Algeria in Revolt: “We woke up and you will pay!”

Source: Roar Magazine

What is happening in Algeria is truly historic. The people won the first battle in their struggle to radically overhaul the system. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, president for the past twenty years, was forced to abdicate after more than six weeks of street protests and a re-configuration of alliances within the ruling classes.

Since Friday, February 22, millions of people, young and old, men and women from different social classes have taken to the streets in a momentous uprising, re-appropriating long-confiscated public space. Historic Friday marches followed by protests in several sectors (education, health, petrochemical industry, students, etc) united people in their rejection of the ruling system and their demands of radical democratic change.

The two emblematic slogans of this peaceful uprising — “They must all go!” and “The country is ours and we’ll do what we wish” — symbolize the radical evolution of this popular movement that was triggered by the octogenarian president’s announcement to run for a fifth term despite dealing with serious health issues; Bouteflika has not addressed the nation for nearly six years.

What makes this movement really unique is its massive scale, peaceful character and national spread, including the marginalized south. The movement is also characterized by a significant participation of women and especially young people, who constitute the majority of the population. Algeria has not witnessed such a broad, diverse and widespread movement since 1962, when Algerians went to the streets to celebrate their hard-won independence from French colonial rule.

The uprising caught many by surprise. In early February, the political mood was still that of despair and resignation at what the authorities were preparing to do with the presidential elections scheduled for April 2019. The generally arid political landscape resulted from the decimation of a genuine political opposition within the country coupled with the repression and/or co-optation of trade unions and other such civil society actors.

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