Interview: the Algerian uprising continues

Supporters of the Algerian uprising will be gathering once again this Saturday (6 April) at 1pm, Marble Arch, London. Seth Uzman spoke to one of the volunteers and reports on the protests so far.

Seth Uzman reports:

Next Saturday’s demonstration will be the seventh London demonstration in as many weeks, held in solidarity with the Algerian uprising. The movement has been calling for the removal of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his allies in the state, condemning widespread corruption.

In Algeria itself, the movement has escalated from mass mobilisation to general strikes. The results are impressive and ongoing. The governing FLN party abandoned Bouteflika, who finally resigned after 20 years on Tuesday (2 April).

The slogans carried on previous demonstrations give a sense of the character of the movement. Two weeks ago, one protester, Hussein, carried a placard which read: ‘Freedom for Algeria. We don’t need USA. We don’t need France. We can do it ourselves.’ He explained: ‘What’s happening at the moment in Algeria, is – I wouldn’t even call it a regime – it’s a bunch of people who stole the constitution and stole the country. We want our country back and they are on their last legs.

The unity of the population across its partitions is a particular cause for hope. One demonstrator, Rabah, draped in the Algerian flag put it like this:

…the government, all the time, tries to put people between us – like they do here…because in Algeria, we have different people: we have the Berber people which is the original people of Algeria, we got the Arabs and all of them live together. There is nothing foreign between us. We are all one hand.

The Algerian national flag appears alongside the blue, green, yellow and red standard of the Berber population, and the black, white, green and red of the Palestinian flag. 

The leading role of football fans on the demonstrations has been a poignant reminder of their team’s anti-colonial history. It was established by French Algerians who left the colonial French club to form the national team, also known as ‘FLN’ until the victory of the armed struggle in 1962. In this way, it is the youngest generations who preserve the older anti-colonial memories of struggle and liberation, rearming them for the present.

It’s crucial that the efforts of the diaspora community find democratic and anti-imperialist solidarity from people in Britain. Whether May confronts an intifada against her zombie agenda as Bouteflika did against his moribund tenure will depend on whether the lessons and spirit of the Algerian uprising break the British border and Fortress Europe.

Seth Uzman: Why, how and when did the Algerian diaspora in London decide to mobilise and why are these demonstrations so crucial in this moment?

Volunteer: In every city around the world, there are tens of thousands if not millions of Algerians who have fled their home country over the years because of the high level of corruption, oppression and poor living conditions.

In London, we have decided to hold protests every Saturday in prominent places: Trafalgar Square, Marble Arch, BBC Broadcasting House and in front of the Algerian Embassy. We hold both static protests and marches through the main shopping streets of the city, chanting political slogans, carrying placards and calling for the immediate downfall of the corrupt government.

The main protest started officially in Algeria on Friday 22 February 2019, and has continued every second day across the different sectors of society, the economy, education, government and the judiciary. Nationwide protests have been held every Friday since February.

Around the world, people have been amazed by how well organised and peaceful the demonstrations have been, at the same time as involving millions of people demanding the departure of the corrupt government.

In the UK, the Algerian protests started on 23 February 2019, and have been continuing every Saturday.

The demonstrations are crucial in this moment because of the level of corruption that the existing government has reached: millions of dollars of public money have been laundered in western banks for the benefit of few hundred corrupt government leaders. Every government in the west is well aware of these corrupt transactions, but instead they talk about the flow of immigrants to their countries.

We are calling on western governments to stop closing their eyes to the corrupt practices that turn millions of educated young people into poor refugees, who risk their lives on small boats in search of a better life. Enough is enough. No more tolerance for corruption in Algeria!

What coordination is there with the movement in Algeria?

V: We coordinate daily to decide the next steps of action. We are working with lawmakers and trusted public figures to try to mediate and guide the change peacefully through national media and social media channels, trying to convince the corrupt rulers to hand over power peacefully to the people.

The demonstrations over the past several weeks have brought together a variety of identities and movements, including Berbers and the Palestinian liberation struggles.

Photo: Seth Uzman

How has the level of popular mobilisation and the most recent general strike in Algeria transformed the situation?

V: The repeated general strikes in all departments and sectors, private and public gave a major hit to the country’s economy, shaking the roots of the corrupt government. These strikes were performed in the most civilised manners, with no casualties. The message was strong both locally and internationally. It is a continuous process until the corrupt government disappears forever.

What gives organisers here in London the most hope?

V: Last week the corrupt Algerian government turned to the Russian and German governments for assistance, trying to get some confidence from the international political powers. France is a blind supporter because of the free oil supply that it benefits from.

That’s right: France receives free oil from Algeria, with the total support of the corrupt government. Here in London, and across the world, we can denounce the way these corrupt individuals are supported by the same western governments that preach democracy and fairness!

What has been the role of the US and Europe in thwarting Algeria’s popular democratic movements? 

V: The main issue in our country is oil. The country is rich, but its people are so poor because of the magnitude of corruption. Millions of dollars have been stolen from the Algerian people, unnoticed by the west, yet banked in the west. This is how western countries view it: investments!

France, America, Britain, Italy, Russia and China are the main investors in Algerian oil. They get a fair share of cheap deals in return for closing their eyes to the corruption of the Algerian government.

When and where is the next protest (any Facebook pages or organisations for folks to follow or support?) and what should those wishing to show solidarity do?

V: The next protest is on Saturday 6 April 2019 at 1.00 pm and starts at Marble Arch, London.

Follow us on Facebook.

We need the following support:

1.  Walk with us with Algerian flags (available from eBay).
2.  Ask your MPs to support our case.
3.  Share our posts and articles worldwide.
4.  Get lawyers to help us to sue the corrupt regime for money laundering.
5.  Call on bankers to declare the millions of dollars laundered through western banks.
6.  Company house to declare all the economic interests of corrupt individuals.
7.  Estate agents and government departments to declare all properties and real estate owned by these corrupt people. It is public money, requested by the Algerian public.

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