The coup in the West African state of Niger on July 26 and the Russia-Africa Summit the next day in St. Petersburg are playing out in the backdrop of multipolarity in the world order. Seemingly independent events, they capture nonetheless the zeitgeist of our transformative era. First, the big picture — the Africa summit hosted by Russia on July 27-28 poses a big challenge to the West, which instinctively sought to downplay the event after having failed to lobby against sovereign African nations meeting the Russian leadership. Forty-nine African countries sent their delegations to St. Petersburg, with 17 heads of states traveling in person to Russia to discuss political, humanitarian and economic issues.
Algeria announced suspension of its two decade-old-treaty of friendship with Spain on Wednesday, June 8. It also announced the suspension of all imports from the European country over its decision to support Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara. The Algerian President’s office said in a statement on Wednesday that it is suspending the long-term treaty with Spain, called the “treaty of friendship, good neighborliness and cooperation,” signed in 2002. A statement issued by the Algerian Banking Association later declared that the government had also decided to suspend imports of all goods and services from Spain. According to the Algerian government, the decision to suspend political, economic, financial, educational and defense ties with Spain was taken after it supported the Moroccan position on occupied Western Sahara earlier this year in March.
Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro took a historic trip to Iran and announced a 20-year cooperation agreement, pledging to more closely integrate the countries’ economies and work together in a joint “anti-imperialist struggle for a better world, of international respect and peace, without hegemonies.” Maduro signed the pact with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on June 11. It was described by the Venezuelan and Iranian governments as a “partnership agreement” and “cooperation agreement.” The deal involves collaboration in science, technology, agriculture, oil and gas, petrochemicals, tourism, and culture, according to Tehran’s Press TV.
In March 1962, after eight years of armed, diplomatic and mass struggles, the National Liberation Front (FLN) compelled the colonial leadership in Paris to commit to relinquishing its control to an Algerian Provisional Government (GPRA), overturning 132 years of French imperialist domination. The FLN and its allies were able to defeat the colonial regime in France setting an example for other states throughout the African continent who were then waging a revolutionary guerrilla war against settler-colonial and imperialist-backed European regimes. This victory against French imperialism was a Pan-African project bringing in newly independent governments such as Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana and Mali. Dr. Frantz Fanon, a Martinique-born French-trained psychiatric physician went to Algeria to work on behalf of the colonial regime when he shifted his allegiance to the FLN becoming an ambassador and contributing editor to a leading journal (El Moudjahid) allied with the national liberation movement.
On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron received a much anticipated report on France’s 132-year colonial rule of Algeria and the war that led to Algeria’s independence in 1962, as part of an effort towards reconciliation of historical memory between the two countries. A specialist of contemporary Algerian history, French historian Benjamin Stora, was tasked by Macron in July with “making a precise and just inventory of the progress done in France of colonisation and the Algerian war”, which remain painful subjects for millions of Algerian and French citizens nearly 60 years later. Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune had also tasked his advisor and director of national archives, Abdelmajid Chikhi, to coordinate with Stora on the issue of memorialisation.
2019 had her fair share of protests from North, West, East and Southern Africa. The reasons for these protests were largely political, followed by economic and then demand for human rights in some instances not to forget issues of ethnic tensions and insecurity. The protests toppled two long serving presidents, Sudan’s Omar al Bashir and Algeria’s Abdul Aziz Bouteflika. Two dogged movements swept away a combine 50-years of presidential rule. We look back at how these protests were started, what they achieved and their current statuses.
On December 12, Algeria held the first presidential elections since the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April after massive protests were held demanding he step down. Following Bouteflika’s resignation the protests continued and the people’s demands were broadened to call for the dismantling of the current political system. Protesters called for a boycott of the December 12 elections as the candidates were alleged to be associated with the previous regime. According to official figures, only 41% Algerians exercised their voting right in the heavily boycotted elections.
The last eight months have seen the rise of a protest movement without precedent in the history of Algeria. Millions of citizens have taken to the streets, since February 2019, in wilayas (provinces) across the country. Every Friday, week after week, Algerians come out to express their discontent. Friday 1 November was the 37th week, and the mobilisation was stepped up. The resignation, on 2 April 2019, of the former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who had triggered the protest movement (the hirak, in Arabic) with his decision to stand for a 5th term, was not enough to resolve the deep-rooted social discontent.
When in early February Algeria’s ailing octogenarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his intention to run for the presidency for a fifth term, millions of Algerians took to the streets in response. After weeks of rallies, Bouteflika was forced to resign on April 2, only to be replaced by a triad of government cronies: Abdelkader Bensalah as interim-president, Noureddine Bedoui as prime minister and Major General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has emerged as the key power broker in the country.
Algeria is in the midst of a historic popular uprising. Protests began in February of this year, as Algerians revolted against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s plans for a fifth term in office. Coming to power in 1999, Bouteflika suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013, after which he made few public appearances and was widely understood to be the puppet of a clique of high-ranking military figures. Protests intensified over the course of February and March, drawing millions to the streets of the capital Algiers and elsewhere, calling on Bouteflika to stand down before presidential elections originally slated for April 18.
The mass protest movement started just a few days after Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announcement of his intention to run for a fifth term as president. At first, the mobilisations were small and localised, but they became massive. Every Friday from 22 February, millions of Algerians (some estimates are as high as 17 and 22 million in a country of 42 millions) – young and old, men and women from different social classes – have taken to the streets in a momentous uprising, re-appropriating long confiscated public spaces.
The abdication of President Bouteflika is a historic victory for the Algerian people — but the struggle for a true democratic transition is far from over. What is happening in Algeria is truly historic. The people won the first battle in their struggle to radically overhaul the system. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, president for the past twenty years, was forced to abdicate after more than six weeks of street protests and a re-configuration of alliances within the ruling classes.
An iconic image of the 1960s shows a young American placing flowers in the barrels of soldiers’ rifles during protests against the Vietnam War. Such symbols of peace (“flower power”) helped turn events. Something like that is now happening in Algeria. Since February, millions of pro-democracy protesters in the North African country have been purposefully peaceful, even joyful, in the streets. Their main chant is silmiya, silmiya (peaceful, peaceful). With a message of nonviolence, they aim to persuade the military to stop dictating who rules Algeria by the mere force of arms.
A huge crowd has gathered in the Algerian capital to protest for a fourth consecutive Friday demanding urgent change and an end to the rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power for 20 years. Demonstrators crammed streets and squares in central Algiers after Friday prayers, many draped in Algeria's red, green and white flag. Reuters news agency said protesters numbered in the hundreds of thousands, describing the rally as the biggest since the start of the rallies last month. Demonstrations also took place in Bejaia, Oran, Batna, Tizi Ouzou and other cities.