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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid