Algeria Begins Sinovac Covid-19 Vaccine Production

 

Algeria on Wednesday started producing the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac, with production expected to be eight million doses a month.

Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane, who attended the launch of the production process at a factory in the eastern city of Constantine, called it a “big achievement”.

Production could be doubled in the North African nation if needed, officials said.

“Algeria aims to achieve other projects of this kind,” Benabderrahmane said, praising the country’s pharmaceutical industry.

Lotfi Djamel Benbahmed, Algeria’s minister for the pharmaceutical industry, has said the country plans to export the vaccines.

He said Saidal, the firm making the jabs, was so far the only African company to be licensed to produce the jab.

Following a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases in past months, Algeria has seen a drop in recent weeks.

Algeria, the biggest African nation by size, announced this month a campaign to vaccinate some 70 percent of its 44 million population by the end of the year.

AFP

Algeria Ex-Presidential Candidate Jailed

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

An Algiers court on Thursday sentenced a former presidential candidate and retired general to four years in prison for undermining army morale, the official APS news agency reported.

Ali Ghediri had said he would stand in Algeria’s April 2019 election against longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The ailing autocrat’s decision to seek a fifth mandate led to mass protests against his rule and he later stepped down under army pressure.

Ghediri, detained since June 2019, appeared in court on Thursday accused of “participating during peacetime in undertakings aimed at weakening army morale”, APS said.

The prosecution had requested a sentence of seven years behind bars.

Ghediri was a political novice without a strong support structure to back him when he threw his hat into the ring against Bouteflika.

He had said he wanted to “break the system” and “build a second republic”.

READ ALSO: Algeria’s Ex-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika Dies Aged 84

In a late 2018 interview with El Watan newspaper, Ghediri had hit out at speculation that the April election might be postponed and Bouteflika’s mandate extended, suggesting he expected the army to stop any such move.

The comments earned him a rebuke from the defence ministry, which threatened to go to court if rules on the conduct of former military officers were breached.

Bouteflika delayed the April elections indefinitely after the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement broke out in February that year.

Then interim president Abdelkader Bensalah scheduled a new vote for July but the country’s constitutional council cancelled it, citing a lack of candidates.

An election was eventually held in December 2019, with Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared the winner.

Bouteflika died last week, aged 84, while Bensalah died Wednesday, aged 79.

AFP

Algeria’s Ex-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika Dies Aged 84

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 28, 2014 Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is pushed in his wheelchair as he arrives for his inauguration ceremony as he is sworn as Algeria’s President for a fourth term in Algiers. – Algeria’s former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika died on September 17, 2021 aged 84, public television announced, citing a statement from the presidency. (Photo by Farouk Batiche / AFP)

 

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who ruled Algeria for two decades before resigning in 2019 as huge protests engulfed the country, has died aged 84, public television announced.

The former strongman had left office in April 2019 under pressure from the military, following weeks of demonstrations over his bid to run for a fifth term in office.

After quitting, he had stayed out of the public eye at a residence in western Algiers.

The announcement of his death late Friday evening triggered little reaction in the North African country, reflecting how his absence had stamped him out of public interest.

The Algerian national flag flies at half-mast in the capital Algiers on September 18, 2021, following the death of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

 

A statement from his successor Abdelmadjid Tebboune noted Bouteflika’s past as a fighter in the war for independence from France and said flags would be lowered to half mast for three days to honour him.

But on the streets of the capital Algiers, many residents told AFP the once-formidable president would not be missed.

“Bless his soul. But he doesn’t deserve any tribute because he did nothing for the country,” said greengrocer Rabah.

Malek, a telecoms employee, said Bouteflika “was incapable of reforming the country despite his long rule”.

Even state broadcasters limited their coverage to the news of his death, without running special bulletins on his legacy.

Sabqpress news website said the funeral would take place on Sunday at the El-Alia cemetery east of the capital where his predecessors and other independence fighters are buried.

There was no immediate confirmation from authorities.

 

‘Absolute President’

Bouteflika became president of Algeria in 1999 as the former French colony emerged from a decade of civil war that killed nearly 200,000 people.

He went on to be elected for three more consecutive five-year terms, most recently in 2014.

Dubbed “Boutef” by Algerians, he won respect as a foreign minister in the 1970s and then for helping foster peace after the civil war, notably with an amnesty law that prompted thousands of Islamist fighters to hand in their weapons.

“He was welcomed in countries around the world, and the country improved when Bouteflika became president,” said kitchen porter Amer, 46.

Journalist Farid Alilat, who has written a biography of Bouteflika, says that at the height of his rule in the early 2000s, the president had “all the levers of power”.

Crucially, he was backed by the army and the intelligence services.

“He became an absolute president,” Alilat told AFP.

Algeria was largely spared the wave of uprisings that swept the Arab world in 2011, with many crediting still-painful memories of the civil war — as well as a boost in state handouts — for keeping a lid on tensions.

But Bouteflika’s rule was marked by corruption, leaving many Algerians wondering how a country with vast oil wealth could end up with poor infrastructure and high unemployment that pushed many young people overseas.

“He had a very comfortable life, even after he was ousted from power. But we have to admit that his legacy isn’t the most glowing”, said carpenter Mohamed, 46.

 

Ill Health And Protests

In his later years, Bouteflika’s ill health started weighing on his credibility as a leader.

Despite suffering a mini-stroke in April 2013 that affected his speech and forced him to use a wheelchair, he decided to seek a fourth mandate despite growing public doubts about his ability to rule.

His bid in 2019 for a fifth term sparked angry protests that soon grew into a pro-democracy movement known as Hirak.

When he lost the backing of the army, he was forced to step down.

The Hirak mass protests continued, with demands for a full overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

Some key Bouteflika-era figures were eventually jailed in corruption cases, including Bouteflika’s powerful brother Said, but the long-sought changes did not happen.

Bouteflika’s successor Tebboune was elected in late 2019 on record low turnout, with the Hirak calling for a boycott.

A referendum on a constitutional amendment seen as aiming to torpedo the Hirak generated even less interest from voters.

But the protest movement was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic and has struggled to regain momentum as the government cracks down on opposition.

According to the CNLD prisoners’ group, around 200 people are in jail in connection with the Hirak or over individual freedoms.

And with the Bouteflika-era old guard still largely ruling the country, the legacy of two decades of his rule is mixed.

“For his entire life, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was driven by two obsessions: take power and keep it at any price,” said Alilat.

“But it was this obsession… that sparked the revolt that drove him from power.”

AFP

Algeria Cuts Diplomatic Ties With ‘Hostile’ Morocco

Algeria's Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra holds a press conference in the capital Algiers, on August 24, 2021. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP
Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra holds a press conference in the capital Algiers, on August 24, 2021. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

 

Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said Tuesday that his country has severed diplomatic relations with Morocco due to “hostile actions”, following months of resurgent tensions between the North African rivals.

The countries have long accused one another of backing opposition movements as proxies, with Algeria’s support for separatists in the disputed region of Western Sahara a particular bone of contention for Morocco.

“Algeria has decided to cut diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Morocco from today,” Lamamra announced during a press conference.

“History has shown… Morocco has never stopped carrying out hostile actions against Algeria,” he added.

READ ALSO: Zambia Swears In New President

There was no immediate reaction from Rabat to the announcement.

Algiers’s move came following a review of bilateral relations announced last week as it alleged Rabat was complicit in deadly forest fires that ravaged the country’s north.

Lamamra accused Morocco’s leaders of “responsibility for repeated crises” and behaviour that has “led to conflict instead of integration” in North Africa.

Late last month, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI deplored the tensions between the two countries, and invited Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune “to make wisdom prevail” and “to work in unison for the development of relations” between the two countries.

‘Provocation’

But Algeria’s forest fires, which broke out on August 9 amid a blistering heatwave, burned tens of thousands of hectares of forest and killed at least 90 people, including more than 30 soldiers, further stoking tensions.

While critics say Algerian authorities failed to prepare for the blazes, Tebboune declared most of the fires were of “criminal” origin.

Algerian authorities have blamed the independence movement of the mainly Berber region of Kabylie extending along the Mediterranean coast east of the capital.

Algiers has accused Rabat of backing the separatists.

“The Moroccan provocation reached its climax when a Moroccan delegate to the United Nations demanded the independence of the people of the Kabylie region,” Lamamra said Tuesday.

Last month, Algeria recalled its ambassador to Rabat for consultations after Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, expressed support for self-determination in that region.

At the time, Algeria’s foreign ministry said Morocco thus “publicly and explicitly supports an alleged right to self-determination of the Kabylie people”.

Algerian authorities have also accused the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) of involvement in lynching a man falsely accused of arson during the recent forest fires, an incident that sparked outrage.

Algeria last week accused Morocco of supporting the group, which it classifies as a “terrorist organisation”.

‘Bad decision’

“The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries,” the presidency had said.

It also said there would be an “intensification of security controls on the western borders” with Morocco.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.

Mohamed, a Moroccan bus driver, called Algeria’s latest move “a bad decision”.

“It’s like cutting ties with your next-door neighbour,” he told AFP.

The two North African countries along with Tunisia were united, he added, saying “there are no differences, this happens between governments”.

Algeria’s foreign minister also accused Morocco of leading “a media war… against Algeria, its people and its leaders”.

But Lamamra also said consular assistance to citizens of both countries would not be affected.

Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been fraught in past decades, especially over the flashpoint issue of the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco considers the former Spanish colony an integral part of its kingdom, but Algeria has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence there.

A normalisation deal between Morocco and Israel in December triggered fresh tensions between Rabat and Algiers because the US recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of the accord.

Lamamra on Tuesday accused the Israeli foreign minister of “senseless accusations and veiled threats” after Yair Lapid expressed “worries about the role played by Algeria in the region”.

On his first visit to Morocco since the countries normalised ties, Lapid said his concerns were based on fears Algeria was “getting close to Iran”, as well as “the campaign it waged against the admission of Israel as an observer member of the African Union”.

 

AFP

Algeria To Review Relations With Morocco After Forest Fires

Villagers gather as smoke billows from a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers, on August 12, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP
Villagers gather as smoke billows from a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers, on August 12, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP

 

Algeria will review its relations with Morocco after accusing it of complicity in deadly forest fires, a presidency statement said Wednesday, in the latest tensions between the North African neighbours.

At least 90 people, including 33 soldiers, were killed in dozens of forest fires that broke out amid a blistering heatwave on August 9 across swathes of northern Algeria.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has said most of the fires were “criminal” in origin.

The decision to review relations with Rabat was made during an extraordinary meeting of the country’s security council, chaired by Tebboune and dedicated to evaluating the situation after the fires.

READ ALSO: Algeria Combats Wildfires, Mourns Victims

“The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries,” the presidency statement said.

It said there would also be an “intensification of security controls on the western borders” with Morocco.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.

The statement did not clarify what the review might mean.

Algeria’s DGSN security agency said investigations had discovered “a criminal network, classed as a terrorist organisation” as being behind the fires, according to the “admission of arrested members”.

Algerian authorities point the finger for the fires at the independence movement of the mainly Berber region of Kabylie, which extends along the Mediterranean coast east of the capital Algiers.

Fraught ties

The authorities also accuse the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) of involvement in the lynching of a man falsely accused of arson, an incident that sparked outrage. The mob also set the victim on fire.

Authorities have arrested 61 people over the incident.

Some of the suspects have confessed to being members of the MAK, according to confessions broadcast on Algerian television.

Algiers has also accused the Islamist-inspired Rachad movement of involvement.

“The high security council has decided… to intensify the efforts of the security services to arrest the rest of the individuals involved in the two crimes, as well as all members of the two terrorist movements that threaten public security and national unity,” according to the presidency statement.

It said it aimed for their “total eradication, particularly the MAK, which receives the support and aid of foreign parties… Morocco and the Zionist entity”, the statement added, referring to Israel.

The Paris-based MAK told AFP it rejected the accusations.

Algiers classified both the MAK and Rachad as “terrorist organisations” in May.

Last month, Algeria recalled its ambassador in Morocco for consultations.

The move came after Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, expressed support for self-determination for Algeria’s Kabylie region.

At the time, Algeria’s foreign ministry said Morocco thus “publicly and explicitly supports an alleged right to self-determination of the Kabylie people”.

Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been fraught in past decades, especially over the flashpoint issue of the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco considers the former Spanish colony an integral part of its kingdom, but Algeria has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence there.

Algeria is among several Mediterranean countries that have seen forest fires in recent weeks, including Morocco.

The blazes in Algeria burned tens of thousands of hectares of forest, with emergency services on Wednesday declaring all the fires had been extinguished.

Critics say the authorities failed to prepare for the blazes.

AFP

Algeria Combats Wildfires, Mourns Victims

Smoke rises from a wildfire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 10, 2021. – At least five people have died in raging wildfires in Algeria as firefighters battle more than 31 blazes amid blistering temperatures and tinder-dry conditions, officials said. (Photo by Ryad KRAMDI / AFP)

 

Blazes raged across northern Algeria on Thursday as the country observed a national day of mourning for dozens of people killed in the latest wildfires to sweep the Mediterranean.

The North African country has been in the grip of devastating fires since Monday that have claimed at least 69 lives — 41 civilians and 28 soldiers.

Soldiers and civilian volunteers have joined firefighters on multiple fronts in the effort to extinguish the blazes that have been fanned by windy and tinder-dry conditions.

In Tizi Ouzou district, the area with the highest casualty toll, an AFP journalist reported entire sectors of forest going up in smoke.

Villagers forced to evacuate in order to escape the flames began trickling back to their homes, overwhelmed by the scale of the damage.

“I have nothing left. My workshop, my car, my flat. Even the tiles were destroyed,” one of them told AFP.

But he said he had “managed to save his family”, while adding that “neighbours died or lost their relatives”.

– ‘Surge of solidarity’ –

Flags were flying at half-mast after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning starting from Thursday.

The Algerian authorities say they suspect widespread arson after so many fires erupted in such a short space of time.

On the fourth day of the wildfires, efforts to overcome the blazes are continuing in many regions where civilians and soldiers often with limited means joined the fight.

Images of trapped villagers, terrified livestock and forested hillsides reduced to blackened stumps have been shared on social media.

Algeria is also chartering two firefighting planes from the European Union, aircraft recently used to combat fires in Greece.

France also announced the arrival in Algeria of two Canadair firefighting planes it has sent.

“They will help the rescue efforts to deal with the terrible fires that Algeria has been facing for several days,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Thursday.

Neighbouring Morocco, with whom Algeria has long had strained ties over the Western Sahara, also offered to help by providing two planes.

Faced with the scale of the disaster, pleas for help are multiplying in Algeria and beyond.

“Individuals and associations are mobilising… by organising collections of clothes, foodstuffs, medicines and hygiene products,” said Algeria’s TSA news website, calling it a “surge of solidarity”.

– Heatwave –

High winds fuelled the rapid spread of the flames in tinder-dry conditions created by a heatwave across North Africa and the wider Mediterranean.

The authorities have raised the possibility of criminal behaviour.

Four suspected “arsonists” arrested so far, but their identities or suspected motives have not yet been disclosed.

Armed forces chief Said Chengriha visited soldiers in Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia, another badly affected area. Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane also visited Tizi Ouzou.

Each summer, Algeria endures seasonal wildfires, but rarely anything approaching this year’s disaster.

Meteorologists expect the Maghreb heatwave to continue until the end of the week, with temperatures in Algeria reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

Across the border in Tunisia, where almost 30 fires have been recorded since Monday, the mercury hit an all-time record of 50.3 Celsius in the central region of Kairouan (centre).

On the northern shores of the Mediterranean, deadly wildfires have been raging in Turkey and Greece for the past two weeks.

In Italy, where firefighters were battling more than 500 blazes overnight, Sicily recorded a temperature of 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.8 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday that is believed to be a new European record.

Algeria Mourns 69 Dead As Mediterranean Wildfires Spread

People gather as firefighters battle the flames of a building on fire, in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 11, 2021. (Photo by Ryad KRAMDI / AFP)

 

 

 

The death toll climbed to at least 69 as firefighters, soldiers and civilian volunteers battled blazes in forests across northern Algeria on Wednesday, in the latest wildfires to sweep the Mediterranean.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning starting from Thursday, and authorities say they suspect widespread arson after so many fires erupted in such a short space of time.

In an update, state-run news agency APS said the rash of more than 50 fires that broke out Tuesday had claimed four more lives, in addition to state television’s toll of 65 dead, including 28 soldiers deployed to help overstretched emergency services.

Several arrests have been announced, but the identities or suspected motives of those detained have not been disclosed.

Images of trapped villagers, terrified livestock and forested hillsides reduced to blackened stumps were shared on social media, many of them accompanied by pleas for help.

AFP journalists saw villagers desperately trying to put out the spreading fires with makeshift brooms in an effort to save their homes.

High winds fuelled the rapid spread of the flames in tinder-dry conditions created by a heatwave across North Africa and the wider Mediterranean, fire official Youcef Ould Mohamed told APS.

Scores of separate wildfires remained active Wednesday, spread across 17 provinces, emergency services spokesman Nassim Barnaoui told reporters.

Most of the fires and 16 of the deaths were recorded in Tizi Ouzou district, in the mainly Berber region of Kabylie, east of the capital Algiers.

“I left all my stock in my village and fled to Tizi Ouzou with my wife and three children,” said Abdelhamid Boudraren, a shopkeeper from the village of Beni Yeni.

“Luckily I own a flat in the centre of Tizi Ouzou, where I’m holed up with my family and some neighbours.”

The situation was “alarming”, Letreche Hakim, the head of civil protection in Bejaia, the second biggest city in Kabylie, told APS.

“Things were under control, but with the outbreak of nine large fires on Wednesday morning, our forces are scattered,” Hakim said.

– Fires in Tunisia –
There have been mounting calls for aid convoys to be sent to the worst-hit districts with food and medicine from the capital.

On Wednesday, an AFP correspondent saw several lorries headed to Tizi Ouzou with aid donated by the public.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the former colonial power “stands ready” to offer support in tackling the situation, and expressed the “solidarity of France with the Algerian people”, in a post on Twitter.

The British embassy in Algiers offered “condolences to those who have died, or been injured or affected”.

State media have reported four arrests for suspected arson.

Meteorologists expect the heatwave across North Africa to continue until the end of the week, with temperatures in Algeria reaching 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit).

 

A firefighter sprays water as he battles flames in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 11, 2021. – The death toll climbed to at least 69 as firefighters, soldiers and civilian volunteers battled blazes in forests across northern Algeria today, in the latest wildfires to sweep the Mediterranean. (Photo by Ryad KRAMDI / AFP)

 

In Algeria’s neighbour Tunisia, the temperature in the capital Tunis hit an all-time record of 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday.

The Tunisian emergency services reported 15 fires across the north and northwest, but no casualties.

On the northern shores of the Mediterranean, Turkey reported eight deaths and Greece three from wildfires that have raged for the past two weeks.

Each summer, Algeria endures seasonal wildfires, but rarely anything approaching this year’s disaster.

In 2020, nearly 440 square kilometres (170 square miles) of forest were destroyed by fire, and several people were arrested on suspicion of arson.

On Monday, the UN released a major report showing how the threat from global warming is even more acute than previously thought.

It highlighted how scientists are quantifying the extent to which human-induced warming increases the intensity and/or likelihood of a specific extreme weather event, such as a heatwave or a wildfire.

Climate change amplifies droughts, creating ideal conditions for wildfires to spread out of control and inflict unprecedented material and environmental damage.

Algeria Wildfires Kill 38, Authorities Blame Arson


Medics carry away the body of a man during a wildfire in Tizi Ouzou, one of the most populous cities in Algeria’s Kabylie region, on August 10, 2021.  Ryad KRAMDI / AFP

 

Wildfires fanned by blistering temperatures and tinder-dry conditions have killed at least 38 people in Algeria, authorities said on Tuesday, adding that the fires had criminal origins.

Photographs posted on social media show huge walls of flame and billowing clouds of smoke towering over charred trees in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers.

Algeria joins a string of countries to be hit by major blazes in recent weeks, including Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and the western United States.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune tweeted his condolences for 25 soldiers who were killed as they rescued people in the areas of Bejaiea and Tizi Ouzou, the epicentre of the blazes.

“It is with great sadness that I have learned of the martyrdom of 25 soldiers after they were successful in rescuing around 100 citizens from the flames in the mountains of Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou,” the president said.

The defence ministry said the actions of the soldiers had “saved 110 people — men, women and children — from the flames”.

State radio said three “arsonists” had been arrested in the northern district of Medea and another in Annaba, in relation to other fires.

 

Smoke billows from a wildfire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 10, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP

 

More than 70 fires have broken out in 14 states across the north of the country, including 10 particularly around Tizi Ouzou, one of the most populous cities in Kabylie.

An AFP photographer in Tizi Ouzou saw medics carrying away bodies of people killed in the fire.

Meteorologists said the temperature would hit 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday in a North African country that is also struggling with severe water shortages.

The APS news agency said 13 civilians had died, 12 in the Tizi Ouzou region, raising an earlier interior ministry toll.

Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud, on a visit to the northern city, told television that “50 fires starting at the same time is impossible. These fires are of criminal origin.”

The civil protection directorate said 12 northern urban centres were hit by fires.

READ ALSO: Hundreds Flee, Homes Destroyed As Forest Fires Ravage Greek Island

Arson suspected 


Smoke rises from a wildfire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 10, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP

 

Public radio reported the arrest of three suspected arsonists in Medea.

Arson has been blamed for several major fires in recent years in Algeria.

Last month, President Tebboune ordered a bill to stiffen punishments for starting a forest fire, with sentences of up to 30 years in prison — and possible life imprisonment, if the fire results in death.

In July, three people were arrested on suspicion of starting fires that devastated 15 square kilometres (six square miles) of forest in the Aures mountains.

In 2020, nearly 440 square kilometres (170 square miles) of forest were destroyed by fire, and several people were arrested on suspicion of arson.

On Monday, the UN released a major report showing how the threat from global warming is even more acute than previously thought.

It highlighted how scientists are quantifying the extent to which human-induced warming increases the intensity and/or likelihood of a specific extreme weather event, such as a heatwave or a wildfire.

AFP

Five Dead As Wildfires Rage Across Algeria

 

 

 

At least five people have died in raging wildfires in Algeria as firefighters battle more than 31 blazes amid blistering temperatures and tinder-dry conditions, officials said Tuesday.

Photographs posted on social media show huge walls of flame and billowing clouds of smoke towering over villages in the forested hills of the Kabylie region,  east of the capital Algiers.

Algeria is the latest Mediterranean country to be hit by wildfires, after blazes hit Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.

Meteorologists said the temperature would hit 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, and the country is also struggling with severe water shortages.

Fires were reported in multiple locations in 14 districts, 10 of them around Tizi Ouzou, one of the most populous cities in Kabylie.

Two people died in Ait-Yenni, one in Yakourene, and another near Azazga, forestry officer Youcef Ould Mohamed told the official APS news agency.

Another person died in a fire near Tizi Ouzou, the Ennahar television channel reported.

Major fires were also reported in Jijel, Bejaia, Bouira, Guelma, Khenchela and Setif.

Arson has been blamed for several major fires in recent years.

Last month, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune ordered a bill to stiffen punishments for starting a forest fire, with sentences of up to 30 years in prison — and possible life imprisonment, if the fire results in death.

In July, three people were arrested on suspicion of starting fires that devastated 15 square kilometres (six square miles) of forest in the Aures mountains.

In 2020, nearly 440 square kilometres (170 square miles) of forest were destroyed by fire, and several people were arrested on suspicion of arson.

On Monday, the UN released a major report showing how the threat from global warming is even more acute than previously thought.

It highlighted how scientists are quantifying the extent to which human-induced warming increases the intensity and/or likelihood of a specific extreme weather event, such as a heatwave or a wildfire.

At Least 27 Killed In Two Road Accidents In Algeria

File photo of an Algerian flag.

 

At least 27 people died in two road accidents in Algeria overnight, including when a bus smashed into a truck, local media reported Saturday.

In one crash on Friday night, a bus and truck collided on a road connecting Constantine to the Mediterranean port of Jijel in the northeast of the country, leaving 18 dead and 11 injured, the official APS news agency said.

Six children were among those killed.

In Bordj Badji Mokhtar, a Sahara desert region bordering Mali, nine people died when a 4×4 and a truck crashed, El Hayet TV channel reported, with poor visibility a factor.

Traffic accidents are common in the North African nation, often due to speeding.

AFP

Timeline: Algeria’s Anti-Government Protests

 

Algeria has clamped down on an anti-government protest movement in the run-up to a parliamentary election on Saturday.

Mass demonstrations, known as the Hirak or movement in Arabic, swept longtime autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019.

The movement, which returned to the streets in February following an almost year-long break due to the coronavirus pandemic, has called for a boycott of the vote, but has been hit by a wave of arrests of its supporters.

Here is a timeline:

Bouteflika quits

From February 2019, when the 82-year-old Bouteflika announces he will stand for a fifth term despite his failing health, mass protests are held every Friday drawing hundreds of thousands of people.

On April 2, Bouteflika resigns following two decades in power, after the powerful armed forces chief Ahmed Gaid Salah tells him to quit.

While crowds cheer his departure, they fill the streets again on April 5 to push for a total dismantling of the political system in place since independence from France in 1962.

On April 9, upper house speaker Abdelkader Bensalah is named interim president, but opposition parties refuse to confirm his nomination.

 

 

Army gets tough

Gaid Salah emerges as the key powerbroker. On May 20, he rejects the demands of protesters that an election planned for July 4 be postponed and that regime stalwarts step down.

But the constitutional council cancels the planned election on June 2 citing a lack of candidates.

On September 18, the military hardens its position, ordering police to block demonstrators from outside Algiers entering the capital.

Bouteflika allies jailed

On September 25, a military court sentences Bouteflika’s brother Said and two former intelligence chiefs to 15 years in prison for “conspiring” against the state.

In December, former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, both close to Bouteflika, are sentenced to 15 years and 12 years in jail respectively in corruption trials.

New president’s weak mandate

On December 12, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a former prime minister under Bouteflika, wins a presidential election on an official turnout of less than 40 percent.

The next day, Tebboune calls for talks with protesters, who nevertheless remain on the streets.

On December 23, Gaid Salah dies from a heart attack, aged 79.

Pandemic halts protests

On January 31, 2020, Algerians flood the streets of the capital to celebrate the 50th consecutive Friday demonstration.

However, on March 20 the streets of Algiers are empty for the first Friday since the start of the protest movement as the Covid pandemic takes hold.

Referendum

Algerians approve a revised constitution in a November 1 referendum marked by record low turnout.

The plebiscite takes place in the absence of Tebboune, who is hospitalised overseas after contracting Covid-19.

He returns to Algeria but goes back to Germany for surgery following post-Covid complications and does not return to Algiers until February 12.

 

A crowd of Algerian veterans gathered in the rain on February 4, 1956 in front of the war memorial to protest against the appointment of General Georges Catroux as Governor General of Algeria to replace Jacques Soustelle recalled to Paris. General Catroux, whom supporters of French Algeria criticize for being in favor of the single electoral college, will resign even before taking office following the violent incidents that occurred during the visit to Algiers on February 6 by the President of the Council Guy Mollet. (Photo by Philippe BONIN / AFP)

 

Pardons, protests

Thousands of Algerians rally on February 16 in the northern town of Kherrata, seen as the cradle of the protests.

Two days later, Tebboune pardons dozens of jailed Hirak activists, announces early elections and says he will carry out a government reshuffle.

On February 22, seen as the second anniversary of the mass protests, thousands demonstrate in Algiers and other cities ending a nearly year-long break.

On May 9, the interior ministry says Hirak organisers will have to advise authorities of protests in advance, effectively amounting to a ban.

The authorities have since put down protests in Algiers and elsewhere, and detained scores of demonstrators.

Algeria Elects Parliament Amid ‘Repression’ Of Protest Movement

A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Bouchaoui, on the western outskirts of Algeria’s capital Algiers, on June 12, 2021 during the 2021 parliamentary elections. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

 

 

Algeria voted Saturday in a parliamentary election overshadowed by a crackdown on a long-running protest movement that has campaigned for a mass boycott.

Pro-government parties have urged a big turnout for the “crucial vote” which they hope will restore stability after two years of turmoil since the forced resignation of veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The protest movement, which had held weekly demonstrations for reform until they were effectively banned last month, has denounced the election as a “sham” that betrays the hopes of the hundreds of thousands of Algerians whose protests forced Bouteflika from power.

Seven leading protest movement figures were arrested ahead of polling day while police deployed heavily in the capital Algiers to preempt any attempt to rally.

Polls close at 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) and results are not expected before the coming days.

Authorities are hoping for a solid turnout, but the two previous national votes since Bouteflika stepped down — a presidential election and a constitutional referendum — both saw record low voting after the protest movement urged a boycott.

In Algiers, only a trickle of people were seen entering polling stations on Saturday morning, with most people getting on with their daily lives.

 

A woman picks up a ballot as she prepares to vote at a polling station in Bouchaoui, on the western outskirts of Algeria’s capital Algiers, on June 12, 2021 during the 2021 parliamentary elections. – Polls opened in Algeria for a parliamentary election overshadowed by a crackdown on a long-running protest movement that has campaigned for a mass boycott. Pro-government parties have urged a big turnout for the “crucial vote” which they hope will restore stability after two years of turmoil since the forced resignation of veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

 

“I’ve never voted, and this time it’s no different. I don’t believe it would change anything,” said Fatiha, a shopkeeper in her 50s.

Hamid, a 60-year-old office manager, said he had voted for the sake of “stability”.

“We are surrounded by danger. Those who reject this election aren’t putting forward any realistic alternative,” he said.

In the opposition stronghold of Kabylie, a mainly Berber region east of the capital, most polling stations in the main cities of Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou remained closed, said Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH).

Boycott calls from the region’s two main parties were almost universally respected in the previous two votes since Bouteflika’s ouster.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was elected on an official turnout of less than 40 in late 2019, put a brave face on the likely low legislative turnout.

“For me, it’s not the turnout percentage that’s important, it’s whether the lawmakers that the people elect have sufficient legitimacy,” the president said after casting his vote at a polling station on the outskirts of Algiers.

More than 13,000 candidates are standing for the 407 seats in parliament, more than half listed as “independent”.

– ‘Repressive atmosphere’ –
The LADDH vice-president deplored the crackdown that preceded the vote.

The “repressive atmosphere and the restrictions placed on human rights and freedoms mean these elections have no democratic value”, Salhi said.

The protest movement has urged boycotts of all national polls since it mobilised hundreds of thousands of people in 2019 to force Bouteflika and his cronies from power, after the ailing president launched a bid for a fifth term.

It returned to the streets in February after an almost-year-long break caused by the Covid pandemic.

But the government stepped up its crackdown last month, blocking protests and detaining hundreds of activists who have defied new restrictions on public gatherings.

Late Thursday, leading opposition figure Karim Tabbou, independent journalist Khaled Drareni and the director of a pro-reform radio station, Ihsane El Kadi, were among seven people detained. The three were eventually released on Friday night, a campaign group said.

“These arrests mark a chilling escalation in the Algerian authorities’ clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression and association,” Amnesty International said in a statement, reporting more than 200 people were in detention in connection with the protest movement.

– Old guard and economic woes –
The president claims to have responded to the protesters’ main demands “in record time”, and says those still protesting are “counter-revolutionaries” in the pay of “foreign parties”.

The protest movement says Tebboune’s past role as premier under Bouteflika confirms its narrative that the old guard, in power since Algeria’s 1962 independence from France, retains an undiluted grip on power.

Established parties linked to Bouteflika’s rule — the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the Democratic National Rally (RND) — are seen as likely to lose seats.

Islamist parties are hoping to take advantage — but with their vote split between five rival factions, they may struggle to make real gains.

Africa’s fourth-largest economy is heavily dependent on oil revenues, which have slumped in the face of the global economic slowdown. Unemployment stands at more than 12 percent, according to World Bank figures.

It has also been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 3,500 lives in the country, according to the health ministry.