Algeria: Berbers join call for election boycott
Algerian security forces on April 16 violently dispersed an attempt by opposition activists to stage a protest in the capital against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's run for a fourth term in this week's elections. Only a few members of the opposition alliance Barakat—President Abdelaziz Bouteflika—were able to assemble in central Algiers before police routed them. Barakat was able to hold a rally in a stadium, where some 5,000 gathered to chant "Boycott" and "The people want the regime out!" Mohsen Belabes, a leader of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), told the crowd: "The people here are the people who have been excluded, who have been put aside, but this is the real Algeria. The regime will collapse, but Algeria will survive."
The boycott call is being supported by leaders of the "provisional government" declared by the Amaigh (Berber) people in the eastern Kabylie region. Some Amazighs responded to the call by setting fire and blocking entry to polling stations in Kabylie, local media reported. Ferhat Mhenni, president of the provisional government, told Al Jazeera these acts are a departure from his people's traditionally "peaceful" protests for what he called "Amazigh self-determination." While emphasizing that his provisional government had no part in the attacks, he said: "People have been pushed to the edge." (AP, April 16; Al Jazeera, April 15)
Earlier this month, the desert town of Ghardaia saw renewed clashes between Arab and Berber residents. The unrest erupted April 11 after Friday prayers outside a mosque in Berriane, 45 kilometers north of Ghardaia. The two sides reportedly threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at one another and caused a major backup on a key highway linking the country's north and south before police dispersed them with tear gas. Around a dozen people, including two police officers, were reported wounded in the fighting. (AFP, April 12)