Algerian chief of staff says army will tackle crisis

Noureddine Bedoui, center, is trying to form a new government to pacify the protests. (AFP/File)
Updated 18 March 2019

Algerian chief of staff says army will tackle crisis

  • One of the leaders said they do not support the PM because the people reject the system
  • President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said he will remain in office until a new constitution is adopted

ALGIERS: Algeria’s army should take responsibility for finding a quick solution to its political crisis, its chief of staff said on Monday, in the most overt signal of potential military intervention since mass demonstrations erupted three weeks ago.

“The army will remain a fortified fortress for the country,” the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah, said on state TV. “We should be responsible for finding solutions as soon as possible. There is no problem without solution.”

He added: “I’m confident the Algerian people are wise and able to overcome all difficulties.”

Meanwhile, 13 independent Algerian unions have refused to back the newly appointed prime minister’s efforts to form a government he hopes will placate protesters who are pressuring President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his inner circle to step down.

“We will not hold discussions with this system, we belong to the people and the people said ‘No’ to the system,” Boualem Amora, one of the leaders of the education sector unions, told reporters.

Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui has promised to create an inclusive government of technocrats, taking in the military and business representatives, in a country dominated by veterans of the 1954-1962 war of independence against France. But union leaders said they refused to enter a dialogue when he reached out to them.

Many Algerians, who have been demonstrating for more than three weeks, have rejected overtures by Bouteflika, 82, who has reversed a decision to stand for another term after 20 years in power.

On Sunday some workers at Algeria’s biggest natural gas field staged a protest against extending the president’s fourth term, an energy official said, referring to a proposal by Bouteflika to stay in office until a new constitution is adopted.

Output at the Hassi Rmel field was not affected, said an official from state oil and gas company Sonatrach.

Algeria is an important gas supplier to Europe, mainly Italy, Spain and France. Several foreign firms operate in the country including BP, Total and Repsol.

In the 1990s, oil and gas production did not stop despite the country’s descent into chaos during a civil war between security forces and militants.

Since returning from medical treatment in Switzerland the president has in recent days been losing allies, including senior members of the ruling National Liberation Front party, known by its French acronym FLN.

Protests have been mostly peaceful and the military, which is expected to keep playing its influential behind-the-scenes role as a power broker, has stayed in the barracks.


Archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’

Updated 17 October 2019

Archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’

  • With only 30 percent of Egyptian monuments discovered, there is no rush to pursue the remaining 70 percent which remain hidden underground, says Hawass

 CAIRO: World-renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass has affirmed the importance of Egyptian archaeology around the globe.

“There isn’t a country that does not love Egyptian archaeology,” Hawass, who was minister of state for antiquities affairs, told Arab News.

With only 30 percent of Egyptian monuments discovered, Hawass said there was no rush to pursue the remaining 70 percent which remain hidden underground.

“We don’t want to discover everything. We want to start by preserving and preparing the historical monuments which we have discovered, then start thinking about what is still undiscovered,” Hawass said.

So, restoration and preservation are the main goals for now.

With the new Grand Egyptian Museum still in the works, it seems likely that archaeology will be put in the spotlight once again, with more room for Egyptian artifacts to be showcased and appreciated rather than hidden, as in the old Tahrir museum.

“No one in the world doesn’t know Egypt. Egyptian archaeology is in the hearts of all people all across the world,” Hawass said.

This explains the immense popularity the new museum is expecting, located as it is, minutes away from the Pyramids of Giza.

Another reason behind its expected popularity is the attention ancient Egyptian figures have received across the years.

“Among the most famous ancient Egyptian figures, even for those who are not interested in monuments, we have King Kufu, who built the greatest pyramid, because that pyramid is something everyone talks about,” Hawass said.

He added that King Tutankhamun was popular because his coffin was restored whole, as was King Ramses II, the most famous of Egyptian kings, and Queen Cleopatra. Each of these figures gained fame due to popular tales and monuments attached to them.

Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass. (AFP)

Hawass plays a crucial role in drawing awareness about Egyptian archaeology around the world as well as focusing on the current situation in Egypt.

“I lecture everywhere (about archaeology)” he said. “Two to three thousand people attend each of my lectures. So I take advantage of to tell people everywhere that Egypt is safe and that Egypt is run by a president whom we have chosen. I am trying to change the perception about Egypt.”

As part of his efforts to promote Egypt and Egyptian culture, Hawass recently visited Japan.

“They (the Japanese) love archaeology. I would never have expected to be famous in Japan, but as a result of their love of Egyptian archaeology, they know me,” Hawass explained.

This is but a speck in the eventful career Hawass has led — which all started by accident.

“As a child I wanted to become a lawyer, so I enrolled in law school at 16 but realized that it wasn’t something I could do. So I left law and decided to study literature. There they told me about a new section called archaeology,” Hawass said.

After graduating Hawass went to work for the government, which he dreaded, until his first project came along. Workers came across a statue hidden inside a coffin which he had to clean. During the process he found his passion for archaeology. He went on to pursue his graduate studies on the subject.

“I went from failure to success thanks to one thing: Passion. When a person is passionate about something, he excels in it.”

Hawass did not point out his most successful or most preferred moment in his career, so full his life has been of memorable events.

“You cannot prefer one of your children over another. They’re all in my heart, all of the discoveries I have made.”