Algeria: Brutal repression of protests against shale gas

manif-sud-algerie-exploiattion-gazThe brutal repression of protests and demonstrations against the exploitation of shale gas in the Algerian Sahara prompted the response of opposition parties and NGOs that denounced security forces’ abuses, especially after the death of a young protester.

It all started after authorities announced that the first operation for the exploitation of shale gas in southern Algeria was completed. The announcement triggered a wave of protests. For the local population, the project means an ecological disaster whose consequences are infinite, especially with regard to water resources, already scarce in these Saharan zones, argue local NGOs.

The protest movement, started at Ain Salah, about 1300 km south of Algiers, on January 4, quickly extended to Tamanrasset, El Ménéa, In-Ghar. Algerian authorities that put forward economic arguments to justify the controversial exploitation of shale gas have opted for a tough response. More than 3,000 members of the security forces dispatched on the site violently repressed the protesters.

Opposition parties have strongly condemned the abuses against the protesters. The RCD condemned “in the strongest terms the crackdown on the people of the South.”

The aggressive intervention of riot police exacerbated the situation in the southern areas. Ghardaia for example is regularly shaken by deadly clashes between Mozabite and Arab inhabitants. The clashes left several people dead or injured. Protests in these Saharan regions, staged mostly by unemployed youth and disenfranchised people who complain of marginalization and contempt of the authorities, are frequent and often make the headlines of newspapers.