Algerians mark year of protest


Several thousand Algerians demonstrated on Friday marking the first anniversary of protests that ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, demanding removal of allies of the former leader still in power and more steps towards democracy.

“We broke the wall of fear a year ago. We will continue,” protesters chanted as they marched through the streets of Algiers.

The protests started on February 22, 2019, to reject Bouteflika’s plan to seek a fifth term in office and demand prosecution of people involved in corruption as well as political reforms.

He resigned in April last year but protests have been held weekly.

Two former prime ministers, several ex-ministers and prominent businessmen were detained in anti-graft investigations since Bouteflika’s resignation.

Demonstrators now want removal of Bouteflika allies still in power. They also want democracy and better living standards.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune released dozens detained during protests and announced plans to amend the constitution to allow a greater role for parliament and government.

Tebboune, elected in last December in a vote largely opposed by demonstrators, praised the protest movement and promised to meet demands. He warned against attempts to infiltrate demonstrations.

He also offered dialogue with the leaderless movement, known as “hirak. The number of demonstrators has decreased since the election.

The political crisis adds to economic problems authorities face after a fall in energy earnings, the main source of state finances and foreign exchange reserves.

“We will keep up pressure until the achievement of all goals,” said 37-year-old school teacher Bachir Amari, marching with his wife and two sons amid heavy police presence.