Algeria prepares for day of protests

Posted: February 11, 2011 in World News

Angelique Chrisafis
Guardian
February 11, 2011

Pro-democracy alliance expected to defy ban on demonstrations as euphoria from Egypt and Tunisia spills over to Algeria

Algeria, the oil-rich, military-dominated north African state, braced itself for a day of pro-democracy protestson Saturday, despite a ban on demonstrations in the capital, Algiers, and a large security presence intent on containing any uprising inspired by Egypt or Tunisia.

A key energy exporter and the biggest country in the Maghreb, Algeria used its powerful armed forces last month to contain several days of rioting, triggered by price rises for sugar and cooking oil. At least five people died and around 800 were injured in demonstrations against youth unemployment, poor housing and corruption, including several people who set themselves alight.

Now a hastily formed umbrella group of civil associations, independent trade unionists and small political parties has called for a national day of protest on Saturday , under the slogan “Changing the system”. It is calling for an end to 12 years of authoritarian rule by Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his generals.

In an effort to stop mass protests, Bouteflika said he would use the country’s vast oil and gas wealth to lower the prices of key foods. He also promised to allow more democratic freedoms, create jobs and lift a 19-year-old state of emergency that still hangs over the country.

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