Algeria: Protests continue for tenth consecutive Friday

Demonstrators hold flags and banners during anti government protests in Algiers, Algeria April 23, 2019. The banner reads "Government go away - students take over". REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
Demonstrators hold flags and banners during anti government protests in Algiers, Algeria April 23, 2019. The banner reads “Government go away – students take over”. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Algeria’s capital Algiers for a tenth consecutive Friday, in a peaceful rally calling for the departure of the country’s ruling elite.

“The system must go” and “We are fed up with you,” read banners held up by protesters in central Algiers, scene of mass protests since Feb. 22.

While there was no official count, Reuters reported a crowd size similar to the preceding week, with an estimated tens of thousands of participants protesting after Friday prayers.

“The people want to uproot you,” a crowd chanted, addressing the elite which has ruled the oil- and gas-producing nation since independence from France in 1962.

The protests, which started in February, were initially sparked after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his candidacy for a fifth term in office and developed into a call for an entire overthrow of the political elite.

While Bouteflika stepped down at the beginning of April after 20 years in power, protesters were not assuaged and Fridays have continued to be characterised by calls for the removal of the elite and prosecution of those they see as corrupt.

Bouteflika has been replaced by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election on July 4.

Algeria’s wealthiest businessman and four other tycoons close to Bouteflika were arrested this week as part of an anti-graft investigation, state media said.

The arrests came after army chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah said he expected members of the ruling elite to be prosecuted for corruption.

Salah intervened when Bouteflika sought to extend his fourth term, declaring him unfit for office, in a bid to avoid prolonged turmoil.