Tunis, Tunisia — Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi on Wednesday ordered the North African nation’s Armée Nationale Tunisienne, or the Tunisian Land Army to deploy into the Sahara desert and begin protecting facilities linked to phosphate, gas and oil production after protests aimed at disrupting output broke out in the southern regions of Tunisia. For several weeks a group of local Tunisian oil workers have begun camping out in the Tatouine region of the Sahara desert threatening to set up blockades along the desert roads used by foreign oil and gas companies unless they see more jobs, better salaries, and a share in the region’s energy riches.
Protests have centered on the southern Tataouine province where Italy’s ENI and Austrian firm OMV have mainly gas operations, but have also begun in the central Kebili region. Since its 2011 uprising brought democracy to Tunisia, successive governments have struggled with social unrest in the south and central provinces where unemployed youth feel they have been left out of the economic benefits of the revolution.
It is the first time troops in Tunisia will be deployed to protect industrial installations that are key to Tunisia’s economic output in response to demonstrations. Tunisia is a rather small oil and gas producer compared to its OPEC neighbors Libya and Algeria with national production is around 44,000 barrels per day, the protests come at a sensitive time as Essebsi’s government tries to enact austerity reforms.
Tunisia’s Energy Minister Hela Cheikhrouhou told reporters sit-ins halted production at the independent Anglo-French oil and gas company Perenco‘s Baguel and Tarfa fields, which the company website says are joint ventures for gas and condensate output. Perenco operates the El Franig, Baguel, and Tarfa gas condensate fields with a production of 17 million standard cubic feet of gas per day, 2 mmscfd of LPG equivalent and 750 bopd of condensates, according to the company website.
“The military deployment will take place immediately. It is a serious decision, but it must be applied to protect our resources.” Said President Essebsi, he concluded his statement by saying; “Our democratic path has become threatened and law must be applied but we will respect freedoms.”
Read the full story here: Reuters
Feature image courtesy of: Daily Mail UK
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