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Students flood campuses across Algeria to protest against new term for President Bouteflika

Students protested the decision of student unions to support Bouteflika [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 February, 2019

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Thousands of students across Algeria demonstrated on university campus on Tuesday against a fifth term for President Abdulaziz Bouteflika.

Thousands of students in universities across Algeria protested on Tuesday against ailing President Abdulaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in office.

Students skipped classes en masse to protest on campus at the University of Algiers.

The campus protests are part of widespread demonstrations against his candidacy that started earlier this month.

"This student uprising is not just a rejection of an unacceptable situation and an end the humiliation of the Algerian people," Nawal Hamidi, a political science student told The New Arab's Arabic service, "but a defence of our future, which cannot be lost as the future of the previous generation was."

Around 500 students protested at the university, AFP reported, but thousands more are reported to have demonstrated in campuses across the country.

"Students are a part of the people, and it's not possible to to separate them from this context," Hamia Mohammad, a literature student said.

"We reject the continuation [of Bouteflika's presidency] and it playing with our future."

The university protests, staged under the banner "not in my name", were organised in opposition to 11 student unions which pledged their support for Bouteflika.

"We're organising a demonstration to show that these 11 unions do not represent us," Hakim, a civil engineer student, told AFP.

"The university is also the voice of the people, and students will not allow anyone to speak in their name," said a student organisation calling itself "We, the students of Algeria", which called for the campus protests on Monday.

Students gathered at the faculty of political science broke free of the security cordon and managed to bring their protest to the streets, alongside law students from the university.โ€‹

University guards then locked the campus gates in an attempt to halt hundreds more students from flooding out onto the streets.

Students at the University of Bejaia also took to the streets to protest, shouting "the authority is criminal" and "no to a fifth term". Their colleagues in the cities of Constantine, Oran and Mostaganem also joined the protests.

Student union leaders are reportedly holding meetings to decide on a reversal of their position on Bouteflika's presidency given the strength of student protests on Tuesday.

Some university professors urged colleagues to back student protesters in a statement stressing the "duty to emulate the voice of the people who are rising against a real threat for our future and the stability of the country".

Other professors and researchers have affirmed their loyalty towards Bouteflika.

The protests come a day after Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said the "ballot box will decide in a peaceful and civilised way" if Bouteflika gets a fifth term.

Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on 10 February that he will run for another term in office in the 18 April presidential election.

He is Algeria's longest-serving president and a veteran of its independence struggle who has clung to power since 1999 despite his ill health.

Protests have been a near-daily occurrence in the past week. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Friday, including in Algiers, where demonstrations are banned.

 

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