Tunisia's president promises to honour demands of revolution

Sidi Bouzid (Tunisia) (AFP) –


Tunisia's president on Tuesday commemorated the start of the uprising that toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, vowing to honour the demands of the revolution.

President Kais Saied, an independent academic elected in a landslide victory in October, has made few statements since he took office in November.

But on Tuesday, he made an unscheduled visit to Sidi Bouzid, where the first protests of Tunisia's revolt erupted, sparking the Arab Spring movements in the region.

He promised to realise the key demands of the revolution -- freedom, work and dignity -- within the "framework of the constitution and with legitimacy".

"I will work despite manipulations... and plots... to honour your demands," he told a dense crowd in the centre of Sidi Bouzid, according to an AFP correspondent.

Saied also announced that December 17 will henceforth be a national holiday.

Tunisia already marks January 14, the date Ben Ali was deposed.

The former autocrat passed away in Saudi Arabia in September.

On December 17, 2010, protests broke out after a young street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself alight to protest against police harassment.

Since then, the Sidi Bouzid region has experienced further bouts of unrest fuelled by unemployment and poverty.

In early December, protests broke out in the region after the death of a 25-year-old who set himself on fire in the centre of the impoverished town of Jelma in desperation over his economic situation.