Deadly forest fires — especially in the eastern Khenchela region — and the growing water shortage crisis are fuelling a growing sense of anger which is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout most of Algeria.
There is immense anger amongst the predominantly Chaouia people in the Khenchela region where forest fires in the Aures mountains are out of control. In Algiers, and elsewhere, critical water shortage has already led to demonstrations this week blocking major thoroughfares in the city. We have listened to what we believe are unprecedented calls from quite different parts of the country for ‘separatism’ but what might be involved is neither clear nor thought through. Such calls are basically expressions of frustration and increasing anger at the regime and for the contempt in which it holds most of the country’s citizens and their regions.
Calls for separatism in Kabylia are neither new nor surprising and the same can be said of the Tuareg in the extreme south. This week, however, we have listened to people in Ouargla and Hassi Messaoud: saying that they will rise up against the regime if it does not respond to their demands to be separated from Algeria, by which we understand that they no longer want to be governed by the current regime and system. We have also listened to people in Timimoun, which could hardly be further from the political pulse of the country, talking about ‘autonomy from the regime.’
The latter’s hopeless response to the latest spate of summer forest fires — notably in Khenchela, where the situation has been and still appears to be dangerously out of control — has generated widespread anger amongst the region’s local communities.
Whether it is the forest fires or the water supply shortages, Algerians know that the fundamental cause is not just ‘prolonged severe drought’, ’summer heat’ and/or ‘climatic change’ as trotted out daily by the authorities, but the lack of investment, governance and sound management by the regime, which long ago lost interest in all but the maintenance of its own rapacious power and wealth.
Such seemingly irrational calls for ‘separatism’ and ‘autonomy’ are extremely dangerous signals about the direction in which the regime is dragging the country.