Algerian protesters teargassed as Bouteflika ally is named interim president

Algerian protesters teargassed as Bouteflika ally is named interim president
Police in Algiers deployed tear gas for the first time in seven weeks, as students took to the capital's streets to protest the appointment of Abdelkader Bensalah as interim president.
2 min read
09 April, 2019

Security forces in Algiers on Tuesday fired tear gas to disperse student protesters who took to the streets of the capital to oppose the appointment of Abdelkader Bensalah as Algeria's interim president.

The police response marks the first time in seven weeks that security forces in the capital fired tear gas to try to disperse protesters, who were also hit with water cannon.

"Resign Bensalah!" they chanted, clutching hand-written placards and Algerian flags.

Bensalah, an ally of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was confirmed as interim leader on Tuesday, despite the disapproval of opposition parties and activists. Protesters are demanding sweeping change following the resignation of veteran leader Bouteflika, who ruled for nearly two decades. 

"I want to work towards fulfilling the interests of the people," Bensalah, a trusted ally of Bouteflika, told parliament on taking up the 90-day interim presidency.

"It's a great responsibility that the constitution demands of me," the 77-year-old added.

Further protests are planned for this week, including on Friday.

"He has to resign, it's the voice of the people and the people must be right," said 50-year-old Mourad, an entrepreneur who will protest Friday with his two young daughters.

"They don't know that there's democracy... I want to teach them what freedom is," he added.

Algerians of all ages have rallied since late February against Bouteflika, who resigned a week ago after efforts to appease demonstrators proved fruitless.

Although the 82-year-old's resignation was celebrated by protesters, they have remained firm in pushing for a wider overhaul of the political system.

Human Rights Watch said Bouteflika's departure is "at most a first step in ending autocratic rule."

"During any transitional phase, authorities should fully respect the rights of Algerians to speak, assemble and associate with one another," the watchdog said in a statement.

Demonstrators in huge numbers have defied a protest ban in Algiers, and HRW on Tuesday called on authorities to overhaul laws "on association and assembly that stifle rights."