A large number of people have come down to streets in the capital city of Algeria – Algiers, demanding an urgent change in the Government and an end of the 20-year era of the existing President – Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The crowd have been gathering for the last 4 consecutive Fridays, draped in Algeria’s red, green and white flag. People are also demonstrating in other cities such as Bejaia, Oran, Batna, Tizi and Ouzou. The police had to fire tear gas at protesters near the President’s Office.
Expressing their thoughts, one of the protestors, held a banner which said, “You pretend to understand us, we will pretend to listen to you.” During the protest, 75 protesters were arrested, and 11 policemen were injured.
Earlier, the 82-year-old Bouteflika has announced that he would not seek re-election but would instead cancel the presidential poll, scheduled for April 18, 2019. He has also named Former Interior Minister – Noureddine Bedoui, as the new Prime Minister, replacing the unpopular Ahmed Ouyahia.
The people were initially overjoyed when Bouteflika announced he would not contest again. But on learning about his move to cancel the entire poll, they started doubting his intentions and continued the protest.
The protest movement is being led by students in Algeria, where half of the country’s population is under the age of 30 and the unemployment rate is sky high.
The military has distanced itself from ongoing crisis and is staying in its barracks. Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, has promised a national conference to carry out reforms.
Negotiations have been initiated to settle the crisis. It will be led by veteran United Nations (U.N.) diplomat – Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian National. A conference will be organised with the aim to revive the country’s political transition, draft a new constitution and set the date for elections.
For the records, Brahimi, who was the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria until 14 May 2014, has met the President on March 11, 2019 and said that is necessary to put an end to the crisis.
The demonstrators and participants in Algeria’s 1954-1962 Independence War will also be among the representatives at the unscheduled Conference.