisian protesters occupy an oil production site in El Kamour, Tataouine [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 July, 2020

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Hundreds of Tunisian protesters pushed past military forces to enter the El Kamour oil production site.

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Hundreds of protesters on Thursday forced their way into an oil production site in southern Tunisia, in the latest demonstration to demand jobs and development in the marginalised region.

Demonstrators pushed their way past military forces to enter the remote El-Kamour production site, located in the desert south of the southeastern town of Tataouine, an AFP journalist said.

A hefty contingent of forces had been deployed to the site, including a helicopter, but there was no violence between security personnel and protesters, who chanted "Tataouine does not give up" and sang the national anthem, according to the AFP journalist.

The demonstration follows weeks of unrest in Tunisia's south, one of the country's most marginalised regions, burdened by above-average unemployment, failing infrastructure and a stunted private sector.

Protesters have taken to the streets to demand the government honour a 2017 pledge made that year after similar unrest to invest millions to develop the region and provide jobs to thousands.

In recent weeks, demonstrators have held a sit-in in Tataouine and closed roads to prevent trucks from accessing El-Kamour, where a valve had been blocked to shut down oil production during the 2017 protests.

Since July 9, a few dozen demonstrators have been camped in the desert near El-Kamour. Other groups joined them on Thursday before the site was breached.

The Tunisian oil sector is modest, producing on average 38,000 to 40,000 barrels per day.

Around 55 percent is extracted in the Tataouine region, where Austria's OMV, Italy's ENI and Anglo Tunisian Oil & Gas have bases, according to the energy ministry.

The demonstration also came the day after prime minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned amid a deepening political row with the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, the largest in parliament, over allegations of conflict of interest.

Marathon negotiations are underway to find within 10 days a new premier who can win the confidence of parliament by September, failing which Tunisia will have to hold a general election.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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