“Ache3b yourid iskat Gaid Salah” (the people want the fall of Gaid Salah), chanted millions of demonstrators today across Algeria, others demanded the election be held in the United Arab Emirates, a reference to the army’s chief alleged obscure liaisons with the Middle-Eastern country. The Algerian people walked for the 31st consecutive Friday to demand the fall of the entire ruling politico-military elite, rejecting the scheduled presidential election at the same time.
Despite the substantial efforts put in place by the authorities to restrict access to the capital Algiers (as demanded by the army chief in a speech broadcast from a military barracks ), millions came out again to the chants of “Yasserakin klitou lebled“, which roughly translates to “you thieves ruined the country“. They denounced a form of “apartheid” and an “occupying force“. Others chanted “listen El Gaid, civilian rule not military rule“, a reference to the demonstrators’ primary demand: a transition to a democratic society, free of the military elite’s influence and control.
Equally, the demonstrators denounced the “kidnapping” of political opponents, operated by the country’s secret service police, they chanted “free our kids!“.
Early in the morning, hundreds of police vans could be seen, parked one after another, along the city’s pavements, as if Algiers was under siege. Meant to dissuade the demonstrators from reaching the city’s center, the heavy police deployment achieved nothing but the opposite of its purpose. Algerians saw a challenge in the army chief’s instruction to close down Algiers to the other inhabitants of the country; their pride could not be challenged.
Our correspondent sits tight, he witnesses the police carrying out arbitrary checks, demanding identification from passersby for no particular reason.
On social networks, the police’s actions are compared to how the French used to treat Algerians before the country’s independence.
Some filmed themselves “illegally migrating” to Algiers using speed boats or crossing dense forests. A satirical news website jokingly reported that 4 migrant smugglers were arrested at the border between Algiers and Tipasa (a city/town only a dozen kilometers away from Algiers).
The media were equally denounced by the demonstrators. Numerous signs and chants denounced the national media’s “omertà“, during most demonstrations, these state-sponsored TV stations broadcast anything but the protests: Hindi films, National Geographic documentaries on big cats, Spaghetti Western movies, you name it, anything but the pro-democracy protests.
Ultimately, this could be the end of Ahmed Gaid Salah’s reign over Algeria’s current affairs, the incarceration of hundreds of political activists, political opponents, as well as an independence war hero (Lakhdar Bouregaa) might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
After today’s massive demonstrations, one thing becomes crystal clear, the Algerian people are not giving up on their democratic ideals, they’re even willing to fight for them.