Algeria braces for more protests

Oil-rich country on high alert as opposition groups mobilise for weekend of rallies and gatherings calling for democracy

Friday 18 February 2011

Algerian riot police in Annaba, during last weekend's protests. Photograph: Moh Ali/AP

Protesters against Algeria‘s military regime are to hold further pro-democracy demonstrations on Saturday, despite the government’s promise to end the state of emergency that has gripped the country for 19 years.

The oil-rich Maghreb state has used its powerful security services to prevent it from being swept up in the tide of popular uprisings across the Arab world.

Last weekend, 30,000 police saturated the capital, Algiers, to prevent 2,000 people from demonstrating. Riot police blocked off roads, and harassed, beat and arrested hundreds of people who had gathered.

The government swiftly announced it would soon relax the emergency powers in place since 1992, which prevent public demonstrations. It has also promised new measures to ease unemployment and the housing crisis – symbols of the extreme social inequalities of a nation whose vast oil and gas riches are concentrated in the hands of a military oligarchy. Continue reading