As Algerians celebrate the departure of Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years in power, following the announcement of his resignation on 2 April, Middle East Solidarity spoke to Algerian human rights activist Rachid Aouine about what’s next for the mass popular movement.
“Algerians know very well that Bouteflika wasn’t really the one in charge, he was just a face for the regime. Now we want to see radical change,” Rachid Aouine told us. With Bouteflika gone, protesters are continuing to mobilise in response to the announcement that the president of the Council of the Nation (the upper house of parliament), will take on the role of president for the next 90 days until new presidential elections can be held.
“The street has rejected this solution completely”, Rachid said. “The president of the council of the nation is just part of the old regime. We need to have elections where all Algerians can take part and exercise their right to put forward candidates. That will take more time than 90 days.”
Protesters are also afraid of the intentions of the army, despite the claims of the Chief of Staff, General Gaid Salah, to support them. “We have a negative experience in Algeria with the army which intervened in a military coup against the Islamic Salvation Front in 1992”, Rachid said.
The old regime is well-rooted and will not just disappear along with Bouteflika, he argued. “We are now calling for getting rid of everyone associated with the regime. We have no confidence at all in the governing party. Even the electoral commission which would oversee the polls is not genuinely independent. That’s why the movement in the streets is continuing to mobilise people to demand institutions of the state which genuinely serve the people.”
This is movement is very broad, Rachid added. “Everyone is involved: coordinating committees, doctors’ unions, teachers unions, organisations of the unemployed. It has erupted spontaneously, through social media and is not under the leadership of any particular party or trade union. No-one can speak on behalf of this movement: it is in the streets and the squares, representing all ideologies and tendencies.”
What you can do:
- Pass a resolution in your trade union branch in solidarity with the Algerian protests
- Join the protests in London on Saturdays, 1pm at Marble Arch