Protesters rally in Algerian capital, marking rebirth of popular Hirak uprising that ousted President Bouteflika in 2019

Protesters rally in Algerian capital, marking rebirth of popular Hirak uprising that ousted President Bouteflika in 2019

Despite a heavy police presence, thousands of people have joined protests across the Algerian capital in a resurgence of the Hirak demonstrations that forced the country’s then-president to resign two years ago.

Protesters defied warnings from the authorities not to turn out on Monday and took to the streets of Algiers, demanding real political change and the end of military rule across the country. Police blockades were set up in some parts of the city as the streets filled with people in the early afternoon. 

In events reminiscent of those in Kherrata last week, protesters waved Algerian flags and chanted “A civilian state not a military state!” “Enough is enough!” and “The people want independence!”  

The Hirak movement started two years ago in Kherrata before spreading to the rest of the country, leading to the resignation of long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April 2019. 

The protests began when Bouteflika announced he would run for a fifth term in office, but the demonstrations continued after he stepped down as protesters demanded the ousting of all top-level insiders. Many also dismissed the December 2019 election as a charade. 

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Demonstrators gather in the town of Kherrata, Algeria on February 16, 2021. © REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
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Last week, the protests, which halted a year ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic, were reignited in the northern town of Kherrata.

On Thursday, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced the dissolution of the lower house of Algeria’s parliament and called for early legislative elections, adding that he would be reshuffling his cabinet in the next 48 hours. 

Tebboune also pardoned dozens of detainees who were involved in the Hirak movement, largely considered a gesture of appeasement towards the protest movement. Local media reported that 30 prisoners were released on Friday and that a further 40 have been freed since.

On Sunday, Tebboune dissolved the National People’s Assembly and carried out a partial reshuffle of his government.

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