Algeria: protests commemorate 'Berber Spring'
Tizi Ouzou, principal city in Algeria's restive Kabylia region, saw two mass mobilizations April 20 to commemorate the 1980 "Berber Spring" uprising. One, organized by the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RDC), pressed demands for official recognition of the Amazigh language in Algeria's constitution. But the second, led by the Kabylia Self-Determination Movement (MAK), called for the region's actual independence from Algeria. Each drew thousands, and several arrests were reported. Amazigh was recognized as a "national language" in a 2002 constitutional reform, and second reform earlier this year upgraded it to "official" status, meaning it can be used in government functions. However, Berber activists say that even the new reform maintains Amazigh in a subsidiary position to Arabic.
The Amazigh-speaking Berbers were the first inhabitants of North Africa before the Arab invasion of the seventh century. They are now believed to make up 13 million of Algeria's 39 million people, although Berber activists say the figure is much higher. (AfricaNews, April 21; Le 360, Morocco, April 20)