Algeria's unemployed demand oil jobs

2013-03-30 13:25
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Algiers - Protests by the unemployed in southern Algeria are raising the spectre of rising unrest in the country's sensitive oil regions, and are increasingly attracting the attention of al-Qaeda.

Algeria's vast, sparsely populated Sahara only holds 10% of the country's population but it is home to this North African country's enormous oil and gas reserves - the basis of the entire economy and the source of the government's power. Those who live there claim they aren't benefiting from that wealth, and can't get jobs with the oil companies.

Now al-Qaeda has praised the protesters, raising the possibility that it is seeking support among the disaffected groups. The government is rushing to address the protesters' demands, but hasn't yet convinced them that it's serious.

Some 10 000 people - an enormous number for the lightly populated region - demonstrated on 14 March in Algeria's southern oil city of Ouargla, and thousands more later protested in another southern oil town, Laghouat.

"We want access to jobs in the oil companies, and not just the low-value ones like drivers and security guards; we want to be in the administration," Tahar Belabes, the head of the National Committee for Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed, which organised the demonstration, said by telephone from Ouargla.

"We just want the same employment possibilities. It's not normal that we live in the region where the oil and gas is located but don't benefit from it."

While youth unemployment is widespread in Algeria, and the rest of North Africa, the southerners say they are particularly discriminated against. There is also a widespread distrust of government officials, who are believed corrupt and skimming off the country's vast oil receipts.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal acknowledged on 16 March, that the demonstrators' demands are legitimate and the government hurriedly announced a string of measures to address the perceived geographical bias in oil jobs.

 Oil companies will be obliged to give priority to job candidates from the south and recruitment must occur through registered employment agencies. The government announced that job-training centres would be set up to ready candidates for jobs with oil companies and hotels.

Demonstrations continued

The demonstrations, however, have not stopped, and on Monday hundreds protested in the desert towns of Ghardaia and Oued Souf.

"The demonstrations are continuing because the young unemployed don't believe in official promises and they don't trust the local government representatives or their parliamentarians - they want to negotiate directly with the government," said Kamal Zaidi, a member of an unemployed group in Laghouat and a human rights activist.

Most worrying for the government is that, on Friday, al-Qaeda's North African branch expressed solidarity with the demonstrations, slamming what they say is the corrupt use of the country's resources.

"The events of the south and the call of the people to protest in the streets is the natural response to the policy of marginalisation and nepotism used by the corrupt Algerian regime," said the message posted on extremist websites.

Al-Qaeda's signature tactic around the world has been to find marginalised groups in remote areas and espouse their cause, much the way they did with the disenfranchised Tuareg tribesmen in northern Mali, setting up a foothold that later became a de facto state before they were routed by the French in February.

In January, an al-Qaeda-linked group for the first time attacked one of the country's remote desert gas plants.

While the leaders of al-Qaeda's Algerian branch are predominantly from the populous north, the leader of the attack on the Ain Amenas gas complex in January that left 37 hostages dead was a southerner - Lamine Bencheneb, part of the radical Sons of Sahara armed Islamic group.

Attack on militants

In the attack, the multinational team of militants appeared to know the complex inside and out, sparking reports that they may have had allies among the site's local drivers who had gone on strike over low pay just weeks earlier.

Geoff Porter, a veteran Algeria analyst with the North Africa Risk Consulting firm said the "unevenness" of past government investment programs have left a legacy of distrust in the south - a region that also lacks the educational opportunities to produce the necessary skills for oil sector jobs.

Part of the problem, he added, is that the hydrocarbon industries don't require very much employment and there is little else going in these remote communities after the desert tourism industry dried up.

In attempt to curb the recent demonstrations, the government sent local parliamentarians, mostly from the ruling party, back to their towns in the south to hold meetings, but most of these were boycotted by the committees of the unemployed.

"The Algerian state has always had a policy of national investment and a great deal of money has been invested in the south, just like the other regions," said Mohammed Dhimi, one of the members of parliament from the south. "Perhaps the investments were not well thought-out or misdirected or didn't respond to the agricultural and industrial needs of the people."

"The protesters may sense that they have built up some momentum and that they are going to continue their protests until they see meaningful steps taken to deliver on the prime minister's promises," he said.

Belabes, the head of the unemployment committee, promised a new round of demonstrations in the coming days.

- AP
Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  abdelmalek sellal  |  algeria  |  north africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Secret talks in Lesotho

2014-10-23 19:04
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route

The route of the 2015 Absa Cape Epic has been announced and it promises to be as challenging as ever!

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

4 exercise excuses and how to beat them
Watch: Insane road bike skills!
The most extreme journey ever?
Red Bull Lionheart trail run - not for the fainthearted!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a tendency to focus too intently on outer appearance and beauty which hides who you really are. You are being challenged...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.