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Huge rallies in Algiers despite loyalist calls for Bouteflika to quit

We’re fed up with those in power,” the demonstrators chanted. “We want a new government

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29 March 2019, Algeria, Algiers: Demonstrators take part in a mass protest against Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after his decision to postpone the presidential elections of April 2019 and to stay in power after his current term ends for an unspecified transitional period. Photo: Farouk Batiche/dpa

Anti-government protesters thronged the streets of Algiers Friday, saying moves by top loyalists to abandon ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika were not enough.

Rallies were expected to take place across the North African country, where protests broke out more than a month ago when Bouteflika announced his bid for a fifth term.

Demonstrators turned out in huge numbers despite a succession of loyalists deserting the president and calling for him to step down and make way for a government-led change of leadership.

Activists angrily rejected those moves as desperate bids by key figures in Bouteflika’s entourage to salvage their own grip on power and demanded that they too quit.

“Bouteflika you go, take Gaid Salah with you,” and “FLN out” protesters shouted, referring to the armed forces chief of staff and the president’s party.

From the early hours of Friday crowds of demonstrators, many of them young but also including army veterans of Algeria’s 1990s civil war, packed the square outside the capital’s main post office, which has become the epicentre of protests.

“We’re fed up with those in power,” the demonstrators chanted. “We want a new government”.

Some waved the green, white and red Algerian flag or draped it over their shoulders, while others held banners with slogans and cartoons.

Some made lengthy journeys to take part in the protest.

“We’re here to issue a final appeal to those in power: ‘Take your bags and go’,” said Amin, a 45-year-old who travelled to the capital from the port of Bejaia, nearly 200 kilometres (125 miles) away.

Earlier this month, 82-year-old Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, said he would not stand for re-election — but also postponed the April vote.

His move angered Algerians who saw it as a ploy by those around him to extend his two decades in power. Tens of thousands again took to the streets demanding his immediate ouster.

Allies distance themselves

Faced with persistent public anger, a succession of veteran Bouteflika loyalists deserted the president this week.

On Tuesday, chief of staff General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who was appointed by Bouteflika in 2004, called for him to step down or be declared medically unfit.

The chief of staff on Tuesday cited Article 102 of the constitution, under which a president can be removed if found unfit to rule.

Long a faithful Bouteflika supporter, Gaid Salah said on television it was “imperative” to find a way out of the crisis “which responds to the legitimate demands” of the people in line with the constitution.

Article 102 puts the onus on the president either to resign or be declared unfit to govern by a vote of parliament due to a “serious and durable illness”.

Since then, other voices have emerged from Bouteflika’s own camp seeking his ouster.

On Wednesday, Bouteflika’s longtime coalition partner, the National Rally for Democracy (RND) of former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia, also called for him to step down.

The RND said it “recommends the resignation of the president… with the aim of smoothing the period of transition,” in a statement signed by its leader Ouyahia.

A longtime supporter of the veteran president, the unpopular Ouyahia served as Bouteflika’s prime minister three times since 2003 before being sacrificed on March 11 in a vain bid to calm the intensifying protests.

‘All of you go’

The head of the powerful General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), Abdelmadjid Sidi Said, also welcomed the army chief’s call on Wednesday.

Applying Article 102 would constitute “the legal framework capable of overcoming the political crisis facing our country,” he said.

Thursday saw the resignation of the president of Algeria’s Business Leaders Forum, Ali Hadad, widely seen as a political tool of Bouteflika who had come under harsh criticism from protesters.

But the idea of Bouteflika’s inner circle retaining their grip on power through a substitute leader drew short shrift from Friday’s protesters.

Some chose humour to convey their rejection of the call for a government-led transition under Article 102.

“102 – that number is out of service,” said one placard held up by the crowd outside the main post office and telephone exchange. “Please call the people.”

Others raised a banner saying: “We demand the implementation of Article 2019: All of you go.”

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North Africa

‘Back at square one’: Sudan protest leaders plan fresh June 30 march

Protests will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought former president Omar al-Bashir to power

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'Back at square one': Sudan protest leaders plan fresh June 30 march
(File photo)

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association announced plans to hold a demonstration next week demanding the handover of power to civilians.

Plans for the protest comes after the country’s ruling generals rejected an Ethiopian proposal government.

The protests are planned to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the coup that toppled Sudan’s last elected government, and brought former president Omar al-Bashir to power.

Related: Protest leaders in Sudan accept proposal for political transition

A spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, Ismail al-Tag, addressed the media on Monday, calling for marches next week to demand the handover of power to civilians.

“We are calling and preparing for mass demonstrations on June 30 to make sure the military council hears the people’s voice in the streets and the Sudanese people will continue their revolution until it (council) meet their demands and reaches a civilian country”, he said.

Related: Sudan general vows ‘gallows’ for perpetrators of deadly crackdown

Head of the African program at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Dr. Amany el-Taweel said;

“Yes, we are back at square one because this is not the first time they (military council) cancel the understandings. This is, indeed, the second time, as they cancelled the deal before, right after the sit-in break-up. I believe they are using time and waiting for the African Union’s initiative, especially after the pressure from the street on them decreased due to the break-up of the military headquarters sit-in.”

Sudan’s military rulers on Monday turned down the Ethiopian proposal for a power-sharing deal with the opposition coalition.

The ruling generals said they would prefer a unified proposal from the African Union and Ethiopia.

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Business News

National Oil Company warns that any attempt to disrupt the sector would escalate unrest

“Any deliberate disruption of oil sector operations will severely impact national revenue streams, potentially render NOC in contravention of contractual obligations

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Libya's National Oil Company in the capital Tripoli. The Oil company warns against shutdown as it it will escalate conflict

Libya’s National Oil Company has warned that any bid to tamper with the sector could escalate unrest in the country after the parliamentary speaker called for a halt to production. In a statement issued late Saturday, NOC said it “is concerned by recent calls for the shutdown of national oil production”.

“Any deliberate disruption of oil sector operations will severely impact national revenue streams, potentially render NOC in contravention of contractual obligations, and create further division in the country.” Libya has been in conflict since the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival administrations vying for power and to control its oil wealth.

The conflict has been exacerbated since April when commander Khalifa Haftar, who is based in the east of the country where most oil fields are located, launched an offensive against the capital Tripoli. The city is the seat of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), while the elected parliament which supports Haftar is based in eastern Libya.

Last week parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh Issa said oil production must cease, accusing the GNA of using oil revenues to finance the militias fighting Haftar, in an interview with an Egyptian news channel.

The country’s oil company, which is headquartered in Tripoli, has repeatedly insisted on its neutral status and refused to be drawn into the conflict. “This crucial source of income to the state, vital to all Libyans, must remain de-politicised and uninterrupted,” NOC said on Saturday.

But it also called for “economic transparency – including the equitable distribution of oil revenues nationally – to be embraced by all parties as an integral element of Libya’s future stability, and any lasting political settlement”. Libya’s oil revenues are managed by the country’s central bank, which is also based in Tripoli.

Both Haftar and the eastern parliament have repeatedly said that oil revenues are not evenly distributed and accuse the GNA of using the funds to finance its militias. Last month UN envoy Ghassan Salame said that Libya – which produces more than a million barrels of oil a day – was “committing suicide” and plundering its oil wealth to pay for the war.

On Saturday he met Haftar to discuss the Tripoli offensive and ways to “accelerate the transition towards reaching a political solution” in the country, the United Nations said.

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Court in Sudan orders authorities to resume internet services

Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections was cut across Sudan by the ruling military council

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A Sudanese woman works at a travel agency in Khartoum on June 17, 2019 as businesses struggle to keep their services going after being hit by an internet blackout.
A Sudanese woman works at a travel agency in Khartoum as businesses struggle to keep their services going after being hit by an internet blackout.

A Sudanese court Sunday ordered authorities to end a nationwide internet blockade imposed by the ruling generals after a deadly crackdown on protesters earlier this month, a lawyer said.

Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed on June 3 by men in military fatigues, who stormed a weeks-long protest camp outside the army headquarters in Khartoum where they had camped to demand that the generals step down.

Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections was cut across Sudan by the ruling military council, with users saying it was done to prevent further mobilisation of protesters.

Lawyer Abdelazim al-Hassan said he had filed a petition against the blockade, and on Sunday a court in Khartoum ordered that the services be resumed.

“I had filed the case 10 days ago and Judge Awatef Abdellatiff ordered the telecommunications department to resume the internet services immediately,” Hassan said. Authorities can appeal the decision.

For the generals the internet and social media are a threat.

“Regarding social media, we see during this period that it represents a threat for the security of the country and we will not allow that,” military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi said earlier this month.

The internet blockade was an attempt to quell new protests against the generals, who have so far resisted to hand power to a civilian administration as demanded by demonstrators, protest leaders say.

Tens of thousands of protesters were mobilised through online social media apps during the months-long campaign against the now ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.

Protest leaders have resorted to neighbourhood campaigns to keep their movement alive, with activists mobilising supporters in night-time gatherings, witnesses said.

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