Algeria: Timeline of a month-long protest

An Algerian draped in the national flag takes part in a demonstration against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the capital Algiers on March 22, 2019. - Bouteflika said on February 22 he would run for a fifth term in April 18 elections, despite concerns about his ability to rule. The 82-year-old uses a wheelchair and has rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013. Following initial protests, he made the surprise announcement on March 11 that he was pulling out of the race -- and also postponed the polls. (Photo by Ryad KRAMDI / AFP) / “The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Zaid AL-OBEIDI has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [RYAD KRAMDI] instead of [ZAID AL-OBEIDI]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require.”

Algeria has been rocked for a month by unprecedented protests against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sparked by his bid for a fifth term after two decades in power.

The 82-year-old leader has withdrawn his candidacy but has also postponed the presidential election indefinitely, and demonstrators are now calling for him to step down.

Here is a timeline.

First protests

On February 22, tens of thousands of people demonstrate in several cities in the first major protests against Bouteflika’s intention to stand in April 18 elections.

His plans had been confirmed on February 10, with reports of some spontaneous protests in various areas the following weekend.

Algerians take part in a demonstration against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the capital Algiers (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

But after rallying calls on social media, thousands turn out on February 22, including in Algiers where demonstrations have been banned since 2001. “No fifth mandate,” they chant.

Police fire tear gas to block a march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing.

Hundreds demonstrate in Algiers again on February 24.

Warning

In the first official reaction, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on February 25 calls for “vigilance” at demonstrations.

On February 26, thousands of students rally peacefully in Algiers.

Two days later, a dozen journalists are detained for several hours as they participate in a rally against alleged censorship of protest coverage.

The prime minister compares the growing protest movement to the demonstrations that erupted in Syria in 2011 and sparked a war now in its ninth year.

This picture taken on March 22, 2019 shows protest signs in Arabic and French hung during a demonstration against ailing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the capital Algiers. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

On March 1, tens of thousands protest across the country.

“Regime murderers,” some chant in Algiers. There are also marches in the cities of Oran and Constantine.

Final term pledge

On March 2, Bouteflika — in Switzerland for nearly a week for “routine medical checks” — sacks his veteran campaign manager.

The next day, hundreds of students stage new protests in various cities, some chanting: “Bouteflika go away.”

That evening a letter from the president is read on state television in which he says his run will be his last. He vows to not serve a full term if re-elected and to organise early polls in which he will not stand.

Shortly afterwards his new campaign manager formally submits the president’s candidacy, just ahead of the deadline.

‘Chaos’

On March 5, as thousands march again, the army chief pledges to guarantee national security, accusing unidentified groups of wanting a return to the “painful years” of Algeria’s 1992-2002 civil war.

Bouteflika on March 7 warns of “chaos” if troublemakers infiltrate the demonstrations.

An Algerian wearing a Guy Fawkes’ mask defaced with the national colours marches during a demonstration against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the capital Algiers (Photo by Zaid AL-OBEIDI / AFP)

On March 8, tens of thousands in several cities take part in the biggest rallies yet against Bouteflika’s candidacy.

Bouteflika quits race

On March 10, Bouteflika returns from Switzerland as protest strikes have shut down the capital’s public transport system and schools across the country.

The next day, he pulls out of the race. “There will not be a fifth term” and “there will be no presidential election on April 18,” he announces on official media.

Interior minister Noureddine Bedoui is named prime minister.

But students and teachers are back on the streets on March 12 and 13.

On March 15, a huge crowd marches through Algiers for a fourth consecutive Friday, demanding Bouteflika’s ouster. Major protests are held in other key cities.

Holding on to power

On March 18, Bouteflika issues a statement confirming he will stay on as president beyond the end of his term on April 28 and until new elections are held, following a constitutional review.  

Algerians take part in a demonstration against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in the northeastern city of Annaba, about 570 kilometres west of the capital Algiers a (Photo by – / AFP)

On March 19, tens of thousands of students, joined by medics, demonstrate in Algiers, shouting: “Students are committed, the system must go!”

On March 20, Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN) party says it supports protesters’ calls for change while advocating his initiative for dialogue.

‘Stand down’

On March 22, exactly a month after the protests started, hundreds of thousands of Algerians again stage demonstrations across the country, despite bad weather.

“Stand down,” cried one banner.


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