Mass street protests are back in Algeria.
Cries of “Algeria, free, democratic” have once again been heard as thousands from all walks of life thronged to Kherrata, a town 200km (120 miles) east of the capital, Algiers, on Tuesday.
When the anti-government movement, known as the Hirak, started almost exactly two years ago it brought down a president and paved the way for some high-profile corruption prosecutions.
Its weekly protests in Algiers attracted huge crowds and were an unprecedented show of popular opinion, considering protests had in effect been prohibited in the city since 2001.
The Hirak left the streets last year because of the coronavirus pandemic but it never really went away, and the Kherrata demonstration marked its first big protest since last March.
The authorities anticipate that the demonstrations that shook the nation from February 2019 will return to Algiers and for the last few weeks the capital has been on edge.
A palpable police presence hangs around the city centre. Transport vans, water cannons and armoured trucks have been camping out.
The peaceful protest movement, which does not have a centralised leadership, emerged in reaction to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to campaign for a fifth consecutive term in office.
The ailing leader who had suffered a stroke in 2013, had not been seen in public since 2017 and many Algerians saw his candidacy as a humiliation.
He was the target of the protesters’ anger along with his close inner circle, known as the “le pouvoir” or “the power”.
There is still frustration that some of those close to Mr Bouteflika continue to wield influence, hence the government’s anxiety.
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