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France turns its back on Algerian protesters demanding an end to 82-yr-old leader’s rule

March 04, 2019 at 09:49 am | Opinions & Features

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Head of Content

March 04, 2019 at 09:49 am | Opinions & Features

82-year-old Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Tens of thousands of protesters have stormed the streets of Algiers in the past ten days requesting their 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to drop plans to seek a fifth term after 20 years in office.

The president, who suffered a stroke in 2013 and suffers from ill health, defied the protests and submitted his official election papers while he was still in Switzerland for medical checks, reports Reuters.

His campaign manager, Abdelghani Zaalane, read a letter from the wheelchair-ridden president on TV in which he offered to step down after a year if re-elected. A move opponents believe is an attempt to calm protests which are spreading to other major cities in the country.

The French government has reacted to the protests saying, “It is up to the Algerian people to decide on whom it chooses as its leaders and up to the Algerian people to decide on its own future.”

The French foreign ministry said in the statement released on Monday that it hopes the vote takes place in the best possible conditions, cites Reuters.

Algeria gained its independence from France after the Algerian War of Independence between the European coloniser and the Algerian National Liberation Front from 1954 to 1962.

The war saw brutality and torture meted out to Algerians by the French. A war crime that has never been acknowledged by France until last year without an apology.

The relatively peaceful protests against Bouteflika is described as the biggest in Algeria since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that ended political regimes in neighbouring countries.

The election is expected to be held on April 18 and Bouteflika will be in the running if he doesn’t succumb to the pressure from protesters or from the head of the election commission, Abdelwahab Derbal, who had ordered candidates to submit their papers in person. A directive Bouteflika did not respect due to his health status.

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