Algeria to lift 19-year state of emergency

February 5, 2011 - 0:0

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced Thursday that the 19-year-long state of emergency enforced in the North African country would soon be lifted, and promised to provide more political freedom in response to a wave of uprisings sweeping across the Arab world.

According to state-run news agency Algerie Presse Service, Bouteflika made the announcement at a meeting with government ministers in the capital Algiers. Though the president pledged to lift the state of emergency in the “very near future,” he did not specify when the emergency laws will be repealed.
Bouteflika said the state of emergency had been imposed following the 1992 civil war with Islamists “for the only purposes of the fight against terrorism, and it is this reason only which has justified maintaining it on a legal basis”.
Civil war erupted in Algeria in 1992 after a military-backed government scrapped elections in which a radical Islamic party was widely expected to win. It is estimated that at least 150,000 people were killed in that civil war.
The security situation in Algeria had improved considerably after the government troops inflicted heavy losses on Islamist rebel groups during the civil war. Nevertheless, there has been a notable increase in rebel attacks in the recent past after many hard-line rebels joined Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror group in 2006.
The Algerian president stressed that he has asked his cabinet to draft new laws that would allow “the state to pursue counter-terrorism until its conclusion with the same efficiency” as the state of emergency.
The present emergency laws bans Algerians from holding demonstrations in the country and enforces strict restrictions on media coverage. But Bouteflika said Thursday that protests would now be allowed everywhere in the country except in capital Algiers.
He also urged his cabinet to take immediate steps for promoting job creations and promised to ensure that television and radios stations operating in the country provide all registered political parties with equal airtime for expressing their views and policies.
The developments come weeks after Algeria witnessed widespread anti-government protests in early January. They were triggered by public frustration over high cost of living and increasing food prices as well as lack of proper housing and sufficient jobs.
The violent demonstrations were to protest the doubling of prices of essential food items like flour, cooking oil and sugar in the recent months, as well as the high level of unemployment in the country. While the official unemployment rate stands at 10%, experts believe it is actually closer to 25%.
(Source: RTT News)