Ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared he will seek a fifth term in April elections in a message published by state media Sunday, after he was endorsed by his party and the ruling coalition.
The 81-year-old head of state uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.
“Of course, I am no longer the same physical force as before — something that I have never hidden from the people,” said Bouteflika, according to the APS news agency, as he apparently broke his silence on his intentions for the April 18 poll.
“But the unwavering desire to serve… has never left me and it allows me to transcend the constraints linked to health troubles which everyone may one day face,” the president reportedly added.
Known for wearing a three-piece suit even in the stifling heat, Bouteflika gained respect from many for his role in ending Algeria’s decade-long civil war, which official figures say killed nearly 200,000 people.
He took advantage of the rise of the oil prices between 2004 and 2014 to launch vast infrastructure programmes and pull Algeria out of debt.
But the country’s hydrocarbon-dependent economy was hit hard by a drop in crude prices during the president’s fourth term, and now nearly a third of Algerians under 25 are unemployed.
Bouteflika has also faced criticism from rights groups and opponents who accuse him of being authoritarian.
- ‘Irresponsible’ candidacy –
His main opponent, former prime minister Ali Benflis, has not yet said if he will run in the election but his party — the Avant-Garde des Libertes or Avant Garde of Freedom — on Sunday rejected Bouteflika’s candidature.
“This irresponsible decision is capable of pushing our country further into political, economic and social crisis,” it said in a statement received by AFP.
Bouteflika, it said, was a “candidate uncapable of exercising the role of president”.
If re-elected, he would set up an “inclusive national conference” to address “political, economic and social” issues and “propose an enrichment of the constitution”, APS reported.
This conference would be mandated to establish “a consensus on reforms and changes” in Algeria, the president’s message said, but added that he would be the one to act on conclusions.
“A stronger presence of young people” inside political institutions, economic reform and a scaling back of bureaucratic red tape would be among the topics to be discussed at the conference.
Former prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal — who ran the incumbent’s successful presidential bids in 2004, 2009 and 2014 — has once again been named campaign manager.
The president has come up with “a strong and new plan” involving economic and political reforms to enact for the benefit of Algerians, Sellal told private TV network Ennahar.
The country’s four-party ruling coalition — which includes the president’s National Liberation Front (FLN) — backed Bouteflika earlier this month.
The FLN designated the president as its candidate on Saturday, in an address by party coordinator Mouad Bouchareb to thousands of people in the capital Algiers.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has said Bouteflika’s health is not “an obstacle” to performing presidential duties.
His continued backing by the establishment makes him a firm favourite.
Retired general Ali Ghediri, 64, was the first to announce his candidacy after the presidency set the election date.
Algeria’s main Islamist party, the Movement for the Society of Peace, will also take part, backing its candidate Abderrazak Makri.
It has said Bouteflika would be unable to handle the demands of another term in office because of his poor health.
The country’s oldest opposition party, the Front of Socialist Forces, announced last month it would not field a candidate and called for an “active, intensive and peaceful boycott”.
In early 2016, he dissolved the all-powerful DRS intelligence agency after dismissing its leader General Mohamed Mediene, known as “Toufik”, who had clung to the post for a quarter of a century.
Presidential candidates have until March 3 at midnight (2300 GMT) to submit their applications.
On Sunday Bouteflika appointed one of his advisers — 70-year-old former justice minister and judge Tayeb Belaiz — to head Algeria’s 12-member constitutional council responsible for validating presidential candidates, APS said.
For the last presidential election in 2014, Bouteflika had only declared his intention to run a few days ahead of the deadline.
Sudan gets new defence minister
Maj. Gen Yassin Ibrahim, 62, was sworn in Tuesday before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, a statement from the council said.
Sudan has sworn in new defence minister, Maj. Gen Yassin Ibrahim, two months after the death of the former defence chief, General Jamal al-Din Omar who died while in neighbouring South Sudan for peace talks with the country’s main rebel groups.
Ibrahim, 62, was sworn in Tuesday before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, a statement from the council.
The new defence chief came out of retirement to take the position.
His appointment comes a year after long-time autocrat Omar Bashir was toppled in mass protests in April 2019.
“We will work side by side doing our best… to achieve the goals of the constitutional declaration,” the official SUNA news agency quoted Ibrahim as saying after he was sworn in.
The swearing-in came amid tensions with neighbouring Ethiopia over a cross-border attack allegedly conducted by a militia backed by Ethiopia’s military.
Since August last year a transitional government, comprised of civilians and military officials, has taken over the reins of power in Sudan after political factions adopted a constitutional declaration.
The declaration paved the way for the new government to steer the country to civilian rule during a three-year transition.
But the transition has been fragile with the government facing major challenges, including soaring inflation, a huge public debt, tribal clashes and efforts to forge peace with rebels.
Tunisia to reopen borders, airspace on June 27
Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.
Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh has announced that the country will reopen its land, air and sea borders from June 27.
He also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.
Fakhfakh made the announcement after a meeting with the national commission to combat coronavirus on Monday.
Tunisia has reported 1,084 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, a Xinxua news agency report said.
The North African country has received support from various countries including China.
On April 16, China donated a batch of medical aid to Tunisia’s Ministry of National Defense, including facemasks, test kits and medical protective googles.
Egypt, France plan to end terrorism in Libya
Both countries showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have discussed the development of several regional issues, including the situation in Libya.
During a phone call on Saturday, Macron said he is keen to exchange views with Sisi over these issues as Cairo plays a key political role in the region, Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement.
For his part, Sisi affirmed Egypt’s firm position towards the Libyan crisis based on restoring Libyan national state institutions, ending the spread of criminal groups and terrorist militias.
He added that Egypt also gives top priority to combating terrorism, achieving stability and security and putting an end to illegal foreign interventions in Libya, a Xinhua news agency report said.
The two presidents agreed to intensify their coordination in the coming period, stressing the necessity to end the Libyan crisis by reaching a political solution that paves the way for the return of security and stability in the country, the spokesman said.
They showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.
Libya has been locked in a civil war since the ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The Libyan conflict escalated in 2014, splitting power between two rival governments, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli and another in the northeastern city of Tobruk allied with self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar.
While Egypt supports Haftar’s LNA that seeks to take over Tripoli, Turkey backs the Tripoli-based GNA.