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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid