The Arab Spring Is Not Over Yet

New waves of protests have gained traction every few months, showing that the popular movements that started eight years ago are alive and well and will not end anytime soon.

In Algeria—a country of 42 million people, nearly 50 percent of whom are under the age of 30—an elderly president who has ruled for 20 years is running for re-election.

Following a stroke in 2013, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82, has continued to suffer severe health issues. Since then, he has never given a public speech. Nevertheless, he is once again the ruling National Liberation Front’s candidate for the presidential election in April.

The absurd nomination of the aging Bouteflika came as a blow to millions of Algerians and sparked protests in the capital and in other cities throughout the country. As in Egypt in 2011, calls for demonstrations started on social media and were answered by tens of thousands of people, who took to the streets to protest Bouteflika’s run for a fifth term as well as widespread corruption. These protests have grown steadily, culminating on March 1 in what has been described as “the country’s biggest anti-government demonstrations since the Arab Spring eight years ago.”

The Algerian president responded quickly. On Sunday, his campaign manager, Abdul Ghani Zaalan, appeared on television to indicate that while Bouteflika still intended to run for election in April, he would only remain in power for one year if re-elected, with a pledge to hold an early election in which he would not seek a sixth term within 12 months. This statement did little to quell the protests; demonstrators came out in the thousands shortly after the statement.

Algeria has a fraught history with democracy. In the 1990s, the military overturned an Islamist party’s victory in parliamentary elections, pushing the country into a violent conflict that left over 100,000 people dead. The government’s narrative, which uses the memory of devastation and destruction from the civil war to frighten and intimidate people, has not stopped the protesters from taking to the streets. They have kept their rallies peaceful and have taken inspiration from similar peaceful protests, like the first wave of the Arab Spring.

Though Algerians have faced some violence from the authorities, the protests there were not met with nearly as much brute force as those in Sudan. In the course of the past two months, tens of thousands of people have joined protests demanding the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir. Police have used rubber bullets and live ammunition against the peaceful protesters, resulting in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Protests in Sudan started on Dec. 19, 2018, and were triggered by an increase in fuel prices and a surge in inflation rates. This quickly evolved into protests against Bashir himself, who has ruled the country since the 1989 coup and who is notorious for leading an armed confrontation in Darfur that has so far claimed the lives of about 300,000 Sudanese, prompting the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant against Bashir in 2009 for the commission of “war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The president finally addressed protesters in late February, announcing that he was dismissing the cabinet, declaring a nationwide state of emergency, replacing the governors of Sudan’s 18 states with military and security officials, postponing constitutional amendments that would allow him to run for re-election again in 2020, and stepping down as head of the ruling National Congress Party until the party’s next general conference, delegating his powers and authority to deputy head Ahmed Mohammed Haroun.

Although that statement was seen as a partial victory, more people took to the streets across Sudan following the speech, as Bashir’s calls for dialogue with opposition groups were widely viewed as an attempt to pacify popular sentiment that he should step down.

Foreign Policy

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button