Algerian police use tear gas as rare anti-government protests enter third day

Algerian protesters take to the streets in the capital Algiers to demonstrate against the country's ailing president's bid for a fifth term on February 24, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2019
0

Algerian police use tear gas as rare anti-government protests enter third day

  • Thousands have taken to the streets of the capital and other cities since Friday calling on the authorities to abandon plans for Bouteflika to stand election

ALGIERS: Algerian police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators on a third straight day of rare political protests against plans for rarely seen President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to extend his 20-year rule by seeking a fifth term.
Thousands have taken to the streets of the capital and other cities since Friday calling on the authorities to abandon plans for Bouteflika, 81, to stand in a presidential election scheduled to be held on April 18.
Bouteflika, in office since 1999, suffered a stroke in 2013. He has since been seen in public only a handful of times and has given no public speeches in years.
His opponents say there is no evidence he is in fit health to lead the country, which they say is being ruled in his name by advisers. The authorities say he still has a firm grip on affairs despite the rarity of his appearances.
“People do not want Bouteflika,” the crowd chanted at a protest called by an opposition group, Mouwatana.
A Reuters journalist saw tear gas being fired to disperse crowds.
Since the ruling FLN party picked Bouteflika as its presidential candidate, several political parties, trade unions and business organizations have already said they would back him. A weak and divided opposition faces high hurdles in mounting an electoral challenge.
Bouteflika has not directly addressed the protests. The authorities announced earlier this week that he would be traveling to Geneva for unspecified medical checks, although there was no official confirmation he had left.
State media quoted a letter in Bouteflika’s name read out at a government oil and gas industry event in the southern town of Adrar as saying: “Continuity is the best option for Algeria.”
FLN leader Moad Bouchareb dismissed the protests.
“To those who are dreaming of change I say ‘Have nice dreams,’” he said in televised comments in the western city of Oran on Saturday.
Supporters of Bouteflika have emphasised the risk of unrest. Algerians have bitter memories of a decade of civil war in the 1990s in which 200,000 people were killed. The war was triggered after the army canceled an election that Islamists were poised to win in 1991.
“Do you want Algeria to go back to years of tears and blood?” said the leader of the powerful UGTA labor union, Abdelmadjid Sidi Said in televised comments.
Strikes and protests over social and economic grievances are frequent in Algeria, but have generally been localized, rather than touching on national politics.
Algeria saw major street unrest during the 2011 “Arab Spring” that brought down the rulers of North African neighbors Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. But Algerian security forces managed to contain it without Bouteflika’s grip on power loosening.
Lower oil prices in recent years have hurt Algeria’s economy, reigniting discontent. More than a quarter of Algerians under 30 are unemployed, according to official figures, and many feel disconnected from a ruling elite made up of veteran fighters from Algeria’s 1954-1962 independence war with France.


Libya confirms it rescued 87 migrants in Mediterranean

Updated 25 min 1 sec ago
0

Libya confirms it rescued 87 migrants in Mediterranean

  • Friday’s statement from the navy says the Libyan coast guards found a sinking rubber boat whose bottom had collapsed on Thursday
  • It says the migrants — Arab and African nationals — were handed over to Libyan police after receiving humanitarian and medical aid

CAIRO: Libya’s navy has confirmed it rescued 87 Europe-bound migrants, including six women and a child, off the country’s Mediterranean coast, following a video released by a German aid group about the disaster.
Friday’s statement from the navy says the Libyan coast guards found a sinking rubber boat whose bottom had collapsed on Thursday, leaving most migrants in the water and hanging onto what was left of the boat and plastic barrels.
It says the migrants — Arab and African nationals — were handed over to Libyan police after receiving humanitarian and medical aid.
Earlier, German group Sea-Watch said its aircraft had filmed three rescue operations by Libyan coast guards on Thursday.
Humanitarian groups object to returning migrants to lawless Libya, citing reports of abuse, beatings and other inhuman treatment.