Algerian impressions

Impressions algériennes

Algerian mpressions, very subjective, without any particular political ambition in this important moment for Algeria, following a 3-week flash trip to Algeria (late February-early March), after having lived from June 1963 to June 1972 and made a brief visit a few years later …
Friendly and touristic visit: a few days in Tamanrasset, Algiers and Tipaza, Arzew-Oran with getaways in Mostaganem and Tlemcen finally Constantine via Djemila.


Nostalgic retreat of places. The people known at that time have disappeared or been lost sight of outside the two friends of fifty, since 1964-65, who welcomed us into their families. Very partial rediscovery visit of a new, unknown Algeria, at the moment when a new story seems to begin.

Returning to Algeria, after such a long separation, is strange. It is to see a friend we have lost sight of, we find, the same and different, familiar here, changed there, unknown elsewhere.

A country that was known by name, before coming, the places and personalities, become familiar because of the long war that had corresponded to the student years. And Independence came, we discovered the physical reality, traveling the country in all directions, and a little life in the daily work, in accordance with our own professional choices.
A country that was being built, new. A country whose achievements were followed with the same hope of success as nationals.

A country we knew or thought we knew. A country whose complexity we felt with, at the same time, a proximity of language, which allowed the dialogue, the sharing but of which an important part escaped us. Because we were not Algerians. Because we do not speak Arabic, despite weak attempts not encouraged by the Algerian entourage, and even less, the Berber-Tamazight, (Kabyle, Chaoui …).

Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes

But the country has changed a lot. Upon arrival, at night, by car from Dar El Beida airport to Ben Aknoun, we hope the Moutonnière, traveled twice a day for 6 years, and we go through the entrance to Los Angeles or any other metropolis. The sheep road is lurking somewhere, on the right, in darkness and memory.
The next day, with the light, we find the familiarity of the center, the Grande poste, the streets Larbi Ben M’hidi, Didouche Mourad, the boulevard Mohamed V, the place of the Emir, the apartment, the cinematheque and we fun to see what has not changed and what has changed …

It will be the same in Constantine, with the Place de la Breche modified (place of November 1st), the Direction départementale de la Santé, the Centre parmédical, the Lycée El Hourrya, the Monument aux morts, the Rhumel and its bridges and its new big bridge, the arcades of the street Abane Ramdane, the place Amirouche (Place de la pyuramide) …

Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes

When we return from this trip, some people ask us the same questions about the trip that they or others were asking us in the sixties … And security? You were safe? How were people with you in the street?

Curiously, the answer is the same, today and then: impression of absolute security even if, in Tamanrasset, gendarmes accompanied us to ensure our safety, as foreigners, in the excursions outside the city. And the extreme kindness of people.
 

At the time, the war was over, and for them and for us, almost forgotten. Not erased. We were there because this war had taken place and had marked us. But we were Frenchmen who came to work in the new Algeria.
Today, this era is almost forgotten. The vast majority of the Algerian population was born after our departure. The passage of cooperants in the years after Independence is not known to those we meet in the street. We are probably nostalgic pied-noses for them. And the kindness is the same.
The war in Algeria is over, well done. Well almost.

Because France remains the former colonial power, the present neocolonial power. And as at the time, also remains the refusal of foreign interference (to hear from France). Yesterday proclaimed by the government and today common to the system in place and to those who want to bring it down. Immixtion, for some, manipulation of opponents, for others, support of Bouteflika and the regime.

In the air, a little something has changed. Yesterday, some mutual knowledge-complicity supposed with everyone. With the Algerian friends, a common language, the same language, we shared the same jokes, nationalism and fraternity went hand in hand, because we had a common political past even if it was at very different levels. And a common hope.

Today, our story is no longer common. We slowly moved away. Nationalism has been distilled by fifty years of speech, teaching … without sharing. Without human contact, relativising. And our attention to Algeria was not as intense as during the war …

When a man in his fifties, who speaks perfect French, tells us, during a conversation about schooling and education, that in Algeria there are two languages, Arabic and English, he says two clear things: he asserts an identity, he is Arab (actually Chaouia origin) and Muslim (he asks us soon after what we think of Islam), rejects the officially recognized Tamazight, – language of the division? – and the French language, language of colonialism, still taught and widely used, for the benefit of the English language …

Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes

The veil-scarf is in question in France. Here, what strikes when one walks in the streets, it is the total disappearance of the traditional veils which made it possible to distinguish, at the first glance, the Algeroises, Oranaises or Constantinoises, dressed according to the tradition beside those who had adopted Western fashion. Today, women dressed in the Western fashion, mainly in pants, hair in the wind, are numerous. But, in all the cities covered, the most frequent dress is the scarf associated with the long dresses: the traditional veils have completely disappeared! We saw in 3 weeks, a Constantinoise and an Oranaise. And a single integral veil …, coming from the suburbs of Paris said young friends …

This phenomenon, a little anecdotal, speaks of our look yesterday and today. Yesterday’s look, attentive and benevolent, at the same time to Western tradition and evolution, normal for us, today’s surprised look at an autonomous, unexpected evolution.

During our stay, began the Friday and Tuesday demonstrations for the students. To which we have, of course, not participated and we have seen little.

There are many young people in these events. Because the Algerian population is young. But also because a major effort was made at the level of education: more than 1,655,000 students – 60% of them female students – entered the university in September 2017 while another 324,000 left with a diploma in hand.

These young people, students, are demonstrating with others today. They are the children of fathers and especially of mothers who, all, were educated and this phenomenon is perhaps not foreign to their importance presence in the demonstrations …

Schooling, especially for girls, is reminiscent of the Tunisian situation. It is in Tunisia that the Arab spring began, it is also in Tunisia that it went the furthest …

The entry into Algiers, coming from the airport, is the first testimony of the investments made in infrastructures. The highway that crosses Algeria from the Tunisian border to the Moroccan border is another testimony. For the moment free from end to end but on which are being built the future toll stations …

But what strikes the most is, in all the cities visited or crossed, outside the urban traffic jams especially in Algiers, it is the number of houses built or under construction … There was, at the time of Independence , 10 million Algerians, they are today 43 million!
We see everywhere buildings under construction or apparently completed but uninhabited (unassigned housing …) or actually completed and inhabited.
The city of Constantine, 200 000 inhabitants in 1960, counts more than 460 000 today, without counting the neighboring cities and in particular the city of 500 000 inhabitants, Ali Mendjeli, under construction !!!

Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes

These investments in infrastructure, housing, are at the origin of a phenomenon that everyone talks about, people of the street to the highest political authorities and that weighs heavily in the current events, corruption. And which affects, to varying degrees, many people in many other sectors of the economy and the social: import licenses, housing allocations, privileges …

There are sometimes reports in the press of the presence of Chinese workers in Algeria and sub-Saharan migrants crossing it to Europe. We have seen practically neither one nor the others. If the significant presence of Chinese workers has been confirmed, we have seen only a few Asian girls crossing the street.
In addition, some beggars who were assured that they were sub-Saharan …
Two employers who hired undocumented workers, in full view of everyone, without problem. One of them, a Cameroonian, told us that he was planning a trip to his country in a few months and come back …

But all this, like young people who offer to sell or buy all kinds of currency at Port Saïd square in Algiers, is just anecdotes of passing tourists.


The question today in Algeria is the future of the movement which, since February 23, peacefully assembles, in the streets of large Algerian cities, and place de la République in Paris, thousands of people to say its rejection of the system: not only Bouteflika who had to give up his fifth candidacy, not only ministers or oligarchs some of whom are now in prison, but of all those, including the military, who, since independence, have occupied the power.

Delicate period of transition with the unlikely threat of a Sudanese-type evolution. Sudanese were Place de la Réoyublique in Paris this Sunday …

Difficult period because, thanks to popular unity, the repayment of the system can succeed but will this unity persist for the establishment of new institutions? And especially for the implementation of a new economic policy that would exceed the simple use of oil revenues to calm discontent …

Impressions algériennes

Below, some pictures of the Sunday meeting of Algerians on the Place de la République in Paris, June 16, 2019.

Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes
Impressions algériennes

Thanks to Ahmed M and Rachid H.

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