In 2008, when the world’s eyes were turned to a new kid in the block, giving a victory speech in one of the most historic passings of power in recent history, thousands of miles away, another history was being made. The president of Algeria was to change the constitution to allow himself to stay “with” the presidency until death do them part.
When Bouteflika was brought in by the army in 1999, Algeria was trying to turn the page on one of the most difficult and darkest chapters in its history. A decade of blood and terror where the struggle to survive and the fear of facing death was the daily routine of all Algerians. A few years into his rule, peace-in the form of decrease in the number of massacres-started to crawl back into our lives; daily news of death was not the norm anymore, and life started to go back to normality, except that everything had changed, and society was never to be the same again. Suspicion of the other meant that people started to withdraw into self-inflicted confinements, and apathy started to reign. Public space was confiscated from Algerians by the regime in place and the ghost of the black decade was always hovering around to deter people from any attempt of change. The people had divorced their country, their regime and each other.
With all this apathy, a new beast was growing, fuelled by soaring oil prices, the appalling management of public money meant that anything was up for grabs. Algeria was the new Eldorado where anyone who wanted to make a quick buck would go to. The regime running the country continued to deteriorate and became a mafia in all sense of the word, and as the oil prices started to plummet, the mafia had to find new ways to satisfy its insatiable appetite for money, this meant that illegal trading, money laundering and drug dealing was also on the table; the mafia was pushing the country into a dystopia.
My family like many other families had to think of ways to survive in a country under regime that cared for no one and where everyone was for themselves. Water supplied by the government is not trusted for consumption so my dad started a weekly trip to a spring to fill jerrycans with clean water to use for cooking and for drinking as bottled water would not be sufficient. Meat was sourced directly from farms as my sister, an inspector of food quality warned of the dangers of meat consumption, hospitals were to be avoided at all cost as my sister who is a doctor warned against these. Our cities became open air prisons, and got uglier by the day, so trips to the countryside were our escape from small living spaces and eyesores mushrooming like there is no tomorrow.
As the beast grew bigger, it engulfed every corner of the country and every fabric of society, very few were those who resisted the regime and its practices. But as history has it, against the backdrop of all this chaos, a new beautiful generation which saw the pain, the chaos, and the injustice, and witnessed on a daily basis the further descent of the country into an abyss was waiting for the right moment; it seized it in the most beautiful way , it broke the silence and lifted the fear and the rest is very recent history.