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Africa

Bouteflika promises political reform

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-21

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (pictured) promised a raft of political reforms, state media said Saturday. The announcement comes as police blocked yet another anti-government protest in the capital.

AFP - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika promised to introduce wide-ranging reforms Saturday after police blocked anti-government protests in the capital, the APS news agency reported.           

He said that the state of emergency in force for 19 years had been lifted last month as promised and that it was time to move into a higher gear.  
             
"It will be the opening of a new page on the path of overall reforms... which cannot be fruitful in the absence of political reforms," he said in a speech read for him at a ceremony in Mostaganem, about 350 kilometres (217 miles) west of Algiers.     
             
Security forces swamped the centre of the Algiers, hampering bids by pro-reform activists to rally although a small number of protesters made it through the barricades.
             
A rally called by youths through Facebook was due outside the main post office; the other, at nearby May 1 Square, was called by the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNDC) against the "political system".
             
It was the seventh attempt since January by the CNDC to stage a weekly demonstration, along the lines of pro-democracy protests sweeping the Arab world, in defiance of a ban on protests in the capital imposed in 2001.
             
The group was established after rioting at January 21 protests over the high cost of living left five dead and 800 injured, but has since split over differences over the strategy for regime change.
             
A few activists were able to reach the May 1 Square, including Rally for Culture and Democracy lawmaker Tahar Besbes who was wounded and hospitalised in scuffles with police at an earlier demonstration.
             
A CNCD founder and honorary president of the Algerian League of Human Rights, Ali Yahia Abdennour, 90, was also there but was closely monitored by security officers.
             
Saturday's demonstrations were to coincide with the 49th anniversary of a ceasefire that led to Algerian independence from France on April 19.
             
A protest has also been called for Sunday by the National Committee of the Unemployed (CNC) to demand decent jobs and unemployment benefits, and measures to protect employees on short-term contracts.
             
Algeria has been shaken by protests at all levels of society with strikes by students, doctors and auxiliary police.
             
The government has responded with promises of substantial financing for projects to meet popular demand.

 

Date created : 2011-03-19

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