For more than 10 years, Algeria has been torn by religious
and political conflict. In 1988 there were violent protests
against food shortages. In 1992 the result of countrys
first multi-party elections since independence favoured
the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front), a hardline Islamic
party. Many people were alarmed by this result, and 100,000
demonstrated in the Algerian capital. Soon afterwards
the government, backed by the army, overturned the election
result. In 1996 violence escalated after the government
banned all religious political parties. As many as 80,000
people mostly civilians have been killed
in the conflict between militants and the authorities,
and thousands imprisoned without trial.
present government, elected in 1999, has released some political prisoners and held a
peace referendum, offering Algerians the chance to vote for peace talks with Islamic
militants. The result was an overwhelming yes-vote, which already seems to have brought
about a positive change in the day-to-day atmosphere of Algerias cities and towns.
On December 24th 1999 Ahmed Benbitour, who
is not a member of any political party, was appointed as Algerias new prime
minister, and began forming a government made up of ministers belonging to several
different political parties.
first week of the new millennium, the armed wing of
the Islamic Salvation Front called a truce. Killings
and bombings have continued in Algiers and other Algerian
cities, but it is not clear who is behind these acts.
Many Algerians blame rogue elements within either Islamic
or anti-Islamic groups, while others blame organised
criminals posing as political militants.