Pretoria embassy besieged by expats demanding end to president’s 20-year rule
By Alameen Templeton
A crowd of determined Algerians gathered outside their embassy in Pretoria this morning in support of massive protests in their home country demanding an end to the Bouteflika regime.
A small police contingent kept a close eye on proceedings, although the protesters were well-behaved and never got out of control.
“We are here to demand the president and his gang of mafia. They have stolen from our country for more than 20 years and it is time for them to go,” Hafiz, a particularly vocal protester said.
The crowd showed a remarkable degree of commonality on how they read the situation in their home country.
Their first two demands are that President Aboubakr Bouteflika not stand for a fifth term. The wheelchair-bound octogenarian is bidding for his fifth term as head of state, despite promises to the electorate while running for his third and fourth terms that “this election will be my last”.
Bouteflika has made similar promises going into this election, set for next month, that he will sit as president for just two years before handing over to someone else, but few people outside his immediate circle are satisfied with his assurances.
“He is old, he can’t even stand up from his wheelchair. He can’t even sign his name to documents. Our ambassador here in Pretoria was supposed to have been replaced, but Bouteflika is incapable of signing his name to the necessary authorisations. How then can such a man stand as leader of our country?” Nema, a reserved spokesman for the protesters asked.
All protesters interviewed were adamant the mass protests in their country would never go the same way as happened to the “Arab Spring” protests in 2011. They also started out peacefully, but returned to militarism after a few initial, public victories.
“It is impossible! Impossible! Algerians are far too educated and experienced. South Africa in terms of its evolution after its revolution is around about where Algeria was in 1962 (the year Algeria gained its independence from France after bitter years of fighting that claimed about 1.5million lives). We will never let it happen,” Muhammad, a middle-aged protester said.
All were adamant the secretive oil and gas supply agreements with France would have to be cancelled.
Algeria’s government has extended a free provision of oil and gas agreement with France almost indefinitely.
This is something everyone spoken to was adamant would have to be changed.
But first, the president and his “Forty thieves” would have to go, everyone at the protest said.