Algeria: One year later, Hirak is still here!

this post is translated from French from:

“We didn’t come to party, we came to get you out!” Chanting this slogan that in the streets of Algiers and many other Algerian cities, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched again last weekend. Two days in a row that weekend: on Friday, as every week in the past year, and on Saturday, the anniversary of the first major demonstration of the Hirak (the movement) on 22 February 2019.

Against the ruling clan, a social revolt

Yes, a year later they are still there, still determined to put an end to a regime of privileged people who put the country’s wealth in their pockets while the population faces mass unemployment, poverty wages, and is deprived of public services… With a regime ruled by the army, which has been in power since the country’s independence in 1962, and where, since then, a clique of big bosses has developed and built their fortunes in the shadow of the state and the army. One of whom was received with great ceremony by Macron not so long ago, to congratulate him on the good business he was doing in France, too.

As for liberties, the Algerians did not ask for them, they took them. While demonstrations have been banned since the civil war of the 1990s, they have come back into the streets, men and women of all generations, as part of a movement so massive that it has brought together millions of people. The government has tried to repress, arresting demonstrators, but had to back down in the face of an unbroken determination.

“Let them all go, the gang of thieves”

Hirak had begun in February 2019, when it was announced that President Bouteflika, 82, would run for a fifth presidential term. He had been ill for years and was no longer fit to govern, but no matter, he was the puppet president behind whom hid the real power, held by high-ranking officers and big businessmen, all linked somehow to the various clans at the head of the army and in power.

But on March 10, 2019, after a month of demonstrations, after a call for a general strike widely followed around the country in businesses, in shops, which remained closed, in schools and in universities, the men in power withdrew Bouteflika’s candidacy.

The army chief of staff, Gaïd Salah, openly took power, and promised a new election with new candidates for July. But the deception changed nothing and the demonstrators chanted “let them all go”, “all those who rob the country”, starting with Gaïd Sallah himself.

A people that can’t be fooled.

Then Gaïd Salah pretended to be socially-minded by having a certain number of Algerian bosses thrown in jail for corruption. “They are settling their scores among themselves,” said the protestors. At the same time, the presidential election announced for July 2019 never happened: the only potential candidates, all old-timers in Algerian politics and hated by the population, did not even dare to run.

When the election finally took place in December, its winner, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, former prime minister of Bouteflika and close to the chief of staff Gaïd Salah, was elected only by a minority of voters, a majority of Algerians having withheld their votes (with no less than 60% abstentions). Neither his election nor the death shortly afterwards of General Gaïd Salah, who was immediately replaced by another “strong man” of the General Staff, changed anything. Nobody trusts all these people in power.

And the anger is still there. One year later, Hirak continues despite attempts to repress it, as arrests continue, and strikes have resumed in the country.

The Algerians say that it is not simply a question of changing one president for another, it is the regime itself that needs to be changed. Those of us who are fed up with Macron and his entourage would do well to learn from them.