Clashes in Algeria as poor protest against lack of housing

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At least 40 people including 22 riot police members were seriously injured in clashes which erupted Wednesday in the city of Ouargla in southern Algeria, while protestors were demonstrating against “housing the poor.”

Witnesses said a number of protesters were wounded when police fired rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse them. In turn, members of the riot police had stones hurled at them by protesters as they tried to break up the demonstration.

Protesters were also seen setting fire to car tires and blocking roads.

The distribution of free apartments, which has been granted by the authorities to the poor and low-income families in Algeria, has led to a new wave of angst. This comes after unemployed youths in Algeria’s southern states, which are rich in oil and gas, took to the streets.

Protests in Ouargla were questioning the transparency of the apartment distribution process, as the government released a list of people who were eligible.

Rashid Chouikh, the editor in chief of “al-Jadid” newspaper in southern Algeria, told Al Arabiya that “the protests in the city of Ouargla brought together neighborhoods in its surrounding areas”.

Two days before Ouargla’s protests, violence broke out in the Constantine Province for the same reason. Algerian authorities are now worried about a wave of angry demonstrations.

The chairman of the National Committee for the Unemployed Taher Belabbas said “the cause behind the protests in the city of Ouargla is the false promises made by the government about housing the poor, employing the unemployed, and solving the problems around development in the Southern region in general”.

Mohamed Hadibi, spokesman of the Islamic Renaissance Movement told Al Arabiya that “similar to what happens before every political event, authorities seek to offer ‘social bribes’ to people, to license their political projects”.

The head of the New Generation Party who is against the extension of Abdelaziz Bouteflika fourth term echoed this statement when he told Al Arabiya that he was “informed that the government gave orders to the States governors to start the apartment distribution, months before announcing a draft project which looks to amend the Constitution, and less than a year before the next presidential election”.

This is the last year of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika three years in office. The constitutional amendment is scheduled to take place by the end of this year and the presidential election is set for April 2014.

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