Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Algeria has let its rioting youth down

Entire generations have grown up surrounded by violence and not equipped with the economic know-how to escape it

Nabila Ramdani
guardian.co.uk, Monday 10 January 2011

"Look at the faces of the rioters currently spreading unrest among the cities and towns of Algeria and you might be struck by one very obvious fact – just how youthful they are.

The median age in the north African country is 27, with more than 75% of the population under 30. Little surprise, then, that the majority of those protesting against soaring food prices and mass unemployment are barely more than teenagers....

Rather than acknowledge the underlying causes of the resentment, Bouteflika concentrated on slashing taxes and import duties, seeking a short-term fix to a growing crisis. Lack of jobs, government services, affordable houses and soaring inflation have all combined with a failing education system to create a bleak future.

Despite Algeria's abundance of natural gas and oil – the country has grossed more than $600bn during Bouteflika's 12 years in power – swathes of the country live in poverty, many in slums on the outskirts of cities like Algiers.

It is for this reason that thousands of young people attempt to leave every year, most boarding small fishing boats to try to reach countries like France, Italy and Spain, where they hope they will better their situation and alleviate their family's poverty back home by sending regular amounts of cash......

"There is nothing for them in Algeria," a university professor told me. "Parents regularly see their young ones disappear – into the black economy in other parts of the world or, worse than that, many are drowned at sea.

"Those that remain are now fighting the authorities. Algeria has completely let them down – all they have really learned is that violence is everywhere.""

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