7 March 2019

Algeria: Bouteflika in 'Life-Threatening' Condition As Algerians Order Him Pizza

Photo: Lisa Bryant /VOA
Protester brandishing sign saying 'president not found' in reference to aging and frail leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

A Swiss newspaper reported on Wednesday that Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is in a permanently "life-threatening" condition as he continues to receive treatment in a Geneva hospital. Algerian authorities have not shared any information on Bouteflika's health despite widespread protests against the long-standing leader's candidacy in forthcoming elections.

And some anti-Bouteflika activists have been taking time off from demonstrations in the streets to express their frustration by making hoax calls and ordering fast-food for the 82-year-old leader.

Footage of Algerians ringing the Geneva University Hospitals has gone vital online with some depicting pizza being ordered for the wheelchair-bound president.

Others have pretended to be members of the Bouteflika family and some Algerians suggest to hospital staff that they should orchestrate a power outage, "as a service to the Algerian people".

The phenomenon quickly gained traction on Facebook and Twitter with the hospital saying that on Tuesday it received more than 1,500 additional telephone calls over 24 hours compared to a normal day.

The pranks and hoaxes have since calmed down, according to a member of hospital staff RFI spoke to. However, the calls do have potential consequences with medical staff saying that, "if the switchboards are monopolised, we risk not being able to respond to people who need our treatment."

Geneva University Hospitals has not confirmed that Bouteflika is indeed receiving treatment there, saying that details of patients and state of health is not made public.

But on Monday evening French television programme Quotidien broadcast a video shot in the hospital's corridors with images appearing to depict Nacer Bouteflika, one of the president's brothers. The journalist tried to speak to him without success.

Dans les couloirs de l'hôpital de Genève, @azzahmedchaouch a croisé... Nacer Bouteflika, l'un des frères du président algérien Abdelaziz Bouteflika, alors que celui-ci est censé être rentré en Algérie pour faire campagne 🤔 pic.twitter.com/SMqWEwPgG4

Quotidien (@Qofficiel) March 4, 2019

La Tribune de Genève newspaper reported on Wednesday that Bouteflika was permanently in a "life-threatening" state of health suffering from both "neurological and respiratory" difficulties.

Bouteflika has been in Switzerland since 24 February for "routine medical tests", according to the Algerian presidency. No date for his return to Algeria has been announced.

Algeria has been hit with widespread demonstrations since 10 February when it was announced that Bouteflika would be standing for a fifth term in office.

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