Sunday, January 9, 2011

Algeria: three killed in uprising - Tunisia: clashes continue: four killed

Again nowhere to be seen in Western media, however Al Jazeera is giving the revolts a half decent coverage.

Algerian popular uprising faces its first casualties

Most importantly at least three people have been killed in the struggles between angry citizens and police forces. Hundreds have been injured. The dead are:
  • Azzedine Lebza, 18, shot dead while attempting to take a police station, it seems, in Ain Lahdjel, in the M'Sila province, south of Algiers.
  • Akriche Abdelfattah, 32, was killed by a gas canister shot to his head in Bou Smail, a small town near Algiers.
  • A third person whose identity is not known burned to death in a fire at a hotel, according to government sources.
The government also recognizes 400 injured, most of them police agents. But I am guessing this figure is not realistic.

While the trigger of the intifada is generally claimed to be a sharp hike of food prices at the turn of the new year, Algerian journalist Dalila Hanache disagrees:

I hear young people in the neighbourhood who say these clashes and protests are not the result of high food prices only, they think there are lots of problems in this country - educational, problems in the health sectors, in all sectors of government.

Another journalist, Mohamed Ben Madani thinks that the situation is out of control and that the protest is likely to continue for weeks:

The government simply ignored the people since they were elected to office and basically now they [the people] have come out into the streets asking the authorities to give them jobs and to share the wealth of the nation.
It is in other words a class uprising, demanding real socialism (officially the Algerian government is socialist but in practice it is more like Islamist and free-market Fascist).

Ben Madani fears that the only response that the government will have is to quell the uprising violently.

Mohamed Zitout, a former diplomat, also thinks of this intifada as a class revolution:

It is a revolt, and probably a revolution, of an oppressed people who have, for 50 years, been waiting for housing, employment, and a proper and decent life in a very rich country. But unfortunately it is ruled by a very rich elite that does not care about what is happening in the country - because they did not give people what they want, even though the government has the means to do so, the people are now revolting.
The general impression is that the intifada is extending, even if (or maybe because) it has no clear leadership. In Kabylia specifically the revolt has extended beyond the capital and now roads are being cut by the protesters. If this practice becomes generalized, the country could be easily brought to an stand-still.

Preaching of social peace by imams across the country was ignored, as the intifada only grew in strength after that.

The last attempt to calm down the popular anger came from the government, which agreed tax cuts that should lower the prices of sugar and cooking oil by 40%... in theory. However this seems the usual case of "too little, too late". The President Abdelaziz Bouteflika remains eerily silent. 

Tunisian revolt continues (two weeks already): four killed

At least four people have been killed by police forces in the town of Tala in SW Tunisia, some other six have been seriously wounded in the same incident, when police opened fire against a crowd of protesters, according to Al Jazeera. It seems that the people had set fire to a government building, police first attacked with water cannons but eventually opened fire. 

In another SW town, Gassrine, violent clashes between citizens and police forces have also been reported. There are injured victims but further details are not known. 

The government deployed yesterday military forces to protect official buildings. It is unclear if they were involved in the shootings. 

The main labor union, the General Union of Tunisian Workers, UGTT, close to the government, protested the repression and hold a vigil for the victims in the capital, Tunis. They also declared to support the demands of the protesters.

As in the case of nearby Algeria, under a similar pseudo-socialist regime supported by France and the EU, the protests are about much more than the trigger, in this case a street seller (with a university degree but no other job) who set fire to himself in desperate protest for seeing his merchandise confiscated by police. They are about a corrupt and dictatorial regime that has to change. However in Tunisia the revolt has not yet extended to the capital but has spread to the northern interior and has also been lasting for longer.

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