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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 01:41 GMT 02:41 UK
Algeria hears Berber demands
Clashes since April have left about 80 dead
Clashes have erupted as Berbers press for recognition
By BBC North Africa correspondent David Bamford

The president of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has invited leaders of the ethnic Berber community to formally present to the government their demands for social and political changes.

President Bouteflika has said was appointing his Prime Minister, Ali Benflis, to act as chief negotiator in an attempt to end continuing unrest, during which 80 people have been killed.

Berber protesters
Berbers have issued a list of demands
Three months ago Berber leaders published a list of 15 demands on which an end to their mass demonstrations depended.

Now President Bouteflika has announced that the government is ready to negotiate a settlement.

Mass rallies

The President is clearly anxious to bring an end to the five months of social unrest that has rocked the government's hold on power.

One reason that Mr Bouteflika may be trying to appear reasonable now, is because he wants to ward off plans by the Berbers to hold another mass rally on 5 October.

The Berber demands include:

  • judicial trials for paramilitary policemen involved in killing unarmed Berber civilians in April and May
  • an economic emergency plan to deal with social deprivation in their area
  • official recognition of the Berber language

The government may be restricted in the number of concessions it can give, without prompting a destabilising reaction within conservative, Islamist and military circles.

Many regard the Berber culture to be an aberration, in what the Algerian constitution states is a society with Arabic as its only official language.

algerian timeline puffobx
See also:

13 Aug 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Can the Berber revolt survive?
20 Aug 01 | Middle East
Berbers march for their rights
08 Aug 01 | Middle East
Police move to block Berber march
19 Jun 01 | Middle East
Rising tide of Berber unrest
01 May 01 | Middle East
Berbers battle for recognition
28 Jun 98 | Middle East
The Berbers: fighting on two fronts
20 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
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