Algerians vote today on a controversial amnesty aimed at ending 13 years of Islamist insurgency that has cost more than 200 thousand lives. It was sparked when the powerful military cancelled elections that a radical Islamic political party was set to win.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told an audience in the west of the country that the only winners of the vote will be Allah and the Algerian people. If, as expected, the referendum is passed, the president said there will be those who’ll cheer the day of peace and others who’ll be bitterly disappointed.
A “yes” vote will offer amnesty to insurgents still fighting or in jail. The level of violence has fallen sharply in the past six years after two others laws gave amnesty to rebels who laid down their arms.
Relatives of the so-called “disappeared” are boycotting the vote demanding instead that the government find out what happened to their loved ones who were taken by insurgents. While there are also thousands who were taken away by police for questioning, never to return.
Opponents of the referendum say Bouteflika is using it to strengthen his grip on power.