Algeria: When Bouteflika’s ‘asking for forgiveness’ becomes a warning

Following the six week’s protests in Algeria, demanding the end to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s rule, the President has not only finally agreed to step down; he has equally asked Algerians “for forgiveness” for whatever he may have done wrong as a leader.

The Algerian strong man had ruled the country for 20 years but is presently confined to a wheelchair as a result of a stroke he suffered some years ago, which has kept him rarely in public. Mr. Bouteflika sent a “farewell” message to his people, in which he admitted his mistakes as a human, at the same time praised his achievements, which he said he was proud of, while in the office, according to the APS, Algeria’s official news agency.

“As a human prone to making mistakes, I ask you to forgive all my shortcomings. I speak to you in farewell, and it is not easy to express my true, honest feelings towards you. ” President Bouteflika said, according to the APS.

In what sounds more like a warning against any attempt to put him on the trial for any abuses he may have committed as President, Mr. Bouteflika insisted while some of his actions were approved of others were “not free of mistakes.”

Mr. Bouteflika went ahead to praise the youths, the brain behind the protests that toppled his regime. He described them as “optimistic” and “ambitious.”

While some political analysts interpret Mr Bouteflika’s remarks as a stick and carrot strategy, others believe he wants to offer an olive leaf to the angry Algerians who may have had enough of his regime. Of course, the Arab Spring which claimed the regimes in Egypt, Libya etc. are still fresh in the mind of many. So, many analysts believe Mr. Bouteflika, who has lost the support of his once devoted and supportive Army and security agencies, may have read the handwriting on the wall and threw in the towel, although, the President at the same time, tries to avoid any prosecution. However, in case of trial, it seems Mr. Bouteflika may not want to go down the Qaddafi road – especially, now that his once fiercely loyal Chief of army staff Ahmed Gaid Salah, and some other lieutenants have turned their back against the President, declared him medically unfit to lead the country, and have shown their support for the protesters.

Now that Algeria’s Constitutional Council has formally accepted Bouteflika resignation, after 20 years in power, the question is: Will Algerians let the sleeping dog lie and move on to the new chapter in their country’s history or will they end up like in Iraq, Syria and Libya where the country has been turned into anarchy after the fall of the Qaddafi’s regime?

Definitely, what happens in the coming months will determine which path the country has chosen – the path towards peace, progress and economic prosperity or towards conviction, power struggle and possibly, a war.

Soon we will know whether Bouteflika ‘asking for forgiveness’ will heal or destroy the country. Algerians’ actions in the coming months will determine whether they want their country to move forward or backwards.