Jumaat, 11 Februari 2011

Aljeria Prepares For A Day of Protest – Guardian London

Algeria, the oil-rich, military-dominated north African state, is braced for a day of pro-democracy protests, despite a ban on demonstrations in the capital, Algiers, and a large security presence intent on containing any uprising inspired by Egypt or Tunisia.

A key energy exporter and the biggest country in the Maghreb, Algeria last month used its powerful armed forces to contain several days of rioting, triggered by price rises for sugar and cooking oil. At least five people died and around 800 were injured in demonstrations against youth unemployment, poor housing and corruption, including several people who set themselves alight.

Now a hastily formed umbrella group of civil associations, independent trade unionists and small political parties has called for a national day of protest on Saturday , under the slogan "Changing the system". It is calling for an end to 12 years of authoritarian rule by Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his generals.

In an effort to stop mass protests, Bouteflika said he would use the country's vast oil and gas wealth to lower the prices of key foods. He also promised to allow more democratic freedoms, create jobs and lift a 19-year-old state of emergency that still hangs over the country.

Despite weeks of strikes, including by academics and paramedics, Algeria has not seen the spontaneous, mass uprisings of Tunisia or Egypt. Analysts say people want change but are wary of chaos in a country still traumatised by its violent recent past. More than a million were killed in the fight for independence from France in 1962, while up to 200,000 died during the civil war of the 1990s after elections were scrapped in 1992.