Monday, 16 July 2012

Algeria: Unrest spreads among armed auxiliaries

Far more serious from the regime's point of view is the unrest that broke out again this week among many of the regime's armed auxiliaries.

On Monday (9 July), some 40,000 police auxiliaries, known as Communal Guards, tried to march on the capital from Blida to demand pay rises and the same benefits as the troops and other security forces. They marched 48km in the heat before reaching Birkhadem on the outskirts of Algiers where they were stopped by hundreds of police. Extensive fighting took place between the protesting Guards and the police, with some 50-60 people injured. The wide press coverage of the fighting, showing pictures of armed police battling community guards, has shocked Algerians.

The Communal Guards were set up in 1994 to bolster local police in villages across the country where authorities were locked in a deadly confrontation with armed Islamist groups. This auxiliary corps numbers 93,000 men, who are demanding the same benefits as policemen and troops. Specifically, they want pay rises, round-the-clock health insurance to replace the current eight-hour coverage they get while working, and retirement after 15 years of active duty.

They are also demanding the option of joining the ranks of the police or the gendarmerie, a French-styled paramilitary police unit.

In March 2011, some 10,000 Communal Guards flooded the streets of Algiers with similar demands, in defiance of a ban on demonstrations.

According to our sources, the Communal Guards have now been joined in their demands by another group of auxiliaries, the 'Patriots'. We are uncertain of their numbers.

In addition, we are hearing that similar concerns and possible unrest may be spreading among the 100,000 or so ex-military servicemen (those no longer in service, but regarded as reservists) who are also becoming concerned by their own lack of rights and the action being taken by the Communal Guards.

If all three of the country's auxiliary-cum-reservist units bring their protests together, as this week's events might suggest, the implications for the regime could be extremely serious.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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