/ 7 January 2011

Algerian youths riot over food prices, unemployment

Hundreds of youths clashed with police in several cities in Algeria, including the capital, over food price rises and chronic unemployment, residents said on Thursday.

Anti-riot police used tear gas to disperse youths in the Algiers neighbourhood of Bab el-Oued late on Wednesday. A store selling cars and one selling mobile phones were among buildings set on fire, witnesses said.

Media also reported rioting in the cities of Oran and Blida.

Opec-member Algeria has seen periodic outbreaks of social unrest, but riots due to rises in the cost of basic foods are rare.

The cost of flour and salad oil has doubled in the past few months, reaching record highs, and 1kg of sugar, which a few months ago cost 70 dinars ($0,274), is now 150 dinars.

“The youth is mad at the regime. It doesn’t understand why a rich country is unable to offer jobs, houses and a decent life to its people,” Mohamed Said (55) who lives in the crowded Bab el-Oued district, told Reuters.

Another resident, Miloud Aziz (47) said: “It is all about feeding our children. Prices are too expensive for people like us. Too much, it is too much.”

Officially unemployment is about 10% in Algeria, but independent organisations put it closer to 25%.

The government has announced an investment plan worth $286-billion over the next four years to create jobs and improve living conditions. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has also promised 1 million new housing units by 2014. — Reuters