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Algeria: Warnings against the political hijacking of peaceful demonstrations by fundamentalist extreme right forces

Thursday 7 March 2019, by siawi3


World News
March 5, 2019 / 12:31 PM / 2 days ago

Algerian protesters demand Bouteflika quits, army chief issues warning

Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Thousands of people protested in the Algerian capital and other cities on Tuesday demanding that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down, and the army chief warned that he would not allow a breakdown in security.

The ongoing unrest poses the biggest challenge yet to the ailing Bouteflika and a ruling elite still dominated by veterans of the 1954-1962 independence war against France.

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in cities around Algeria in the largest protests since the 2011 Arab Spring, calling on Bouteflika, 82, not to stand in an election scheduled for April 18. He submitted papers on Sunday.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students protested in Algiers and other cities including Constantine, Annaba and Blida.

“Game over†read one poster. “System - go away†, said another.

Police maintained a watch on the protests, as in previous days, and blocked main roads to contain the marches. No clashes have taken place so far and the demonstrations have been largely peaceful.

However, Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gaed Salah said on Tuesday the military would not allow a breakdown in security.

“There are some parties who want Algeria to return to the era of extreme pain,†Salah said during a visit to a military academy in Cherchell west of Algiers, Ennahar TV reported.

In 1991, the military canceled an election that an Islamist party was poised to win. A decade of violence followed in which 200,000 people were killed as the security forces crushed the ensuing insurgency.

Algerians generally tolerated a political system that left little room for dissent as a price to pay for relative peace and stability.

But young Algerians who are at the forefront of the protests want a new generation of leaders and have few attachments to the old guard elite made up of the ruling party, businessmen, the military and security services. Almost 70 percent of Algerians are aged below 30.

They are agitating for jobs, better services and an end to rampant corruption in a country that is one of Africa’s largest oil producers.

Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, has not spoken in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

His opponents say he is no longer fit to lead, citing his health and a lack of economic reforms to tackle high unemployment, which exceeds 25 percent among people under 30.

Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Angus MacSwan



World News
March 7, 2019 / 11:37 AM / Updated 4 hours ago

Algeria’s Bouteflika, facing demands to quit, warns against infiltration of protests

Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika issued his first warning on Thursday to protesters who have taken to the streets in thousands to demand an end to his 20-year rule, saying the unrest could destabilize the country.

In the latest demonstration, hundreds of lawyers in black robes rallied in downtown Algiers on Thursday as momentum gathered in the country’s most sustained protests since the 2011 Arab Spring.

Bouteflicka, 82 and ailing, has not spoken in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 and he is staying in a hospital in Geneva.

But in a letter reported by the state news agency APS, he said: “Breaking this peaceful expression by any treacherous internal or foreign group may lead to sedition and chaos and resulting crises and woes.â€

He did not say who any of these groups might be.

An Islamist insurgency in the 1990s that broke out after the army blocked an election victory by an Islamist party was crushed at the cost of up 200,000 lives. There has been sporadic militant activity in recent years.

The stance taken by the military and security forces will be crucial to how the present situation unfolds.

The military has stayed in barracks throughout the unrest. But analysts and former officials say the generals are likely to intervene if the protests lead to instability in one of Africa’s biggest oil producers.

At the lawyers’ protest, police were deployed to monitor the demonstration but as with previous protests, they did not intervene.

Lawyers shouted chanted: “The people want to overthrow the regime†and “Republic, not a kingdom.

Photo: Police attempt to disperse lawyers trying to force their way to the constitutional council during a protest to denounce an offer by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run in elections next month but not to serve a full term if re-elected, in Algiers, Algeria March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Tens of thousands of Algerians, tired of the dominance of elderly veterans of the 1954-1962 war of independence against France, have protested for the past three weeks to urge Bouteflika not to stand in an election scheduled for April 18.

Despite his ill-health, he has submitted his candidacy papers.

The national association of lawyers has demanded that the authorities postpone the election and set up a transitional government.


The unrest poses the biggest challenge yet to Bouteflika and his inner circle, which includes members of the military, intelligence services and big business figures.

An anonymous call for a general strike has gone largely unheeded but the leadership faces another test - a call for a “March of 20 Million†this Friday.

On Wednesday, the influential Algerian war veterans association expressed support for the so far peaceful protests.

Two branches of powerful Algerian labor union UGTA, representing tens of thousands of workers, also opposed the re-election plan.

Some officials from Bouteflika’s ruling FLN party have turned up at demonstrations, and several public figures have announced their resignations.

Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Angus MacSwan