Thousands of demonstrators marched on Monday in Algiers, and other rallies were held in the country, for the second anniversary of Hirak, a popular movement which is trying to revive after a year of interruption due to the health crisis.
This is the most imposing procession in the capital since the suspension of the Hirak marches in mid-March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to AFP journalists present on the spot.
“We have not come to celebrate, but to demand your departure”, chanted the protesters, in reference to the regime they have opposed for two years.
Police checkpoints have been set up on several roads leading to the capital and an impressive police force has been deployed in the city center. Despite this arrangement, protesters began to gather at midday.
The police, who tried to prevent them from advancing towards the Grande Poste, the emblematic meeting place of Hirak, proceeded to arrests, sometimes forceful.
In the provinces, marches took place, notably in Annaba, Oran, Béjaïa, Sétif, Bouira, Mostaganem, Constantine and Tizi Ouzou.
Launched on February 22, 2019, the Hirak, an unprecedented popular protest movement, had pushed Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for two decades, to resign two months later.
Its supporters continue today to demand the dismantling of the “system” in place since independence in 1962, synonymous in their eyes with authoritarianism and corruption.
If the regime, led by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, regularly pays tribute to “Blessed authentic Hirak “, he considers that his demands are now satisfied, calling his supporters today “counter-revolutionary magma”.
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, the president decreed a pardon in favor of sixty prisoners of conscience, in a gesture of appeasement.
Since then, nearly forty 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 carried out a government reshuffle on Sunday, eagerly awaited but without major change.
Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad, however criticized, remains in his post as well as the holders of sovereign ministries. This is the case of the Minister of Justice, Belkacem Zeghmati, a symbol of the fight against corruption but also of judicial repression.
The head of state 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.
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