Germany would rather sell warships to Algeria than take a stand for democracy

In spite of ban, protest planned in Algiers (Feb. 12)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has reproached the German government for giving only lip-service to human rights in North Africa, as Germany has failed to follow up words with deeds. "Rather than taking a stand for democracy in Algeria, Germany continues to sell frigates to the decrepit regime in Algiers," criticized the head of the Africa section at the STP, Ulrich Delius, on Thursday in Göttingen. "As the human rights activists, unions and opposition parties prepare for mass demonstrations on Saturday in Algiers in the face of heavy intimidation by authorities, Berlin maintains silence on the catastrophic human rights situation. Apparently the German government has learned nothing from the recent debacles of the tyrannical regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. As the last dictators in North Africa are toppled, Berlin will continue business as usual, true to the adage: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

In their 7 February 2011 issue, the Algerian newspaper "Le Soir d´Algérie" reported that Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Chancellor Angela Merkel reached an agreement during Bouteflika's visit to Berlin in December 2010 that Germany would supply two frigates to Algeria. The two 3,500 ton warships, Meko 200 models from the Thyssen Krupp company, are valued at 150 million euros each. The contract is set to be signed in June 2011. A spokesperson for Thyssen Krupp refused to comment.

A broad range of human rights activists, women's groups, unions, Kabyle singers, village representatives from Kabylie and opposition parties have joined together in calling for the demonstration in Algiers. A confrontation between protesters and security forces is expected. State media are already broadcasting defamation of the demonstrators and distributing false reports that the protest has been canceled. "This shows how nervous the authorities are," said Delius. "Even the announcement that the 19-year state of emergency will soon be lifted could not placate regime critics."

When the opposition party "Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie" (RCD), widely supported in particular by the Kabyle people, demonstrated on January 22 in spite of the ban, the authorities mobilized 19,000 police officers. All trains and buses to and within Algiers were cancelled and student housing was hermetically sealed for 24 hours.