A new wave of unrest in North Africa

Overhead view of street protest in Algiers, March 2019
March 29, 2019: The street protests that forced Algeria’s president to promise he would step down are starting to look like a late rerun of the Arab Spring (source: dpa)
  • A new wave of popular unrest is targeting regimes that rode out the 2011 Arab Spring
  • In Sudan, anger at rising prices has turned political and could spread in the Sahel
  • In Algeria, hopes for a peaceful transition hinge on how the army handles discontent

In Sudan, five months of mass demonstrations have forced the government to call a state of emergency. In Algeria, five weeks of protests forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to announce he will step down after 20 years in power. Even in the Gaza Strip, popular unrest is making itself felt despite Hamas’s repressive regime.

This revival of popular unrest comes eight years after the Arab Spring of 2011, which fizzled into military regimes in countries like Egypt or morphed into endless civil wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen. There is no democratic tradition for protesters to draw upon in Sudan or Algeria; in both countries, the army is the main political force. Can this unexpected coda to the revolutions that opened an unhappy decade lead to better results?

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