Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Algerian protesters unrelenting

Algeria has been rocked for more than a month by unprecedented protests against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sparked by his bid for a fifth term after two decades in power.

On Tuesday, the army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, called for the 82-year-old leader to be declared unfit to rule as a way out of the crisis.

Here is a timeline:

First protests

On February 22, tens of thousands of people demonstrate in several cities in the first major protests against Bouteflika’s intention to stand in April 18 elections.

After rallying calls on social media, thousands turn out, including in Algiers, where demonstrations have been banned since 2001. “No fifth mandate,” they chant.

Police fire tear gas to block a march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing.

Hundreds demonstrate in Algiers again on February 24.


In the first official reaction, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on February 25 calls for “vigilance” at demonstrations.

On February 26, thousands of students rally peacefully in Algiers.

Two days later, a dozen journalists are detained for several hours while participating in a rally against alleged censorship of protest coverage.

The prime minister compares the growing protest movement with the demonstrations that erupted in Syria in 2011 and sparked a war, now in its ninth year.

On March 1, tens of thousands protest around the country.

“Regime murderers,” some chant in Algiers. There are also marches in the second- and third-largest cities, Oran and Constantine.

READ MORE: Bouteflika drops bid for fifth term after protests

Final term pledge

On March 2, Bouteflika, in Switzerland for nearly a week for “routine medical checks”, sacks his veteran campaign manager.

The next day, hundreds of students stage new protests in various cities, some chanting: “Bouteflika go away.”

That evening a letter from the president is read on state television in which he says this run will be his last. He vows not to serve a full term if re-elected and to organise early polls in which he would not stand.

Shortly afterwards, his new campaign manager formally submits the president’s candidacy, just ahead of the deadline.

READ MORE: Bouteflika ‘returns’ to strike-hit Algeria from Geneva


On March 5, as thousands march again and the army chief pledges to guarantee national security, accusing unidentified groups of wanting a return to the “painful years” of Algeria’s 1992-2002 civil war.

Bouteflika on March 7 warns of “chaos” if troublemakers infiltrate the demonstrations.

On March 8, tens of thousands in several cities take part in the biggest rallies yet against Bouteflika’s candidacy.

Bouteflika quits race

On March 10, Bouteflika returns from Switzerland. The next day, he pulls out of the race. “There will not be a fifth term” and “there will be no presidential election on April 18”, he announces on official media.

Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui is named prime minister.

But students and teachers are back on the streets on March 12 and 13.

On March 15, a huge crowd marches through Algiers for a fourth consecutive Friday, demanding Bouteflika’s ousting. Major protests are held in other key cities.

Holding on

On March 18, Bouteflika issues a statement confirming he will stay on as president beyond the end of his term on April 28 and until new elections are held, after a constitutional review.

On March 19, tens of thousands of students, joined by medics, demonstrate in Algiers, shouting: “Students are committed, the system must go!”

On March 20, Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN) party says it supports protesters’ calls for change, and advocate his initiative for dialogue.


On March 22, exactly a month after the protests started, hundreds of thousands of Algerians again stage demonstrations around the country, despite bad weather.

On Tuesday, Salah says the way out of the crisis is to invoke article 102 of the Constitution under which a president can be removed from office if he is found unfit to rule.—AFP

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

South Africa’s mothballed ‘supermall-ification’ sets strip malls up for success

Analysts agree that the country has enough malls and that, post-Covid, the convenience of local centres lure customers

Mabuza’s Russian jaunts and the slippery consequences of medical tourism

For more than five years the deputy president has remained steadfast in his right to travel abroad to receive medical treatment

More top stories

Deputy president Mabuza begs Tshwane voters: ‘Don’t abandon the ANC’

Angry Atteridgeville residents hurl insults at ‘dysfunctional’ ANC full of ‘corrupt individuals’ as Mabuza fails to placate them with party T-shirts and doeks

Taxi operators clash with cops over disputed Route B97 in...

Three suspects remain in custody following their arrest on charges of attempted murder and assault after eight taxis were impounded

SA teens, you’re next in the queue for a vaccine...

Teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 will be able to register to receive their Covid-19 jab from 20 October. This group will be given only one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, for now

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell dies aged 84

The 84-year-old died as a result of complications from Covid-19

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…