Tag Archives: Algeria

Protest is the new normal

A for Algeria, B for Bolivia, C for Chile, E for Ecuador, F for France… by now what triggered their protests may not matter very much, and satisfying the demonstrators’ initial demands may have little effect. Chile’s president Sebastián Piñera didn’t clear the streets of Santiago by cancelling a 4% rise in the price of metro tickets, and the government of Hong Kong failed to calm its opponents by withdrawing an extradition bill. Once protests get going, the authorities have to make more concessions or send in the police or the army. Or, as in Iraq, Chile and Argentina, promise to amend the constitution.

No sooner has the fire been extinguished in one place than it breaks out somewhere else. The people’s demands are colossal: ‘The people want to bring down the system’ (ash-shaab yurid isqat an-nizam), according to the slogan widely used since the Arab Spring. How will they achieve that and what will they do then? They often don’t know, yet they press on. In Algeria people have been demonstrating for nearly a year; in Hong Kong they started last March. Their courage is great: fear of brutal repression could paralyse them, but they don’t give up. What is happening in Iran where even the number of demonstrators murdered is a secret?

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Posted by on January 8, 2020 in Uncategorized


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There is another election the world should be paying attention to this week

It’s the one election which really counts. It’s an election which could have a devastating effect on the European Union. It’s an election about poverty, unemployment and immigration, and about lies. Many millions of voters would prefer that the election was abandoned.

So forget the charade of Brexit and the political suicide of the United Kingdom. The election which really matters is being held today in Algeria, where more than 24 million people are supposed to vote for five pro-regime candidates effectively chosen by the same corrupt military that has governed the country for the past 57 years. Vast and peaceful demonstrations across Algeria have called for this utterly fraudulent poll to be cancelled.

The tens of thousands of young Algerians who have thronged the streets of Algiers every Friday since 22 February are an apotheosis. Like their brothers and sisters in Iraq and Lebanon, they are demanding an end to the whole rotten system of crypto-militia family governments which has destroyed the freedoms and the future of generations of Arabs. Yet the election in which they are supposed to cast their votes today is a parody of democracy. At least four of the five candidates were all ministers of the regime – two of them were prime ministers – and are supported by the same old and desiccated officers of the Algerian army.

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Posted by on December 13, 2019 in Africa



Revolutionaries in the Middle East have learnt crucial lessons since the Arab Spring

Two very different political waves are sweeping through the Middle East and north Africa. Popular protests are overthrowing the leaders of military regimes for the first time since the failed Arab Spring of 2011. At the same time, dictators are seeking to further monopolise power by killing, jailing or intimidating opponents who want personal and national liberty.

Dictators in Sudan and Algeria, who between them had held power for 50 years, were driven from office in the space of a single month in April, though the regimes they headed are still there. The ousting of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, now under arrest, came after 16 weeks of protests. Hundreds of thousands continue to demonstrate, chanting “civilian rule, civilian rule” and “we will remain in the street until power is handed over to civilian authority”. 

The protesters are conscious of one of the “what not to do” lessons of 2011, when mass demonstrations in Egypt got rid of President Hosni Mubarak, only to see him replaced two years later by an even more authoritarian dictatorship led by General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. A referendum is to be held over three days from this Saturday on constitutional amendments that will enable el-Sisi to stay in power until 2030.

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Posted by on April 23, 2019 in Africa


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Keep your eye on these two critical dynamics in Algeria and Sudan

The ongoing street demonstrations in Algeria and Sudan and the high-level changes in leadership they have sparked include political developments that are very different from the Arab Uprisings of 2010-11 (the so-called “Arab Spring”). We should watch two dynamics, in particular, to find out if this is genuinely a historic moment of change, or another re-run of previous uprisings and some toppled leaders of Arab authoritarian states that did not fundamentally change how power is exercised or how citizens are treated.

The two dynamics to watch are: 1) the demonstrators’ insistence that the entire political leadership and its security appendages be removed or reformed, rather than just deposing the president; and that they be replaced by a civilian authority to assume power across the government, without any disproportionate role for the military and security agencies in governance; and, 2) the early discussions about holding accountable those across the power structure, and not just in government, that should be charged with crimes against the citizenry, abuse of power, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.

These dynamics represent an important new dimension to Arab popular rebellions against authoritarian rule; they are being implemented to some degree already, and should not be brushed aside as romantic wishes of naive young men and women. In the last two weeks, in both countries, demonstrators and citizens at home who support them have learned to focus the immense immediate energy of their collective power on the one issue that has been the single most important impediment to decent governance and sustainable and equitable human development in the Arab region over the past half century: the absolute power of military and security officers who seized executive authority in Arab countries starting as early as the 1936 coup by General Bakr Sidqi in Iraq and the 1952 coup in Egypt led by Gamal Abdel Nasser and fellow officers.

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Posted by on April 20, 2019 in Africa


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Like power-hungry leaders before him, Abdelaziz Bouteflika can’t quite let go – and now Algeria is a necrocracy

Let us now praise famous men. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, for example. What goes on in his comatose brain? What moves in the 82-year old heart of the zombie president who – as the Algerians protesting his fifth attempt at presidential power have just discovered – will now stay on as a coffin-leader into next year. Or, who knows, the year afterwards?

But why on earth do men like Bouteflika do these things? In his case, he’s not just “clinging to power”. He is being prevented from entering the grave.

Old men forget, observed Shakespeare’s Henry V, and wartime diplomat Duff Cooper used this as the title of his memoirs. “Autumn has always been my favourite season,” he wrote. “… I love the sunlight but I cannot fear the coming of the dark.” He lived for another 11 years.

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Posted by on March 14, 2019 in Africa



Can It Be Illegal to Leave Your Country?

For some years now, certain videos posted on Facebook, Algerians’ preferred social network, have been causing a sensation here: They show groups of young Algerians brandishing smartphones and singing, taking videos of one another as they laugh, looking at once happy and worried. Over time, more and more young women and small children appear among them. Diversity may be frowned upon throughout the country, but it reigns, apparently, on the little vessels that ferry illegal migrants away.

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Posted by on July 17, 2018 in Africa, Reportages


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Panthers in Algiers

In 1951 I left the US for Europe. I was working as a translator and interpreter in the new postwar world of international organisations: UN agencies, trade-union bodies, student and youth associations. My plan was to visit France briefly, but I stayed nearly ten years. For anyone living in Paris, the Algerian war was inescapable. Where did your sympathies lie? Which side were you on? In 1960 at an international youth conference in Accra, I struck up a friendship with the two Algerian representatives: Frantz Fanon, a roving ambassador for the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, and Mohamed Sahnoun of the exiled Algerian student movement. After the conference, I flew to New York, where I met Abdelkader Chanderli, the head of the Algerian Office, as the unofficial Algerian mission at the UN was known. Chanderli invited me to join his team, lobbying UN member states to support Algerian independence.

Source: Elaine Mokhtefi · Diary: Panthers in Algiers · LRB 1 June 2017

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Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Africa, North America


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We must look to the past, not Isis, for the true meaning of Islam 

After the Manchester massacre… yes, and after Nice and Paris, Mosul and Abu Ghraib and 7/7 and the Haditha massacre – remember those 28 civilians, including children, killed by US Marines, four more than Manchester but no minute’s silence for them? And of course 9/11…Counterbalancing cruelty is no response, of course. Just a reminder. As long as we bomb the Middle East instead of seeking justice there, we too will be attacked. But what we must concentrate upon, according to the monstrous Trump, is terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. And fear. And security. Which we will not have while we are promoting death in the Muslim world and selling weapons to its dictators. Believe in “terror” and Isis wins. Believe in justice and Isis is defeated.

Source: We must look to the past, not Isis, for the true meaning of Islam | The Independent

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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Africa


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An apology from Francois Hollande won’t absolve France of its responsibility for Arab Harkis

Now here is a deeply contemporary story. When the French abandoned Algeria in 1962, they also betrayed the tens of thousands of Algerians who fought for them. Stealthily – sometimes, quite literally, in the thick of night – they stole away from the barracks in which their Harki warriors were sleeping, and left them to their fate at the hands of the FLN (National Liberation Front) nationalists who were to inherit this oil-wealthy and deeply corrupt country. Often, they disarmed the Harkis first, so that their fate came more speedily upon them.

Harki –  from the Arabic harka – is probably best translated as “volunteers”, auxiliaries who fight for the local master race, in this case France. Their end in Algeria was a despicable affair. So terrifying, in fact – so racist – that the history of the loyal Harkis who fought for France during the 1956-1962 war of Algerian independence has been the last taboo for the colony which Charles de Gaulle betrayed 54 years ago.

Source: An apology from Francois Hollande won’t absolve France of its responsibility for Arab Harkis

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Posted by on October 3, 2016 in Africa, European Union, Reportages


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To understand the Islamist beheading of a French priest, we must remember what happened 20 years earlier

Faced with the murder and beheading of seven of his monks by Islamists 20 years ago, the Archbishop of Algiers went one better than the Archbishop of Rouen this week. He didn’t talk about the slaughter of an elderly priest as the “unnameable”.  He saw the road of Calvary. In fear of his own life amid a ferocious conflict, Monseigneur Henri Teissier, 67 years old and a French professor of Arabic, responded by celebrating mass for six nuns and monks all those years ago by reading from St Matthews, Chapter 25, verse 13: “Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.”

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Posted by on August 13, 2016 in Africa, European Union, Reportages


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