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Algeria: Contestation continues, army warns protesters

Several thousand students marched again in the capital and in several cities of Algeria against the fifth candidacy of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, while the army sent a strong warning against those who, according to him, want to destabilize the country.

Across the country, protesters once again reiterated their rejection of the promises of the head of state to reform and not to go to the end of his possible new mandate.

Meanwhile, General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, Chief of Staff of the Army, warned that it would be the guarantor of “security” and “stability” against those he did not name – who want to bring Algeria back to the years of civil war (1992-2002).

Washington, for its part, reacted for the first time since the beginning of the protests by calling on the Algerian authorities to respect the right to protest.

“The United States supports the Algerian people and their right to demonstrate peacefully,” said US Foreign Affairs Spokesman Robert Paladino.

“Hey Bouteflika, there will be no 5th term” or “Bring back the army commandos and the BIS (police intervention unit), there will be no 5th term”, notably sang students all day in the center of Algiers, applauded by passers-by and honking with car horns.

Without incident, marches of thousands of students sometimes accompanied by their teachers also marched in Oran, Constantine and Annaba, the three largest cities in the country after Algiers, found Algerian media journalists on the spot.

Important demonstrations also took place in Béjaïa, Tizi-Ouzou and Bouira, main cities of the region of Kabylie, in the north of the country, but also in Blida (north), Sétif (north-east) or Tlemcen (north-west), according to Algerian media.

In the capital, where the demonstrations, banned since 2001, are now almost daily for ten days, students from different universities in Algiers have made an appointment via social networks in front of the Great Post, emblematic building in the heart of the city.

In a festive atmosphere, they marched all day inside a perimeter cordoned off by the police in the center of Algiers.

The police, deployed in numbers, let go, content to evacuate smoothly in the late afternoon the Place de la Grande Poste, become a huge agora of thousands of people.

She also evacuated an avenue nearby, which the Algiers had turned into a long walk, taking advantage of the decision to cut off traffic.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82 years old and weakened since 2013 by the aftermath of a stroke, is the target of an unprecedented protest since his election as head of state 20 years ago. The protests were triggered by the announcement of his willingness to run for a fifth term in the presidential election on April 18th.

His candidacy, registered Sunday by the Constitutional Council, was accompanied by commitments intended to calm the anger: not to go to the end of its mandate and leave the power after a series of deep reforms in particular.

But his promises failed to quell the dispute, although the presidential camp estimated the day before that they responded “fully” to the protesters’ demands.

” No is no! He did not understand the message of the people? We will make him understand today and even more Friday,” the first day of the weekend and day of massive mobilization in the past two weeks, says Selma, math student in Algiers.

The general then called the Algerians “to erect a bulwark against anything that could expose Algeria to unpredictable threats”.

Faced with protests that nothing seems to be able to stem, the presidential camp has repeatedly mentioned the risk of a return of the country to the “dark years”, which Mr. Bouteflika is credited with having ended.

But beyond Mr. Bouteflika, it is the entire ruling caste that is targeted by the protesters. “Tell thieves we’re not going to shut up,” they chanted.

In Béjaïa, 180 km east of Algiers, the Bar Association called on its members to no longer provide defense from Wednesday, like their colleagues from Constantine (north-east). And Algerian teachers must decide soon on a possible strike.

“Your health credit is insufficient to carry out this mandate,” says a sign of a protester in Algiers, addressed to President Bouteflika. Hospitalized in Switzerland almost ten days ago for officially “periodic medical examinations”, his return has still not been announced.

On a sidewalk in Algiers, two elderly women look with benevolent eye at the students demonstrating. “I hope that all this will bear fruit,” says one.

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