The time is not for lull in Algeria on the second anniversary of the popular movement which caused the departure of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Algiers is crisscrossed by the police on Monday following calls for demonstrations launched on the web for the second anniversary of the popular uprising of Hirak, which is trying to re-mobilize after a year of interruption due to the health crisis.
Police checkpoints have been set up on several roads leading to the capital, AFP journalists noted. And an impressive police device was deployed in the city, where helicopters could be heard flying over Algiers while a fine rain washed the streets of the sand wind of the day before.
Highly visible, the security forces carried out identity checks near the Grande Poste, an emblematic meeting place for Hirak, especially young people. Despite this device, protesters began to march at midday, according to the same sources.
In the provinces, the marches have clearly started, in particular in Annaba, Oran, Béjaïa, Sétif, Bouira, Mostaganem and Constantine, according to social networks and testimonies collected by AFP.
“The march has begun”
“The march has started. There are about 200 people at the moment. There is a very large police force. We have never had so many police officers during a march, ”a journalist told AFP. To avoid traffic jams, some Algerians went out at dawn to go to work.
“I came from Hamadi (east of Algiers). I must have started at five in the morning. Two and a half hours of traffic jam to arrive in the center because of the dams. They check every car, ”said Hamid, a 54-year-old civil servant. As for Fatma Zohra, a 50-year-old suburban woman, she spent the night with her sister in Algiers to “avoid (being) stuck for hours”. Her other sister “took a day off”.
Launched on February 22, 2019, the Hirak, an unprecedented popular protest movement in Algeria, had pushed Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for two decades, to resign two months later.
This peaceful movement had to suspend its weekly demonstrations in March 2020 due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Against the “system”
But he continues to demand the dismantling of the “system” in place since independence in 1962, synonymous in his eyes with authoritarianism and corruption.
If the regime, led by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, regularly pays homage to the “authentic blessed Hirak”, it considers that its demands are now satisfied, qualifying its supporters today as “counter-revolutionary magma”.
In recent interviews, Minister of Communication Ammar Belhimer said that the Algerian state had “satisfied the legitimate demands (of Hirak) in record time” and warned against calls to go out on the streets.
This anniversary comes the day after a series of decisions by President Tebboune, who is trying to regain the initiative, after a long hospitalization in Germany, in the face of a triple crisis – political, economic and health.
Thursday, Abdelmadjid Tebboune decreed a presidential pardon in favor of sixty prisoners of conscience, a gesture of appeasement addressed to the Hirakists.
Since then, nearly 40 prisoners have been released, including the opponent Rachid Nekkaz and the journalist Khaled Drareni, who has become a symbol of the fight for press freedom.
As promised, Abdelmadjid Tebboune proceeded Sunday to a reshuffle of his government, eagerly awaited but without major change.
Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad, however criticized, remains in his post as well as the holders of sovereign ministries. Thus the Minister of Justice, Belkacem Zeghmati, symbol of the fight against corruption but also of the judicial repression against the opposition and the Hirak.
Before flying to Berlin in early January, to be treated there for post-Covid “complications”, Abdelmadjid Tebboune publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with the action of the Djerad government.
Abdelmadjid Tebboune also dissolved Sunday the National Assembly, lower house of Parliament, paving the way for early legislative elections within six months.
No date has yet been set for the poll, but June is mentioned.
“The reshuffle does not concern me, they are the same pawns. The same goes for Parliament, the new (MPs) will work like the current regime for their own interests. (…) Not for the people, ”Zaki Hannache, 33-year-old activist told AFP.
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