Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Algeria Next?

Over the past 60 days, the world watched with bated breath as the people of Tunisia ousted President Ben Ali, their dictator of more than 23 years. The protests were sparked by the self immolation of a young man, Muhammad Bouazizi. Only 26 years old, Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of a local governor's office after failing to find a job. Immediately riots erupted all over the country in exasperation due to high unemployment, rampant corruption and sky-rocketing food prices.

Less than a month later, Ben Ali had fled the country to Saudi Arabia.

The world wondered, could this spread? If so, who's next?

Soon enough riots erupted in Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and even Saudi Arabia.

The commonalities are clear. Fed up with rising food prices, raging unemployment and massive government corruption, the people of these Arab countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo. Combine that with years of living in a pressure cooker of no political freedom, no freedom of speech, no freedom to congregate and all the other niceties that come with living under dictatorial regimes and you have a very incendiary, pun not intended, situation.

The rulers of these countries have been attempting to control the situation by putting in place various measure, such as price controls on food, to help appease the people.

It doesn't look like it's working...

The most violent protests have been in Algeria.

A bit of background first. Algeria is a country situated in North Africa along the Mediterranean coast. It had a population of 35 Million and a nominal GDP/capita of $ 4,477 in 2010. Its inhabitants are of Arab or Berber ethnic origin and over half of them can speak French as a second language. Algeria gained independence from France in 1962 after an incredible 1 million plus people gave their lives in resistance to the French occupation*.

Since its independence, Algeria has been plagued with corrupt regimes and semi constant civil war. In the 90's the Algerian civil war claimed another 200,000 lives.

It now looks like things are flaring up again. Already two people have set themselves on fire and there are reports the number is as high as seven.

A peaceful protest turned violent on Saturday, the 22nd of January, as riot police tried to disrupt the march, resulting in 42 injuries. As in Tunisia, they were protesting high unemployment, high food prices, high inflation and a high degree of indifference from the ruling class!

As I'm a big believer in the power of video as a means of communication, here are some assorted videos related to the unrest in Algeria:

Even the famous hacker group Anonymous has gotten in on the action and has issued the following warning to the Algerian government:

To be sure these are troubled times. People can tolerate many things...but hunger isn't one of them.

*This is a conservative estimate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Should Algerian government fall (and I hope so for the Algerians), how would Europe's gas supply be affected? In particular, here in Spain Algeria is the main gas supplier, with 34,08% (according to http://www.gal.cne.es/cne/doc/publicaciones/IAP_Abastecimiento-Sep10.pdf which is an official document. The best outcome for all these North African countries (and whichever country wishes to join this movement) would be to get rid of all the neocolonialism we're imposing onto them. I hope they succeed, although I doubt it can happen without some serious resistance from the (still) colonial powers.