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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid