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Situation en Tunisie en Égypte et en Libye : Quelles conséquences pour l’Algérie ?

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  • Situation en Tunisie en Égypte et en Libye : Quelles conséquences pour l’Algérie ?


    Samedi 15 Janvier 2011 -- La coïncidence est troublante. En 1987, un mois avant de défaire le président Bourguiba, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali avait effectué une visite inhabituellement longue ?* Alger. Le 12 décembre dernier, le ministre tunisien de la Défense, Ridah Grira, arrivait ?* Alger pour une visite de 5 jours. Durant son séjour en Algérie, M. Grira a été reçu comme un chef d’Etat. Il s’est surtout longuement entretenu avec les hauts responsables de l’armée algérienne, y compris ceux du DRS. Car même si la rue tunisienne a joué un rôle majeur dans le départ du président, il s’agit bien d’un coup d’Etat mené par l’armée. Elle a d’abord observé une surprenante neutralité en refusant d’intervenir contre les émeutiers. Quand la situation s’est dégradée ces derniers jours, elle a pris les choses en main. Comme l’armée algérienne en 1992 avec Chadli, les militaires tunisiens ont destitué Ben Ali en douceur, sans donner l’impression d’avoir joué un tel rôle.

    L’Algérie a-t-elle donné son aval ?* l’armée tunisienne pour évincer Ben Ali ? Il est difficile de le savoir mais une chose est sûre : l’évolution de la situation actuelle en Tunisie va impacter fortement les rapports de force au sommet de l’Etat algérien. Elle sera aussi déterminante pour l’avenir de la démocratie en Algérie. Si l’armée tunisienne parvient ?* gérer la transition dans de bonnes conditions, le rôle des militaires algériens se retrouvera renforcé. L’armée algérienne pourrait se retrouver alors dans le rôle de garante d’une probable future transition démocratique en douceur en Algérie, selon un scénario qui pourrait ressembler ?* celui de la Tunisie. Les militaires algériens ont déj?* eu ?* endosser ce rôle en 1992. Mais la transition a mal été gérée, débouchant sur une fermeture du champ politique. Certes, ils avaient l’excuse du terrorisme qui a suivi ce coup de force. Un «joker» qu’ils ne pourront pas utiliser une seconde fois.

    Si la transition en Tunisie échoue et que le pays sombre dans la violence ou qu’un islamiste arrive au pouvoir ?* l’issue de l’élection présidentielle qui devrait se tenir dans 60 jours, l’effet risque d’être désastreux pour l’Algérie. La conséquence pourrait en être un renforcement de la cohésion au sommet du pouvoir, entre militaires et civils, ce qui éloignerait la perspective d’une ouverture démocratique pour le pays. Tous les mouvements de protestation seraient alors durement réprimés. Cette fois, l’excuse ne serait plus l’islamisme comme dans les années 1990 mais la «situation chaotique» chez le voisin tunisien. Une partie de l’avenir de la démocratie en Algérie se joue actuellement en Tunisie.

  • #2
    Riyad Hamadi :


    Samedi 15 Janvier 2011 -- Le parti Ennahda a félicité samedi le peuple tunisien qui «a réussi ?* se débarrasser d’un régime dictatorial» avec le départ du président Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, après 23 ans de règne sans partage sur la Tunisie, dans une déclaration rendue publique. Le parti islamiste souhaite au peuple tunisien de retrouver «la stabilité dans un nouveau système pluraliste et des élections libres et transparentes pour élire des institutions crédibles et démocratiques». Ennahda appelle les autres régimes arabes ?* «tirer les leçons de ce qui vient de se passer en Tunisie pour entamer des réformes politiques avant que les peuples ne se révoltent pour mettre fin aux dictatures».

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    • #3
      Riyad Hamadi :


      Samedi 15 Janvier 2011 -- Le secrétaire général du parti El Islah (opposition), Djamel Benabdeslam, a appelé samedi ?* la dissolution de l’APN et ?* un référendum populaire pour réviser la constitution afin d’établir l’équilibre des pouvoirs entre les différentes institutions. «Nous appelons ?* l’instauration d’un gouvernement d’union nationale, ?* l’organisation d’un référendum pour la révision de la constitution pour équilibrer les pouvoirs entre les institutions, la dissolution de l’APN et la tenue de législatives anticipées», a déclaré M. Benabdeslam ?* TSA, en réaction au départ du président tunisien Ben Ali, après un mois de contestation populaire dans son pays. El Islah félicite le peuple tunisien qui «a réussi ?* se débarrasser d’un dictateur», a-t-il dit. «On souhaite l’instauration d’un régime démocratique en Tunisie». Les régimes doivent «tirer les leçons de ce qui s’est passé en Tunisie pour aller rapidement dans les réformes économiques et sociales et installer des gouvernements démocratiques», a plaidé M. Benabdeslam. Le chef d’El Islah a estimé que le régime déchu de Ben Ali présentait des similitudes avec le régime algérien notamment en ce qui «concerne la fermeture des champs médiatique et politique». L’Algérie comme la Tunisie est confrontée «aux problèmes du chômage et ?* la crise du logement», a-t-il dit.

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              • #8

                January 16, 2011 -- Tunisia's "jasmine revolution" sent new shockwaves across north Africa today, with a copycat suicide protest reported in Algeria and official dismay in Libya. Politicians met amid sporadic violence in Tunis to agree the formation of a new government. Maya Jribi, secretary-general of the opposition Progressive Democratic party, told the AFP news agency that an interim government, to be announced tomorrow, would include her party, Ettajdid (Renaissance), and the Democratic Front for Labour and Freedoms, as well as independent figures. Agreement was reportedly reached after talks between the parties and Mohamed Ghannouchi, prime minister under the deposed dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

                The European Pressphoto Agency announced the death of French photographer Lucas Mebrouk Dolega, 32, who was hit in the head by a police teargas canister on Friday. Up to 200 people are estimated to have been killed since the unrest began last month, including 42 prisoners who died in a fire on Saturday. Earlier, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi expressed his "pain" that Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday, had not been allowed to step down in his own time, as he had belatedly offered – reflecting nervousness among other autocratic Arab leaders of a ripple effect that could embolden opposition forces across the region. "You have suffered a great loss," Gaddafi, now in power for 41 years, said in a speech on state radio and TV. "There is none better than Zine to govern Tunisia. Tunisia now lives in fear."

                Echoes of the unrest were also heard from Algeria, where a man burned himself to death in an apparent copycat suicide that echoed the young Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, whose death sparked off the trouble in mid-December. Algeria's El Khabar newspaper reported that Mohsen Bouterfif set himself alight last Thursday after failing to find a job and a house. Riots erupted after he died of his burns on Saturday. A second, failed, attempted suicide by self-immolation was reported from Mostaganem, according to El Watan. In the past few weeks, Algerian towns have seen rioting over unemployment and a sharp rise in food prices. Two people were killed and scores injured during unrest which unfolded in parallel to the violence in Tunisia. Analysts say the big question is whether Ben Ali's departure will now be followed by real regime change that brings divided opposition parties into power. "The fear is that the country's democratic transition will be a painful one," wrote Hacen Ouali in El-Watan.

                Newspapers and comment across the Middle East focused on the lessons of Tunisia's drama for other countries. Terse statements from Egypt and several other Arab governments spoke of respecting the will of the Tunisian people. Saudi Arabia defended its much-criticised decision to take in Ben Ali, who is now with his family in a heavily guarded palace in Jeddah. Egypt, Jordan, Algeria and Morocco are seen as the other countries most likely to face serious popular unrest over unemployment, corruption and hopelessness, though social, political and economic conditions vary considerably between them.

                Arab opposition forces continued to hail Ben Ali's fall. The Beirut newspaper Al-Akhbar saluted "the gift from Tunisia to Arabs: the end of a dictator" while Lebanon's Hezbollah urged Arab leaders to learn from the Tunisian protests. In Syria, where the Bashar al-Assad regime is just as repressive, the pro-government daily Al-Watan said events in Tunisia were "a lesson that no Arab regime should ignore, especially those following Tunisia's political approach of relying on 'friends' to protect them". The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas warned that the leadership of its PLO rival in the West Bank was likely to meet the same fate as Ben Ali. "Mahmoud Abbas and his sons are among the wealthiest Palestinians," it said. "Fatah leaders are very corrupt. All indications are that the residents of the West Bank, who live under a tyrannical regime, are close to toppling the regime there."

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                • #9
                  Webster G. Tarpley:


                  Washington DC, January 16, 2011 – The U.S. intelligence community is now in a manic fit of gloating over this weekend’s successful overthrow of the Tunisian government of President Ben Ali. The State Department and the CIA, through media organs loyal to them, are mercilessly hyping the Tunisian putsch of the last few days as the prototype of a new second generation of color revolutions, postmodern coups, and U.S.-inspired people power destabilizations. At Foggy Bottom and Langley, feverish plans are being made for a veritable Mediterranean tsunami designed to topple most existing governments in the Arab world, and well beyond. The imperialist planners now imagine that they can expect to overthrow or weaken the governments of Libya, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, and perhaps others, while the CIA’s ongoing efforts to remove Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi (because of his friendship with Putin and support for the Southstream pipeline) make this not just an Arab, but rather a pan-Mediterranean, orgy of destabilization.

                  Hunger revolution, not Jasmine revolution

                  Washington’s imperialist planners now believe that they have successfully refurbished their existing model of CIA color revolution or postmodern coup. This method of liquidating governments had been losing some of its prestige after the failure of the attempted plutocratic Cedars revolution in Lebanon, the rollback of the hated IMF-NATO Orange revolution in Ukraine, the ignominious collapse of the June 2009 Twitter revolution in Iran, and the widespread discrediting of the U.S.-backed Roses revolution in Georgia because of the warmongering and oppressive activities of fascist madman Saakashvili. The imperialist consensus is now that the Tunisian events prefigure a new version of people power coup specifically adapted to today’s reality, specifically that of a world economic depression, breakdown crisis, and disintegration of the globalized casino economy. The Tunisian tumults are being described in the U.S. press as the “Jasmine revolution,” but it is far more accurate to regard them as a variation on the classic hunger revolution. The Tunisian ferment was not primarily a matter of the middle class desire to speak out, vote, and blog. It started from the Wall Street depredations which are ravaging the entire planet: outrageously high prices for food and fuel caused by derivatives speculation, high levels of unemployment and underemployment, and general economic despair. The detonator was the tragic suicide of a vegetable vendor in Sidi Bouzid who was being harassed by the police. As Ben Ali fought to stay in power, he recognized what was causing the unrest by his gesture of lowering food prices. The Jordanian government for its part has lowered food prices there by about 5%.

                  Assange and Wikileaks, key CIA tools to dupe youth bulge

                  The economic nature of the current unrest poses a real problem for the Washington imperialists, since the State Department line tends to define human rights exclusively in political and religious terms, and never as a matter of economic or social rights. Price controls, wages, jobless benefits, welfare payments, health care, housing, trade union rights, banking regulation, protective tariffs, and other tools of national economic self-defense have no place whatsoever in the Washington consensus mantra. Under these circumstances, what can be done to dupe the youth bulge of people under 30 who now represents the central demographic reality of most of the Arab world? In this predicament, the CIA’s cyberspace predator drone Julian Assange and Wikileaks are providing an indispensable service to the imperialist cause. In Iceland in the autumn of 2009, Assange was deployed by his financier backers to hijack and disrupt a movement for national economic survival through debt moratorium, the rejection of interference by the International Monetary Fund, and re-launching the productive economy through an ambitious program of national infrastructure and the export of high technology capital goods, in particular in the field of geothermal energy. Assange was able to convince many in Iceland that these causes were not nearly radical enough, and that they needed to devote their energies instead to publishing a series of carefully pre-selected U.S. government and other documents, all of which somehow targeted governments and political figures which London and Washington had some interest in embarrassing and weakening. In other words, Assange was able to dupe honest activists into going to work for the imperialist financiers. Assange has no program except “transparency,” which is a constant refrain of the U.S.-UK human rights mafia as it attempts to topple targeted governments across the developing sector in particular.

                  “Yes we can” or “Food prices are too damn high!”

                  Tunisia is perhaps the first case in which Assange and Wikileaks can make a credible claim to have detonated the coup. Most press accounts agree that certain State Department cables which were part of the recent Wikileaks document dumps and which focused on the sybaritic excess and lavish lifestyle of the Ben Ali clan played a key role in getting the Tunisian petit bourgeoisie into the streets. Thanks in part to Assange, Western television networks were thus able to show pictures of the Tunisian crowds holding up signs saying “Yes we can” rather than a more realistic and populist “Food prices are too damn high!” Ben Ali had been in power for 23 years. In Egypt, President Mubarak has been in power for almost 30 years. The Assad clan in Syria have also been around for about three decades. In Libya, Colonel Gaddafi has been in power for almost 40 years. Hafez Assad was able to engineer a monarchical succession to his son when he died 10 years ago, and Mubarak and Gaddafi are trying to do the same thing today. Since the U.S does not want these dynasties the obvious CIA tactic is to deploy assets like Twitter, Google, Facebook, Wikileaks, etc., to turn key members of the youth bulge into swarming mobs to bring down the gerontocratic regimes.

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                  • #10
                    continued.....

                    CIA wants aggressive new puppets to play against Iran, China, Russia

                    All of these countries do of course require serious political as well as economic reform, but what the CIA is doing with the current crop of destabilizations has nothing to do with any positive changes in the countries involved. Those who doubt this should remember the horrendous economic and political record of the puppets installed in the wake of recent color revolutions – people like the IMF-NATO kleptocrat agents Yushchenko and Timoshenko in Ukraine, the mentally unstable warmongering dictator Saakashvili in Georgia, and so forth. Political forces that are foolish enough to accept the State Department’s idea of hope and change will soon find themselves under the yoke of new oppressors of this type. The danger is very great in Tunisia, since the forces which ousted Ben Ali have no visible leader and no visible mass political organization which could help them fight off foreign interference in the way that Hezbollah was able to do in checkmating the Lebanese Cedars putsch. In Tunis, the field is wide open for the CIA to install a candidate of its own choosing, preferably under the cover of “elections.” Twenty-three years of Ben Ali have unfortunately left Tunisia in a more atomized condition.

                    Why is official Washington so obsessed with the idea of overthrowing these governments? The answer has everything to do with Iran, China, and Russia. As regards Iran, the State Department policy is notoriously the attempt to assemble a united front of the entrenched Arab and Sunni regimes to be played against Shi'ite Iran and its various allies across the region. This had not been going well, as shown by the inability of the U.S. to install its preferred puppet Allawi in Iraq, where the pro-Iranian Maliki seems likely to hold onto power for the foreseeable future. The U.S. desperately wants a new generation of unstable “democratic” demagogues more willing to lead their countries against Iran than the current immobile regimes have proved to be. There is also the question of Chinese economic penetration. We can be confident that any new leaders installed by the U.S. will include in their program a rupture of economic relations with China, including especially a cutoff of oil and raw material shipments, along the lines of what Twitter revolution honcho Mir-Hossein Mousavi was reliably reported to be preparing for Iran if he had seized power there in the summer of 2009 at the head of his “Death to Russia, death to China” rent-a-mob. In addition, U.S. hostility against Russia is undiminished, despite the cosmetic effects of the recent ratification of START II. If for example a color revolution were to come to Syria, we could be sure that the Russian naval presence at the port Tartus, which so disturbs NATO planners, would be speedily terminated. If the new regimes demonstrate hostility against Iran, China, and Russia, we would soon find that internal human rights concerns would quickly disappear from the U.S. agenda.

                    Key destabilization operatives of the Obama regime

                    For those who are keeping score, it may be useful to pinpoint some of the destabilization operatives inside the current U.S. regime. It is of course obvious that the current wave of subversion against the Arab countries was kicked off by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her much touted speech last week in Doha, Qatar last week, when she warned assembled Arab leaders to reform their economies ( according to IMF rules) and stamp out corruption, or else face ouster. Given the critical role of Assange and Wikileaks in the current phase, White House regulations czar Cass Sunstein must also be counted among the top putschists. We should recall that on February 24, 2007 Sunstein contributed an article entitled “A brave new Wikiworld” to the Washington Post, in which he crowed that “Wikileaks.org, founded by dissidents in China and other nations, plans to post secret government documents and to protect them from censorship with coded software.” This was in fact the big publicity breakthrough for Assange and the debut of Wikileaks in the U.S. mainstream press — all thanks to current White House official Sunstein. May we not assume that Sunstein represents the White House contact man and controller for the Wikileaks operation?

                    Every tree in the Arab forest might fall

                    Another figure worthy of mention is Robert Malley, a well-known U.S. left-cover operative who currently heads the Middle East and North Africa program at the International Crisis Group (ICG), an organization reputed to run on money coughed up by George Soros and tactics dreamed up from Zbigniew Brzezinski. Malley was controversial during the 2008 presidential campaign because of the anti-Israeli posturing he affects, the better to dupe the Arab leaders he targets. Malley told the Washington Post of January 16, 2011 that every tree in the Arab forest could now be about to fall: “We could go through the list of Arab leaders looking in the mirror right now and very few would not be on the list.” Arab governments would be well advised to keep an eye on ICG operatives in their countries.

                    Czar Cass Sunstein is now married to Samantha Power, who currently works in the White House National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director (boss) of the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights – the precise bureaucratic home of destabilization operations like the one in Tunisia. Power, like Malley, is a veteran of the U.S. intelligence community’s “human rights” division, which is a past master of using legitimate beefs about repression to to replace old U.S. clients with new puppets in a never-ending process of restless subversion. Both Malley and Power were forced to tender pro forma resignations during the Obama presidential campaign of 2008 – Malley for talking to Hamas, and Power for an obscene tirade against Hillary Clinton, who is now her bureaucratic rival.

                    Advice to Arab governments, political forces, trade unions

                    The Arab world needs to learn a few fundamental lessons about the mechanics of CIA color revolutions, lest they replicate the tragic experience of Georgia, Ukraine, and so many others. In today’s impoverished world of economic depression, a reform program capable of defending national interests against the rapacious forces of financial globalization is the number one imperative. Accordingly, Arab governments must immediately expel all officials of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and their subset of lending institutions. Arab countries which are currently under the yoke of IMF conditionalities (notably Egypt and Jordan among the Arabs, and Pakistan among the Muslim states) must unilaterally and immediately throw them off and reassert their national sovereignty. Every Arab state should unilaterally and immediately declare a debt moratorium in the form of an open-ended freeze on all payments of interest and principal of international financial debt in the Argentine manner, starting with sums allegedly owed to the IMF-World Bank. The assets of foreign multinational monopolistic firms, especially oil companies, should be seized as the situation requires. Basic food staples and fuels should be subjected to price controls, with draconian penalties for speculation, including by way of derivatives. Dirigist measures such as protective tariffs and food price subsidies can be quickly introduced. Food production needs to be promoted by production and import bounties, as well as by international barter deals. National grain stockpiles must be quickly constituted. Capital controls and exchange controls are likely to be needed to prevent speculative attacks on national currencies by foreign hedge funds acting with the ulterior political motives of overthrowing national governments. Most important, central banks must be nationalized and reconverted to a policy of 0% credit for domestic infrastructure, agriculture, housing, and physical commodity production, with special measures to enhance exports. Once these reforms have been implemented, it may be time to consider the economic integration of the Arab world as an economic development community in which the foreign exchange earnings of the oil-producing states can be put to work on the basis of mutual advantage for infrastructure and hard commodity capital investment across the entire Arab world. The alternative is an endless series of destabilizations masterminded by foreigners, and, quite possibly, terminal chaos.

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                    • #11

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                          • #14
                            Marwa Hussein, January 19, 2011:


                            Algerian Minister of Trade Moustafa Benbada gave an interview to Ahram Online from the sidelines of the Arabic economic summit:

                            Ahram Online: How can cooperation between Arab countries help solve the region’s problems, such as unemployment and lack of food security?

                            Moustafa Benbada: The file of food security has already been open for some time.

                            But no steps were carried out in this field. How do you move the issue forward?

                            This time, it must be considered more seriously. In general, it is necessary to try to implement these political hopes and decisions. The Arab League and its experts must improve their evaluation mechanisms and performances in order to find more effective ways to move forward, especially on these sensitive issues.

                            Can you give some concrete examples for what can be done?

                            The majority of our countries depend on imports to feed their people. We need more solidarity in this field. First of all, it is necessary to utilize and activate the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development; we can also create funds to finance agricultural projects. On the topic of purchases, if Arab countries procure their needs jointly they can get better prices. Plus, we should not forget that a country like Sudan can be a large supplier of agricultural food products.

                            On the national level, how will you deal with people’s anger, generated by the rise in the price of food products?

                            We already have a subsidy system for milk and flour, made possible by an annual $400 million subsidy fund, applicable to everyone. Recently, the system was widened to also include sugar and oil. The prices were reduced. The recent crisis is artificial, because the government did not increase the prices. Our prices are liberalized – they are those of the market.

                            Aren't you worried that the Tunisian scenario will spread to Algeria?

                            The situation in Algeria is not similar to Tunisia. What happened in Tunisia is the consequence of things which accumulated for years. In Algeria, freedom of expression is guaranteed; the press can criticize officials even more severely than in some European countries. The access to internet and to the information sources is also guaranteed. It was not the case in Tunisia.

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                            • #15
                              Jack Brown, January 20, 2011:


                              Soon after the onset of protests which eventually toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, a wave of riots swept through Algeria as well, with many neighborhoods in the capital of Algiers and dozens of smaller cities overwhelmed by thousands of angry young men who closed down streets with burning tires, attacked police stations with rocks and paving stones, and set fire to public buildings. For Algerians a few years older than the rioters, these events recalled the uprising of October 1988, in which violent unrest upended the single-party state. The disturbances of January 2011 were sparked by a sudden increase in commodity food prices, local journalists maintained, although much of the international press also linked them to a domino effect emanating from neighboring Tunisia. Both of these accounts are strikingly incomplete, however: Food price spikes were certainly one immediate cause of the Algerian unrest, but they were not the underlying reason that crowds of youths spontaneously decided to set upon policemen and other symbols of the state. Likewise, the theory of Tunisian contagion, while it may capture another contributing factor, ignores the national economic and political specificities that both triggered the Algerian rioting and determined its eventual course. In Algeria, in contrast to (formerly) famously quiet Tunisia, rioting is anything but unprecedented. Local street violence is almost a regular occurrence, and appears to have become a primary means for the country’s deprived to express discontent with a state that otherwise would pay them little attention. In some cases, groups of disenfranchised Algerians show notable self-awareness about the role of rioting, warning about the possibility of turmoil and even calling press conferences to discuss plans to raise a ruckus in the streets if certain demands are not met. Despite the unusual salience of urban unrest in Algerian politics, the midwinter riots fizzled out without really shaking the state. A more detailed comparison with Tunisia’s protests is useful for understanding why.

                              Joining the fray

                              The clashes that rocked Algeria started, as such things often do, with a mundane series of minor events: a post-match scuffle between soccer fans and police in the capital, an argument between a youth and a shopkeeper over the price of sugar in the nearby hill town of Kolea. But the fact that these disputes evolved rapidly into a nationwide rampage, replete with street battles between youths and police, points to the deep tensions in Algerian society, tensions that essentially have no outlet other than the street. There is a kind of brute majesty to Bab el Oued, the seaside neighborhood where the Algerian disturbances began on January 4. Block after block of massive ten-story buildings built in the latter years of the colonial era to warehouse working-class pied noirs march down the slopes of the hills to the north of the city center. Along the esplanade at the water’s edge are the soccer stadiums where the quarter’s youth vent their passions for the city’s two most important teams. During the war for independence, Bab el Oued was a stronghold of the savagely anti-independence OAS and a flashpoint for rioting against the Algerian nationalists. With a population of over 100,000 in an area not even half a square mile, it remains the most densely packed neighborhood in the city, and continues to be the starting point for many episodes of urban unrest. The October 1988 events, which temporarily shattered the elite’s grip on power and ushered in a brief period of multi-party democracy, started here when police massacred rioting youths. On January 4, at the end of a soccer game, disgruntled fans began to skirmish with police, and the situation soon spiraled out of control, with mobs of young men chasing after policemen and attacking police stations. As news of the affray in Bab el Oued spread, other working-class quarters went ablaze - Cheraga, Rais Hamidou, Bains Romains; by midnight youths from the vast bidonville of Oued Ouchaiah were streaming down to the main thoroughfares to shut down traffic. [1] Other larger cities - Oran, Annaba, Constantine - were soon alight as well; in the coming days the unrest spread to smaller cities and towns across the country.

                              The local press universally ascribed the unrest to a sharp rise in prices for several commodities, in particular, sugar and cooking oil. For working-class Algerian families, the abrupt 33 to 45 percent increases in the prices of these foodstuffs as the new year began were a difficult shock to absorb. The price hikes were an indirect - though probably anticipated - effect of state policy. Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has made reducing food imports (long an obsession of the Algerian state) a signature policy of his third run as head of government. A second initiative he has pursued is the elimination of untaxed black-market transactions by Algerian enterprises - by requiring payments in traceable checks rather than cash. In December, the agricultural products giant Cevital began requiring payments to suppliers and from distributors to be made by check, in anticipation of the new policy and to head off a tax investigation. Presumably, Cevital and its interlocutors had been declaring lower prices to the state until that point and setting them lower at market as well. Consumers and businessmen both benefited from the artificially lower prices, while the state lost its cut of tax revenue. In any event, the sudden imposition of fiscal accuracy by a player that controls most of the market in oil and sugar, combined with Ouyahia’s import restrictions, pushed prices up dramatically. [2] The political character of the violence was clear from its targets: Rioters assailed and burned symbols of the state throughout the country. Police and police stations were a near universal object of ire; the new head of the national police force had spent the previous days bragging about the enormous - 50 percent - salary increase he was awarding to police, with two years of retroactivity, giving rise to particular bad blood among under-employed youths. [3] Post offices, municipal halls, water agencies, electricity stations and, in one case, a museum were demolished. Establishments catering to unattainable wealth - private shops and, in particular, car dealerships - were also widely sacked. Otherwise, though, the events in Algeria never took on a directed political character; the mobs of rioters did not become protesters. There were no marches, no shared slogans and no coherent demands.

                              Roots of rage

                              In Tunisia, the events which toppled Ben Ali began with an equally mundane event, a seemingly small example of what both Tunisians and Algerians call hogra, injustice on the part of the powerful. A group of policemen confiscated the wares of one Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate who had been reduced to selling vegetables on the street in order to eke out a living. Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest; his suicide was the spark that ignited the enormous stores of resentment toward the regime in the poorest parts of the country. In contrast to the Algerian riots, the Tunisian unrest was at first primarily confined to the hinterlands of the country, underdeveloped areas that have been largely ignored by the state planners in Tunis. The most significant contrast with events in Algeria was the political framing supplied by labor unions, opposition parties and political dissidents in Tunisia. This political framing was undoubtedly what sustained the momentum of the social movement and directed its fire at the widely hated Ben Ali. Bread riots and unrest by the unemployed thus became revolutionary protests. In Algeria, the “food riots,” as they were called, were never supplied with a political encasement by “civil society” actors. It is a counterintuitive fact, since Tunisia is (or at least was) a far more authoritarian state than Algeria, with one of the Arab world’s most comprehensively stifled presses, no freedom of association and a terrible record of torturing, imprisoning and murdering political activists. Algeria, by contrast, has a fairly open press, plenty of legal “opposition” parties and theoretically free organizing of labor unions.

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