Two years after the biggest Algerian political demonstrations since the 1962 Independence War, Algerians reunite in Kherrata to urge political reforms.
Rabat – In defiance of strict coronavirus restrictions, thousands of demonstrators gathered Tuesday in Kherrata to celebrate the Hirak movement’s second anniversary and to demand reform.
Approximately 5,000 demonstrators waved Algerian flags and chanted, “A civilian state, not a military state,” harkening the movement’s original mission to remove ruling elites from the Algerian government.
Former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika triggered the protests by announcing his intention to run for a fifth consecutive term in office. The movement was ultimately successful in ousting Bouteflika, but many of the calls for democratic reforms remain unanswered — the protests were halted due to nationwide coronavirus lockdowns.
Most Algerians do not see Bouteflika’s replacement, current President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, as a man of the people. Algerian authorities report his election in December 2019 had only 40% voter turnout. Algerians claim the election was a sham on the basis that the five candidates were closely linked to Bouteflika.
To appease the movement, President Tebboune supported a referendum to amend the constitution. The Hirak Movement deemed Tebboune’s referendum a charade and urged a national boycott; small constitutional reforms were adopted with only 23.7% turnout.
Despite publicly supporting the Hirak movement, President Tebboune has overseen the arrests of dozens of peaceful protestors. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 32 people arbitrarily detained during the Hirak protests remain behind bars to date. Tuesday’s demonstrators demand the immediate release of Khaled Drareni, an Algerian journalist serving two years for reporting on the Hirak protests.
“It is a revolutionary process for a very precise goal, which is the departure of the regime, the whole regime with all its components,” one of the protestors told Reueters.
With the entrenched elite maintaining a stranglehold on Algerian politics, the cries in Kherrata Square in 2021 closely mirror the demands of 2019. For those who wish for a more democratic Algeria, the anniversary of the Hirak movement represents the resurgence of a hijacked revolution.