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Fifty years after Algerian freedom, youths take fresh look at France (+video)

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How Algeria has made its peace with France, and dealt with the common problems of North African countries -- youth unemployment, poor government service, and growing economic frustration -- is worthy of study. The West came to Algeria in 1827 when the French consul and the Dey of Algiers met to discuss French debts to Algerian merchants. Tempers rose, and the Dey struck the consul with a fly-whisk. France blockaded Algiers, the Dey fired on a French ship, and in 1830, France invaded.

A century later, Algeria was officially part of a greater France through which the Mediterranean was said to flow like the Seine through Paris. But Algerians remained second-class to thousands of European inhabitants.

Revolt was launched in 1954 by the National Liberation Front (FLN). Many Algerians backed independence, others France. Both sides descended to depths of cruelty. Osmane’s grandfather was beaten and electrocuted during eight years in jail.

In 1962, Frenchmen weary of war voted overwhelmingly to set Algeria loose. Most European residents – and some loyalist Algerians - embarked for France.

In Algeria, a power struggle among FLN leaders was followed by one-party rule until 1989. In 1992, the country slid into a decade of civil war after the Army cancelled elections that an Islamist party looked set to win. Calm has slowly returned since the 1999 election of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

However, many Algerians say their graying leaders – Mr. Bouteflika is 75 – have failed to use the country’s oil wealth to improve public services and bring down high youth unemployment. Around three quarters of Algerians are under 35.

“The generation that has led since independence were young when they came to power,” Osmane says. “Today Algeria looks like an image of them growing old.”

How easily can younger generation take over?

Last May, Bouteflika said in a speech aimed at young Algerians that “my generation has had its day,” and called on youths to assume leadership.

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