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Police and protesters in Algeria
Police in Algeria were ready for a repeat of protests last monthImage: picture alliance/dpa

Domino effect?

February 12, 2011

While Egyptians celebrate a political revolution, clashes have taken place in Algiers and Sanaa as protesters push for regime changes of their own. Police put an end to rallies in both cities.


Scuffles broke out as Algerian security forces in riot gear arrested demonstrators on Saturday, with some reports that police attacked marchers with clubs. Pro-democracy protesters gathered in Algiers, attempting to stage a banned march inspired by events in Egypt, which led to the resignation of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

About 30,000 security personnel were deployed, with officers surrounding protesters in a cordon to prevent the rally from taking place. Organizers said several thousand protesters had turned out.

"I am sorry to say the government has deployed a huge force to prevent a peaceful march. This is not good for Algeria's image," said Mustafa Bouchachi, a leader of the League for Human Rights group, which has helped organize the march.

Thousand of officers were stationed in the center of the Algerian capital, Algiers, in readiness for the protest.

Abelaziz Bouteflika
Protests on Saturday called for Bouteflika to leave officeImage: AP

Some 200 people, including opposition politicians, were arrested in Algiers, according to the League for Human Rights' Khelifi Abdelmouman, who said several other protesters had been arrested in other cities.

On a visit to neighboring Tunisia, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was concerned by events in Algeria and called on authorities there to "renounce all forms of violence" against protesters.

"We are betting that reason will prevail," he said from the Tunisian capital, Tunis.

Mubarak's resignation on Friday had prompted spontaneous evening demonstrations by Algeria's opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) party, which were quashed by police.

A robust police presence was in place in Algiers ahead of the Saturday protest, conducted largely by middle-class men.

Armored vehicles were deployed at several road junctions around the city, with the main contingent of officers based in May 1 Square, the planned starting point for the rally.

"We are ready for the demonstration," Mohsen Belabes, spokesman for the RCD, said ahead of the rally. "It's going to be a great day for democracy."

The party's leader, Said Sadi, told the German news agency dpa earlier this week that violence would be inevitable if people were barred from peacefully protesting.

Meanwhile, Algeria's biggest opposition party, the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), chose not to participate in Saturday's demonstration.

Party leader Karim Tabou told Radio France Internationale that while he supported the quest for greater freedom, the task was complex because of Algeria's history.

"Algeria needs more work, more serious [efforts] than simple popular agitation," he said.

Call for new freedoms, jobs

A group of about 20 protesters reached the square ahead of the starting time, calling for an end to the rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has enforced 19 years of a state of emergency in the country.

RCD leader Said Saadi
Saadi said police had ringed to city to stifle demonstrationsImage: DW

Demonstrators want more democratic freedom, a change of government and action to tackle unemployment.

In the demonstrations on Friday, police charged on demonstrators and 10 people were arrested, according to RCD leader Saadi. He said several protesters needed medical treatment, adding that authorities had surrounded the capital to prevent people from joining the march.

"Trains have been stopped and other public transport will be as well," he said.

Since January, four Algerians have died of self-immolation, and at least a dozen have set themselves on fire so far this year. They are thought to have been inspired by a similar act in neighboring Tunisia, which was a catalyst for the fall of that country’s government.

Wave of unrest across region

Following the departure of the Egyptian president and the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last month, the Algerian regime is one of several in the Middle East and North Africa facing popular protests.

A view of Bahrain
In Bahrain, money is being handed out ahead of protestsImage: AP

Some 300 demonstrators also took the streets of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, on Saturday.

The number of participants swelled into the thousands as they marched toward the Egyptian embassy.

"The people want the fall of the government," protesters chanted. "A Yemeni revolution after the Egyptian revolution."

But a group of government supporters armed with knives and sticks confronted the protesters at the central Tahrir Square, and the opposition protesters were forced to flee after scuffles broke out.

Yemen's ruling party set up tents in Tahrir Square last week to occupy the space, and party officials handed out small amounts of money to reward pro-government protesters on Saturday.

Yemeni officials said on Saturday they respected the Egyptian people's choice and would support them in their search for progress and development.

Egyptian clean up

The Egyptian military began on Saturday morning to remove barricades around Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolt against Mubarak's 30-year autocratic rule.

Senior military officials, to whom Mubarak handed power, said they would respect the will of the people but have yet to present solid plans for a transition.

Author: Richard Connor, David Levitz (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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