The deadly implications of illegal gold mining in South Africa

On the outskirts of Durban Deep, an abandoned mining town with a labyrinth of underground tunnels long since abandoned by the big gold companies, Elizabeth goes rhythmically about her work.

Grinding piles of rough stones into white, gold-flecked silt on a large concrete slab, the 40-year-old is one of the ghostly dust-covered zama zamas – artisanal miners, mostly illegal – who have turned to scavenging in disused gold and diamond mines across South Africa.

It can be deadly work: more than 24 people died when an abandoned gold mine flooded in neighbouring Zimbabwe in January this year.

Nonetheless, Elizabeth is one of a growing number of women driven into this dangerous world, earning less than £10 a day for crushing up to 20kg of rock retrieved from Johannesburg’s disused mineshafts. The threat of sexual violence is all too common.

“This work is very hard. It’s not a good job,” says Elizabeth, showing her calloused palms. “But in Zimbabwe things are worse, so we have no choice. Now there are more women than before coming to South Africa from Zimbabwe to do this.”

Together with her husband and one of their four children, she came here from Harare in 2015 to search for work. But South Africa has an unemployment rate of 27% and opportunities are scant.

Elizabeth crushes small stones into white, gold-flecked silt. This can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

Elizabeth crushes small stones into white, gold-flecked silt. This can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

According to a 2015 report by the South African Human Rights Commission, the country’s burgeoning illicit gold trade has been fuelled by the formal mining industry’s collapse combined with the failure of the ruling African National Congress to regulate the informal mining sector. Political and economic turmoil in a number of neighbouring countries has only compounded the problem.

The report estimated 30,000 illegal miners were operating across South Africa; about 75% are believed to be undocumented migrants, primarily from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho. Hundreds have died due to collapsing mine shafts, gas explosions and turf wars between the criminal syndicates that have seized control of the illegal industry.

On Johannesburg’s outskirts, cut off from support networks and services, women are bearing the brunt of the violence and lawlessness associated with illicit mining.

“Mining is innately male-dominated,” says Kgothatso Nhlengethwa, a Johannesburg-based geologist and researcher on informal mining.

Nhlengethwa says there is a dearth of research on the precarious role of migrant women and the risks and challenges that they face in an industry worth almost £400m a year.

Gang-rape and other forms of sexual violence are common, says Elizabeth. “A lot of women are being raped,” she says. “You hear stories about what happens to them when they go home.”

In December a small group of women marched on the local police station, carrying placards bearing the slogan: “Sick and tired of rape” and demanding greater police protection for the 800-strong community at Durban Deep. Others, though, are simply too afraid to approach the authorities.

Alan Martin, a researcher with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, says women have “little negotiating power” with the criminal syndicates in terms of their wages or ability to choose “where to work and what kind of work they do”.

Martin says the same applies when they are “shaken down for bribes” by notoriously corrupt police.

Women are frequently coerced into exchanging sexual favours with men, who earn considerably more, in return for a better cut of the takings.

Health is also at risk. “They are crushing a type of rock that is silica based,” Nhlengethwa says. This can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease that has claimed the lives of thousands of mine workers since the 1960s.

Monica, a 33-year-old Malawian, has been crushing in Durban Deep since she arrived in 2016, working in a small clearing near the mine’s crumbling former staff houses.

“When you are crushing, you often get sick,” she says, fine dust clinging to her skin and clothes as she works. Sometimes, she makes as little as £3 for a full day’s toil.

“It’s small money,” says Monica. “It’s not enough to put food on the table.”

People queue for food parcels at an animal welfare clinic in Durban Deep, Johannesburg. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

People queue for food parcels at an animal welfare clinic in Durban Deep, Johannesburg. Photograph: Shaun Swingler

On an overcast Saturday morning, a queue of women and small children forms in the car park of the Claw animal welfare clinic, a longstanding institution in Durban Deep. A scheme, run in tandem with the Johannesburg branch of Food Not Bombs, provides free hot meals every Saturday.

“There are at least 80 to 100 women coming every week for food,” says Lara Reddy, Food Not Bombs’ coordinator. “Sometimes it’s much more than that. There’s so much need.”

Claw was founded by Cora Bailey, who has witnessed the steady deterioration of Durban Deep since it ceased formal operations in 2001. Gangs, murders and rape have become commonplace in the sprawling surrounding informal settlements, with the violence so widespread that Bailey claims almost every child here will have witnessed rape or domestic abuse.

With the vast majority of people in the area living off the proceeds of illicit mining, fear of arrest or deportation prevents many women from going to the police or seeking help at overstretched local medical clinics.

“Many of them are undocumented, and there’s a lot of xenophobia towards them,” Bailey says.

Jessica, 30, first moved from the small Zimbabwean town of Lupane to Matholesville, a ramshackle informal settlement about 2km west of Durban Deep, in 2016.

After briefly returning home last year, she returned to Durban Deep in February, pushed by Zimbabwe’s spiralling economic crisis.

“It’s hard to find jobs in South Africa,” says Jessica as she makes her way to work on a busy crushing site behind densely packed rows of corrugated zinc shacks. “This is the only job that I can do because there are no requirements – no passport or ID necessary. All that’s required is my strength.”

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK


Sudan protesters defies attacks by armed militias

Witnesses in Khartoum describe attacks by militia using teargas and firing live ammunition.

Thousands of protesters camped in the centre of Khartoum appear to have defied a fresh attempt to clear them by armed militia loyal to the Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Civil society groups run by medics reported two dead and many wounded, some critically, in renewed violence in the capital on Tuesday morning. Other groups put the toll as high as five dead, including at least one soldier, and more than a hundred hurt.

Protesters have occupied a crossroads in front of a heavily guarded military and intelligence headquarters since Saturday, when vast crowds braved searing temperatures to gather there.

Security forces have made several attempts to break up the protest, but army soldiers have repeatedly come out to protect the demonstrators, often firing shots in the air and deploying soldiers on streets around the protesters.

There are conflicting accounts of events overnight but witnesses described repeated attacks by militia using teargas and firing live ammunition between 2am and 5am.

One witness said an officer opened the gates to the naval headquarters, allowing protesters to shelter from an unidentified gunman who was firing on protesters from a nearby building under construction. Images on social media showed hundreds of mainly young people in the naval headquarters at dawn.

There were also reports of dozens of smaller protests around the country on Tuesday. The apparent divisions among security forces could pose a serious challenge to Bashir’s repressive rule, experts say.

Protests first erupted on 19 December after a government decision to triple the price of bread. The unrest quickly evolved into nationwide demonstrations against Bashir’s 30-year-rule.

In recent weeks, the momentum of the protests appeared to have slowed, in part because of a state of emergency imposed in February and fierce repression. However, the biggest demonstrations so far have taken place in recent days, shaking authorities in Khartoum.

The group spearheading the protests has appealed to the army for talks on forming a transitional government. Though some lower-ranking soldiers have shown support for the protests, the position of senior officers is less clear.

Addressing a meeting of military commanders, Bashir’s defence minister and vice-president said security forces would not permit attempts to divide them, state news agency Suna reported on Monday.

However, Gen Awad Ibnouf did not criticise the protesters and expressed some sympathy with their grievances.

“Sudan’s armed forces understand the reasons for the demonstrations and is not against the demands and aspirations of the citizens, but it will not allow the country to fall into chaos,” he said.

Bashir has also acknowledged that the protesters have legitimate demands, but says they must be addressed peacefully, and through the ballot box.

Officials say 38 people have died in protest-related violence so far, while Human Rights Watch has put the death toll, from December to the end of January, at 51. Hundreds have been arrested and jailed after summary trials.

The UK and UN have called for restraint and urged that the protesters’ complaints be heard.

The European Union said an “unprecedented” number of people had come out calling for change since Saturday. “The people of Sudan have shown remarkable resilience in the face of extraordinary obstacles over many years,” the EU’s external action service said. “Their trust must be won through concrete action by the government.”

A report released last week by the US-based NGO Physicians for Human Rights said the authorities had used “unnecessary and disproportionate force against … citizens, illegally attacked medical responders and facilities, and tortured detainees”.

The sit-in protests recall those during the Arab spring of 2011, when demonstrators in Cairo and other capitals camped out in public squares for days demanding change.

Observers have pointed to possible inspiration from Algeria, where weeks of peaceful popular protests forced Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, to resign as president this month.

Bashir, who seized power in a military coup, faces genocide charges at the international criminal court relating to extensive human rights abuses perpetrated by Sudanese forces against civilians in Darfur, the western region gripped by conflict since 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of discrimination and neglect.

In October 2017, the US eased sanctions against Sudan, citing improved humanitarian access, the mitigation of conflicts within the country and progress on counter-terrorism. The move was condemned by human rights organisations.

Nigeria don’t have enough universities to take in all it’s intending students, but the government don’t care

By Chiamaka Kaima

Education is, around the world one of the first and basic right of everyone, but here in Nigeria, it has been abused by both the Governments and People.

During one of the Tours to the Adekunle Ajosin University in Akungba Akoko, Ondo state. The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun identified Poor Funding as a major threat to achieving a Functional Education in Nigeria. He said, Poor funding of Nigeria’s Education Sector causes Setbacks for its inherent ability to compete globally even with the inferior countries to Nigeria.

In Nigeria, to enhance good Education and stop the yearly increase of Admission-seekers [from getting] out of Hand[, the] Education Sector should be given lots of attention because it gives room for the country’s development ,but unfortunately, the quality and standard of Education in Nigeria is poor because it has not been paid adequate attention to.

And due to these lack of attention, it has caused lots of Problems that the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) has [revealed] how the number of admission-seekers increases yearly but only 75% are granted admission with only 20% being admitted to Public Universities, while 55% into other sectors of Education in Nigeria like the Private Universities or Polytechnics.

And this is are drastical elements that needs to be changed. Below are the causes;

Poor Funding

The foremost and greatest challenge that triggers this is Inadequate Funding by the Federal, State and Local Government.

In the year 2017, it was recorded that the budget bill allocated to the Nigeria’s Education sector was 26% much lower than the National budget recommended by the United Nations.

The Global organization recommended the budgetary benchmark to enable Nations adequately cater for rising Education demands.

But in the proposal represented to the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari allocated only 7.04% of the 8.6 trillion budget to the Education.
 The total sum allocated to the sector was 605.8 billion, with 435.1 billion for Recurrent Expenditure, 61.73 billion for Capital Expenditure and 109.06 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission. Even though, it hasn’t reduced the rise of Education yet but has yearly increased the number of Applicants to Universities.


This is another Major problem in the Country that has also affected the Educational Sector?

There are multiple stories of how lecturers collects bribes from students in exchange for grades, some even go to the extent of harassing their female students to sleep with them. Even some university administrators demands money from students to have their Exam results compiled and submitted to the (required) National Youth Service Corps.

 Also, funds meant for paying salaries and maintenance of school facilities and so on are being diverted for personal use and mismanaged.

And these acts can cause schools to embark on strikes or riots which will not only ruin the School reputation.

Politicization of Education

The Governments at all levels, especially at the State level, attempts to run many Institutions even when they’re least prepared to do such, which thereby cause a general fall in the Standard of the initially existing ones and the available budget insufficient to cater for their needs.

In addition, State Governments gives accreditation to Schools that they fully know are not well equipped for Teaching, all in a bid to generate more revenue for themselves.

Unwillingness to study Education in Schools

Due to how Courses are being scrapped out and parents advising their children/ward to go for courses that pays much in jobs than those that gives adequate time but pays less.

In 2015, it was recorded by the Educational Board, that out of more than 1,700,000 applications submitted, only 5% applied for Courses in Education.

 To that resul,most Graduate Teachers aren’t professional and inadequately exposed to Teaching Practices which has made Learning in schools in-conducive and generated the love of doing things for money and not for passion or will.

But to solve these problems, it all has to begin with the Governments and not the Citizens because they have the powers to punish any defaulters.


Provision of Conducive Environment to enhance Active Learning: It’s not all about teaching on Theory but also with other Teaching aids like practices, interactive sessions and Computers to exposed the students to more digitalized ways of learning and prepare them to be able to compete with their counterparts from other parts of the world. When these are provided, it gives each student the room to be well prepared for what they want and get it at their disposal anywhere, anytime.

Giving Power to those who actually knows What they’re to do and not to those who are there for the Money:To govern the Educational Board, the Government needs to Employ one who has both the Intellectual Skills not to rule alone but to apply Good measures and build up the Sector in a Striking way that will not only develop the Students but also the Country.

Contributions of Financial Funds both from the Private and Public sectors to Universities.

•There should be a Career Counselling where the Youths are been advised about Courses and similar courses when not given the first: This is a very delicate issue that should be looked into.

The Federal Government can enforce career counseling in all schools especially in secondary schools both the juniors and Seniors to avoid large numbers desiring to study one course that has Several alternatives which hinders the progress of the Economy.

 And if these solutions and many more are being implemented, it’ll give Nigeria a greater chance of competing with their counterparts from other parts of the world.

About the author.

Chiamaka Kaima is a young prospective writer with good writing skill that cuts across, education, lifestyle and living. She writes for The Bloomgist through our Academic Writers Forum “Column 60

Tottenham’s new stadium: as magnificent as they say, it’s a home victory for Spurs

Around the pitch and in the stands, the Tottenham Hotspur stadium is both magnificent and intimate, but the jarring exterior is mid-table fodder

The stadium’s bars have beer brewed on site. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

It was, for a while, all about the cheese room. The new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, it was reported, was to offer its premium customers a selection of specially sourced cheeses, a concept which encapsulated how far the football fan has come from those black-and-white, crackly-voiced days when a gristly pie was all you got, an edible version of the brown balls that were hacked around the Flanders-like mud of those bygone fields – a distillation (conceptually speaking) of the catarrh of a million Capstans.

Which, goes the narrative, was how it should be. In the tribal warfare of football you don’t want the food to be too nice. And what could be more Waitrose, more metropolitan elite, more Highbury and Islington than a range of fermented curds? What could be less likely, except perhaps CO2 foam or a flame-retardant blanket, to put fire in the belly?

Then it vanished. The Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, announced that there was not and never had been a cheese room in the stadium plans. There was an accompanying shift in the presentation of the stadium. If much of the advance publicity was about the treats for the high-paying customers – a glass-walled “tunnel club” from where you can watch the teams preparing to go on the pitch; a “sky lounge” from where you can view both the game and a sweeping panorama of London – I’m now told, by Christopher Lee, of the project’s architects, Populous, that the priority is to make a “democratic” stadium. By this he means such things as ample concourses where all the paying punters can roam, a “market place” where you can consume multiple different kinds of food and beer brewed on site. The idea of a segregated “corporate level” is, he says, “archaic”. Those people paying more “shouldn’t be in a little bubble”.

The stadium’s bars have beer brewed on site. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

The tunnel club and the sky lounge are very much still there, and no one should be under any illusions that the aim is not to maximise revenue at every opportunity, but in Lee’s account “it’s all about experiences”, and everyone is invited to join in.

He makes an analogy with airlines and the intermediate classes they create between economy and business. At the Tottenham Hotspur stadium there are 70 hospitality boxes, compared with the 150 at Arsenal’s 13-year-old Emirates stadium (which, like the former Olympic Stadium, Wembley and a proposed new stand for Fulham, was also designed by the prolific Populous). There are instead “loges” – small-scale, semi-private dining areas that might be hired by families or groups. These are still not cheap, of course, but it’s still better than having the sandwich of deathliness that comes with a corporate zone that rings a stadium.

One might challenge Lee’s concept of democracy, with its emphasis on access to craft beer as a sign of equality. One might question his analogy of the inert interior of an aeroplane with the hopefully energising environment of a sports ground. But to judge by a visit to the first game played at the stadium – an under-18s match against Southampton last Sunday – his design does what he says. The concourses feel generous, with robust but handsome finishes in polished concrete and blue-painted steel. It’s not like the old White Hart Lane, which I knew well, whose bunker-like interiors made spectators feel like the huddled survivors of a nuclear conflagration, scavenging for crisps and tea from the inadequate food counters. Nor is it Wembley, the place where Spurs have spent their exile during the rebuilding of the stadium, whose grey corridors evoke the part-time conference centre that it, in fact, is.

The exterior of the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

The food and beverage on offer, pitched between gristle pies and White Stilton Gold, is a touch more varied and imaginative than you might expect. While the market place is lively, there are also areas where the invitations to consume are relatively restrained. It avoids, just, feeling like a shopping mall.

All of which is secondary – even now, in an era when matches are “experiences” – to the actual business of playing and watching football. Here the stadium is at its best, attaining the desired combination of magnificence and intimacy, with the stands placed as close as reasonably possible to the edge of the pitch and the upper levels rising at the steepest permitted angle. The kneeroom in front of each seat, which had become pointlessly generous in some recent stadia, is 4cm less than (for example) at the Emirates, which allows for greater compression. The design is helped, too, by advances in the technology of grow lights for the grass, which allow the architects to worry less about getting sunshine inside.

A view of the concourse of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

A view of the concourse of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

The main talking point is a single bank of 17,500 seats at the south end of the pitch, which as well as presenting an imposing wall of humanity contributes to an asymmetry that gives the bowl character. Around the top level of the stands runs a sinuous horizon, rising in the centre of each stand to accommodate more seats and falling at the corners. This helps to create the feeling that you are in a single space, rather than an assemblage of structures for spectating.

Most important of all is the acoustic, an intangible on which depends much of the success of Spurs’ billion-pound-plus investment, and the first signs are good. The under-18s game, intended to test the stadium’s operations in advance of more serious contests, was limited to a crowd less than half the capacity of 62,062, but those who were there tested the sound with old songs, which bounced nicely around their new home.

The new Tottenham Hotspur stadium is trying to do many things, in catering to its multiple audiences and commercial imperatives while hanging on to what you might call soul. Yet another layer of difficulty is added by the fact that, with the help of a quite amazing mechanism whereby the grass pitch slides away to reveal an artificial layer underneath, it will host American football. What the design doesn’t achieve is to bring all this complexity together into a coherent whole: the exterior, while communicating a generalised sense of oomph and power, is a mess, with wannabe soaring curves grinding against a rectangular grid of cladding panels, and with ideas borrowed from here and there fighting for attention.

The U18 Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton on 24 March. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

My daughter and I used to share a little joke, as the old White Hart Lane hove into view from the train windows. “That’s the most beautiful building in London,” I said. It wasn’t, and the new one isn’t. In its ugliness it is like the outside of almost every stadium in the Premier League, if not the world. And almost none of the Spurs fans delighting in their new home last Sunday, relieved to be there after an opening delayed by six months, cared at all.

On which note I will leave you for a while. I will be taking a sabbatical until September, after which I will return with new energy. Au revoir.

Book review: We, the Survivors by Tash Aw

Prejudice and the refugee experience are examined in this taut novel set in Malaysia

After novels set in British Malaya, postcolonial Indonesia and modern-day Shanghai, Tash Aw’s new book stays in the present to tell a brutally discomfiting tale of social inequality in Malaysia.

It’s told by Ah Hock, a villager who, after a string of precarious jobs in and around Kuala Lumpur, lands on his feet managing a fish farm. But when a cholera epidemic leaves him without workers, he unwisely accepts help from a childhood friend, Keong, a one-time drug dealer and pimp now sourcing migrant slave labour for the palm oil industry.

As Aw retraces Ah Hock’s steps to this fateful turning point – his sense of morality running up against his need to maintain his toehold on a decent livelihood – we come to understand that his words are being transcribed by Su-Min, a sociology postgraduate returning to Malaysia after her studies in the US.

Ah Hock has agreed to her request for an interview after serving a jail sentence for a crime we don’t fully grasp until the novel’s end; brief interludes show them discussing how she might shape his story into something she thinks of as “narrative non-fiction”.

Aw’s structure allows him to sidestep the pitfalls of an enterprise that risks being seen as poverty porn – he’s opening our eyes to hardship while at the same time scrutinising the motives for doing so. We wonder what Su-Min seeks from Ah Hock’s story, but also why Ah Hock wants to tell it (he admits a punitive desire to give her more than she bargained for when she asks him to hold nothing back).

As a vegetarian who freaks out at the sight of a rat and tells Ah Hock “not to make assumptions about people’s sexuality based on traditional gender lines”, Su-Min is sent up a bit. But the novel isn’t simplistic, not least in its portrait of the complex contours of prejudice in Malaysian society. If Ah Hock suffers on account of his Chinese heritage, he knows he has it easier than many; the story turns on a group of Rohingya refugees being eyed by Keong as a solution to what Ah Hock’s wife calls his “manpower problem”.

A grim picture emerges of the Asian continent’s poor and less-poor, forced into a conflict shaped by western whims. Someone says: “Some politician in America decides that they can’t buy Malaysian rubber gloves; suddenly 10 factories in the area have to shut down. The Europeans want to save the fucking world so they ban the use of palm oil in food; within a month, the entire port is on its knees.”

But Aw doesn’t rely on tub-thumping; his achievement is to make a global story personal. When he finally circles back to Ah Hock’s crime, the scene is managed briskly, in keeping with a tale that, however grim, is never solemn or overwrought. It even ends on a gentle note; still, the novel’s horrors can’t easily be pushed out of mind.

• We, the Survivors is published by 4th Estate (£14.99). To order a copy for £13.19 go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

The Debate: sex, Unwanted pregnancy and women rights in Catholic church

Jenny Tillyard addresses the issue of unwanted pregnancy and a ‘demographic disaster’ in Africa, while Judith A Daniels says the church needs to legitimise women’s much-needed accession to leadership roles

Cherie Blair was right to mention the problem of forced pregnancy among young schoolgirls in Africa (Cherie Blair accused of reinforcing stereotypes about African women, 27 March). She was speaking at a Catholic school, and Catholics are currently struggling with the whole problem of unwanted pregnancy and women’s (and men’s) rights.

In traditional societies in Africa, a girl’s reproductive capacity was “owned” by her birth family, and there were recognised customs to enforce damages for “seduction”, which to some extent protected young girls. These protections have vanished with modernity, and organisations such as Cafod can provide in-depth information about the attrition of girls in school past puberty, which puts a question mark over every attempt at social development (we are talking about girls as young as 11). Of course African leaders, including bishops, would rather not talk about this. But a demographic disaster is unfolding in southern Africa, and silencing talk about it will not make it go away.

Jenny Tillyard

(Lived 30 years in Zimbabwe), Seaford, East Sussex

• As a Catholic, I agree entirely with Tina Beattie (Opinion, 27 March) about the disenfranchisement of women in our church. We are still waiting on the “contentious” possibility of women deacons and, although I abhor that expression “not in my lifetime”, I am beginning to see the reasoning behind it and feel its negative and depressing weight on my shoulders.

I am pleased that Pope Francis acknowledged Lucetta Scaraffia’s dedicated work in the church in regard to our enfranchisement. Now he and the hierarchy need to reach out to women and legitimise their much-needed accession to leadership roles. Until that happens the church will fall behind and below what many Catholic men, women and children justifiably expect from what should be a modern, all-embracing organisation and one that Christ would want as well.

Judith A Daniels

Cobholm, Norfolk

• Join the debate – email

Algeria’s president Abdelaziz Bouteflika finally resigns after 20 years

Algerian protesters have vowed to continue their uprising after the president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, bowed to weeks of mass demonstrations and resigned, abruptly ending two decades in power.

The 82-year-old leader announced his resignation on Tuesday night in a brief message that said he had “notified the president of the constitutional council of his decision to end his mandate”.

His resignation triggered a 90-day caretaker presidency by the chairman of the upper house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah, until elections are held. But Bensalah assuming the leadership is unlikely to satisfy protesters, and further demonstrations are expected on Friday.

“People don’t like him. The president of the senate won’t be accepted by the Algerian people,” said one protester, Zellag Lamine, in Algiers, adding: “I don’t feel good about how these elections will unfold.”

Algerians took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday night, waving flags and chanting in celebration at Bouteflika’s departure.

“This feels new. Personally, this will be the first new president I’ve experienced,” said Nourhane Atmani, a 20-year-old student from Algiers, who took part in the protests calling for Bouteflika’s overthrow. “I’m happy, I’m excited and I’m scared. But most importantly, I’m determined. This is just a first step. We’ll keep going until we have fair, transparent elections and a new government.”

The end of Bouteflika’s 20-year reign marked a new victory for popular protest in the region. But what will happen next is unclear in a country that has rarely seen political changes at the top since gaining independence from France in 1962.

Peaceful demonstrators had taken to the streets every Friday since 22 February, their numbers sometimes in the hundreds of thousands. In just under six weeks, they had forced Bouteflika to cancel his bid for a fifth term in office and relinquish power.

Pressure had also mounted on the leader from within his own regime, and the head of Algeria’s military, Ahmed Gaïd Salah, had called for Bouteflika’s immediate departure on Tuesday. “There is no more room to waste time … We decided clearly … to stand with the people so all their demands get fulfilled,” declared Salah.

Other powerful figures, including the former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia, had also joined the calls for Bouteflika to go.

Salah argued that a statement issued by Bouteflika’s office on Monday declaring he would step down before his mandate officially ended on 28 April was written by “unconstitutional and unauthorised parties”, pitting him against the opaque clique around Bouteflika, believed to be ruling in his place.

The departing president suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public since. His brother Saïd was widely believed to have been running the country from behind the scenes, aided by a cabal of sympathisers known as Le Pouvoir.

But as the growing protests emboldened demonstrators, they began to demand more than just the overthrow of Bouteflika. “It’s very clear that the ambitions of the protesters have grown over the past weeks. While this is definitely a significant victory, it’s not going to be enough,” said Chloe Teevan, a Maghreb specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Hamza Zait, a journalist and political scientist in Algiers, agreed that protesters would only be temporarily satisfied with Bouteflika’s departure.

“At the start people were just saying no to his fifth term, but then they demanded more,” he said. “There are people saying this is victory, but there are others saying it’s not sufficient. The system can’t change in a week, we need years for a real change.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Yasmine Bouchene of the collective Les Jeunes Engagés (Activist Youth). “The demands didn’t change. We want them all gone. People are in downtown Algiers, celebrating this miniature victory, while also chanting that it’s just the beginning.

How peaceful protests can change troubled Algeria

Peaking after Friday prayers, streets across Algeria have been flooded with protesters demanding change in recent weeks. They are demanding an end to the 20-year rule of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has now pledged – not entirely convincingly – to stand down.

Whether genuine change will now come remains to be seen. But what is most notable about this mass “hirak” (the Arabic word for “movement”) is both its distrust of any politician who seeks to speak on behalf of the protesters – and its rejection of violence.

The importance of these two factors is grounded in the long struggle the nation has faced. Algerians, although determined and hopeful, are well acquainted with the dangers of striving for a change of this magnitude. Their shared past offers many lessons about nation building, many of which came at a heavy price.

Experts are divided over the definition of a “nation”, but many agree that two factors are important. On one hand, a collective memory serves as a record of the triumphs and failures from which the nation derives its lessons. On the other, imagination helps to instil a deep bond between the nation’s different members and cultivate an enveloping sense of community. Both of these factors have played a role in Algeria’s ongoing quest for nationhood.


Algeria won its independence from France in 1962 after a seven-year war that left more than a million dead. In Algeria, the memory of the martyrs is both a source of grief over the magnitude of the loss, and a source of pride, over the willingness of some to sacrifice everything for the nation’s freedom.

The FLN (Front de Libération Nationale) played a significant role in steering the country towards independence. But the war, and the role the FLN played in it, became a means for the party to legitimise its rule for decades afterwards, and a narrative behind which it could obscure its numerous failures.

The economic crisis of the 1980s played a major role in forcing the state to move from a single party system, which had allowed the FLN to monopolise power, towards a multi-party system. And the people took the chance to express their desire for radical change.

The FIS (Front Islamique du Salut), an Islamist party, took advantage of the situation, grew in popularity and in 1991 looked like it would defeat the FLN in the elections. But the Algerian army intervened, claiming it was protecting the nation from the dangers of FIS ideology, and blocked the electoral process. The FIS took extreme measures, a militarised wing was formed, and the country was plunged into chaos and civil war during a period known as Algeria’s “Black Decade”. Around 200,000 people lost their lives.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose recent bid for a fifth term (despite ongoing illness) sparked the current hirak, was elected for the first time in 1999. His Civil Concord law, followed by the 2005 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, which came during his second term in power, helped end the civil war. But this achievement yet again became a way to legitimise his rule for years afterwards.

No Arab Spring

Memories of the Black Decade also became a shackle, long hindering any widespread opposition. When the Arab Spring swept the wider region from 2011, fears of a return to the bloodshed of the civil war prevented many Algerians from seeking change which might trigger violence. Indeed, on February 28 this year, in an address to parliament, former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia tried to use the Arab Spring to caution the Algerian people against turning the nation into another Syria.

But the peaceful protests that followed have sent a clear reply: this is not Syria. Change through non-violent means is possible.

Algerians are well aware of their own past. And they don’t want to replicate the bloodshed Tunisia had to endure, the military seizure of power in Egypt, the unstable situation in Libya, or the devastation of Syria. The nation’s previous experiences, especially those of the Black Decade and the fatal manipulation of extremist ideology which sought to snuff out the diverse nature of Algerian society, are reminders of how a spark of change can easily, and often bloodily, be extinguished.

But Algerians also believe in the possibility of a different future, one that brings to fruition a nation imagined by them. The hirak is the people’s expression of this, one removed from the interference of politicians or foreign governments.

In a letter addressed to the people, Bouteflika has now declared that he will not run for a fifth term. But he has also cancelled the upcoming elections and extended his current term.

He has promised to oversee a peaceful transition to a new republic, but Algerians have rejected this and plan to continue the non-violent hirak.

Remembering their past while striving for a better future, they are determined to translate their ideals into a new state. The struggle goes on – but its medium remains “silmiya” (peaceful).

Nigeria government learnt of the killing of its citizen in Saudi Arabia on newspaper

Nigeria’s government was not aware that one of its nationals was executed in Saudi Arabia on Monday until the details were published in a newspaper.

Abike Dabiri Erewa, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, questioned whether justice had been done.

The Nigerian woman was executed after being found guilty of drug smuggling.

She was killed along with two Pakistani men and a Yemeni man and was one of 20 Nigerians on death row in Saudi Arabia.

Ms Erewa said that the Nigerian authorities had lobbied the Saudi government to gain access to the prisoners but they were only allowed to visit once.

“As a nation we don’t condone crime and criminality but what we are asking for is a fair trial, let [the trial] be open and thorough before [the defendants] lose their lives.”

There have been 43 executions already in the first three months of this year and according to human rights campaigners 2019 will see the highest number of beheadings ever if Saudi authorities continue in the same vein.