News / Africa

In Algeria, Popular Protests Still Simmer Beneath Surface

Riot policemen detain a protester during a demonstration in Oued Koriche, Algiers, March 23, 2011
Riot policemen detain a protester during a demonstration in Oued Koriche, Algiers, March 23, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Lisa Bryant

Algeria is simmering with the same toxic mix of  economic and political discontent that has exploded into revolts across the Arab world. But another effort to stage an anti-government protest in front of the main post office in downtown Algiers failed.



Frustrated youth


It was announced on Facebook as a youth march that would rally thousands. But only a few dozen showed up, quickly dispersed by riot police who easily outnumbered them.

Nalia Hamish, 31, vented her frustration. She said every time the protesters try to gather, the police break them up. They want the freedom to express themselves politically - starting with the right to protest.

Simmering anger

A huge outpouring of public anger toppled the presidents in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt this year. Public protests have shaken Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Lybia and Morocco, forcing some governments to promise reforms and others to crack down brutally.

There is anger here too - against Algeria's authoritarian government, the lack of jobs and perceived corruption. It drove 30-year-old Tariq, who works in marketing, to participate in the Facebook protest.

Tariq says protesters want the end of corruption, repression and theft by the state. They want a better distribution of wealth in oil-rich Algeria and for the government to respond to demands by the country's youth, who make up the vast majority of the population.

Protests fail to coalesce

Riots over high food prices killed five and injured roughly 800 people here in January. Since then, a hodgepodge of demonstrations have mushroomed around the country - by teachers, students, the unemployed and pro-democracy activists. But they have failed to coalesce into a broad-based movement for change.

Few people attend the weekly protests staged by a newly-formed umbrella group known as the National Coordination for Change and Democracy. Those who do are vastly outnumbered by police.

Said Saadi, head of the opposition RCD party, is part of the movement. Saadi believes the disparate protests will eventually coalesce into a powerful movement that will either force political change peacefully or explode into violence.

But many here are afraid of more violence. They are haunted by the 1990s, when a small democratic opening spiralled into civil war after the government cancelled legislative elections that the opposition Islamic Salvation Front party appeared poised to win. More than 100,000 Algerians were killed and tens of thousands disappeared during the so-called "black decade."

Ghania Lassal, a journalist at the leading, independent El Watan newspaper,  believes that while Algerians want change and democracy, they aren't ready to give their time and energy - and blood if necessary - to fight for it.

Reforms promised

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has promised reforms. In February, he lifted a 19-year-old state of emergency. But a ban against protesting in the capital remains in place.

In an interview, Communications Minister Nacer Mahel described major efforts by the government to improve the country's infrastructure, create housing and boost employment. Mahel said more must be done in every sector. He said it was important to listen to Algeria's young people and their demands. But Mahel also noted Algeria enjoys a number of freedoms, including a vibrant press.

Still, there are cracks in the ruling establishment. The vice president of Algeria's upper house of parliament has strongly criticized the government for failing to improve the lives of ordinary people. One of the former heads of the ruling FLN party, Abdelhamid Mehri, has lambasted the government for being incapable of addressing the "major problems" of the nation.

Journalist Lassal believes the regime is afraid. Algeria may not be Tunisia or Egypt, but the government is aware that the simmering popular discontent could explode into something much bigger.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid