Tunisians celebrate Mubarak departure, Algeria braces for contagion

Friday, February 11, 2011

TUNIS/ALGIERS - A large crowd of Tunisians descended on central Tunis Friday evening to celebrate the news that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak had resigned.

Waving Tunisian and Egyptian flags, jubilant residents headed for Avenue Habib Bourguiba, where four weeks ago protesters had celebrated the news that their longtime leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali had stepped down.

The success of the protesters in ousting Ben Ali from power has inspired people across the Arab world to agitate for democracy.

“One, two, three, vive (long live) l’Algerie,” some of the crowd chanted, referring to Tunisia’s neighbour to the west, where a major pro-democracy demonstration has been announced for Saturday despite officially being banned.

Across the city, motorists celebrated the dismantling of a second repressive Arab regime with the cacophonous blowing of their horns.

Smaller towns and cities also saw scenes of celebration.

Tunisia’s transitional unity government had yet to comment on the development.

Authorities in Algeria, where police have been mobilising in large numbers ahead of marches planned Saturday in the capital Algiers and the second city of Oran, were also quiet.

Opposition groups in Algeria are protesting the curtailment of civil liberties under a 19-year-old state of emergency, as well as high levels of unemployment and inequality.

Many ordinary Algerians applauded Mubarak’s departure.

A middle-aged healthcare worker in Algiers, who was on his way home from the shops, told the German Press Agency dpa, the news was “positive both for Egypt and Algeria.”

“It will encourage the struggle for change here and give our leaders, who continue to ban demonstrations, something to think about,” the man said.

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