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Algerian youth plan mass protest on independence anniversary

Facebook-launched demonstration will coincide with unemployment protest on a day marking 49 years since the end of French colonial rule

AFP , Thursday 17 Mar 2011
A protester throws a stone towards riot police during a demonstration in Mahsoul near Algiers (Reuters)

Algerian youths seeking political change and a movement of unemployed people say they plan to hold separate demonstrations in Algiers late this week.

The two demonstrations will coincide with the 49th anniversary of a ceasefire that led to Algerian independence from France on 19 April, and the government is marking the date with a symposium on "the Algerian revolution."

The call for the demonstration by young people was launched on Facebook early this month, but those behind it remained anonymous.

Algeria has been swept by a wave of demonstrations and strikes in past weeks, since January's popular uprising in neighbouring Tunisia.

Leaders of the youth movement Wednesday spoke to a few journalists in Algiers, keen to put paid to negative messages among the supportive ones on their Facebook page, such as one which read "Anonymity is a way of manipulating people. You are evidently a political party in hiding."

"We are just concerned about the future of our country," one of the youths told the daily El Watan. "To try to march in Algiers is the only means of getting together, talking and existing," said a young woman who identified herself as Maya, 28.

The youths have decided to gather on Saturday in front of the main post office in central Algiers, where they plan to mark the first step towards Algerian independence after 132 years of French colonial rule.

The authorities will meanwhile be holding a symposium on the theme, "The Algerian revolution: will, victory and loyalty," and it will cover the notion of "the criminalisation of colonialism and the laying bare of the practices of the French occupation during the liberation war," said an organiser quoted by the APS news agency.

On Sunday, the National Committee of the Unemployed (CNC), set up last 6 February, plans to begin a march at the May 1 Square to press for decent jobs, unemployment benefit worth 50 per cent of the national basic minimum wage, and measures to protect employees on short-term contracts.

The wave of social protests that has recently shaken Algeria has reached all levels of society.

The government has responded with promises of substantial financing for projects to meet popular demand, but these pledges have not prevented the wildcat strikes affecting several economic sectors.

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