ALGERIA AND ITS NEIGHBOURS
Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the southeast by Niger, to the southwest by Mali and Mauritania, to the west by Morocco and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. The National Liberation Front (Le Front de libération nationale) has dominated politics ever since Algeria won independence from France in 1962. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced out of office on 2 April 2019 after 20 years in power, and Abdelkader Ben salah was named interim president on the same day. Elections were scheduled for July 2019 but were later postponed because of protests by supporters of the Hirak movement who were disillusioned with the political system and by Algeria’s weak economy and high unemployment, as well as the announcement by President Bouteflika from his Geneva hospital bed that he would seek another five-year term in the 2019 presidential election.
WHO IS ABDELMADJID TEBBOUNE, THE 8TH PRESIDENT OF ALGERIA?
Tebboune was born on 17 November 1945 in Mécheria, Algeria. He is married to Fatima Zohra Bella, and has five children: Saloua, Maha, Salaheddine Ilyes, Mohamed and Khaled.
He graduated from the École Nationale d’Administration d’Alger (the National School of Administration) on 29 July 1969 (2nd promotion, economic and financial). But little is known about his early education. After his graduation he worked as a civil servant in various local government bodies before he became Minister-Delegate for Local Government from 1991 to 1992, during the last months of Chadli Benjedid’s presidency. Later, under Bouteflika, he served in the government as Minister of Communication and Culture from 1999 to 2000 and then as Minister-Delegate for Local Government from 2000 to 2001. He was the Minister of Housing and Urban Planning from 2001 to 2002. Ten years later, in 2012, he returned to the post of Minister of Housing in the government of Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and on 24 May 2017 he was appointed Prime Minister by Bouteflika. However, due to his temperament and squabbles with other Ministers, Tebboune was dismissed on 15 August 2017.
After his dismissal, nothing was heard about him until Bouteflika was forced to resign by Algeria’s military Chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah on 2 April 2019.
The 1992 Coup
This is not the first time that the army forced an elected president to resign. On 26 December 1991, the first multiparty elections since independence were held and the new and enormously popular Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party won 3,260,22 votes (47.3 %) and 188 seats, and the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN – armed forces wing —won 1,612,947 votes (23.4%) and 15 seats in the national parliamentary elections.
A few days before the second round, the armed forces – fearing an FIS takeover – stepped in under the pretext of safeguarding the national interest and cancelled the elections, and General Khaled Nezzar and General Larbi Belkheir were among the leading generals who forced Chadli Bendjedid to resign on 11 January 1992.
Immediately after the cancellation, the army rounded up thousands of FIS supporters and leaders and placed them in concentration camps in the Sahara. This triggered the long-running civil war which resulted, according to Algerian and International Human Rights bodies, in over 200,000 deaths. Many hundreds more have simply disappeared, and to this day their families do not know if their loved ones are still alive. Families can not settle their inheritance until those who disappeared are found or a death certificate is delivered.
Despite repeated requests by families for information, there has been no investigation and no one in the security forces has ever been charged. Although the civil war is over FIS supporters have moved to neighbouring countries Mali and Niger, and to the Algerian mountains where occasionally they carry out attacks on Algerian armed forces. Army units often set fire to the vegetation in order to flush out the militant groups.
On 10 April the election was rescheduled for 4 July. On 2 June the Constitutional Council postponed the elections again, citing a lack of candidates to presidential election. A new electoral authority, Autorité nationale indépendante des élections (ANIE), was created in mid-September as an alternative to the existing Haute instance indépendante de surveillance des élections (HIISE) defined by the 2016 constitution. The election was rescheduled for 12 December 2019 and ANIE, of disputed constitutional validity, announced five valid candidates on 2 November. In their 20,0000-strong protest on 1 November, Algerian protestors rejected the 12 December election and called for a radical change in the system to take place first. The Forces of the Democratic Alternative (FDA) alliance and the Justice and Development Front also called for a boycott of the 12 December election, and the FDA called for the creation of a constituent assembly.
Despite weekly protests, disruption and boycotts, Algeria’s electoral body declared Abdelmadjid Tebboune elected on 13 December 2019, with 58.13% of votes actually cast on a turnout of 39.88%, which is considered a resounding endorsement in Algeria.
Throughout his career, Abdelmadjid Tebboune has been a member of a regime that was controlled by a one-party system and the armed forces.
December 2019 Presidential Election
Abdelmadjid Tebboune won a five-year term as president in the 12 December 2019 election. Although he ran for the presidency on an independent ticket, in fact he was the preferred candidate of the Algerian ruling Nationalist political party (FLN) and its armed wing, the National Liberation Army. He is an old-school regime insider, a loyalist of the ousted leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika. As soon as Tebboune’s victory was announced, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Algerian towns in protest. They chanted slogans against Tebboune, who they saw as a continuation of the previous regime, and demanded that the whole political establishment be swept away. Their placards read: ‘your elections are of no concern to us’, ‘We did not vote you president’ and ‘You will not govern us’.
General Ahmed Gaid Salah Congratulations
As soon as the final election results were announced, General Ahmed Gaid Salah issued a statement which was published in DZ Breaking News, Algiers, on 15 December 2019, congratulating Tebboune on his victory and describing him as a ‘suitable and experienced man, capable of leading our country Algeria towards a better future’. Salah praised the Algerian citizens for ‘their massive participation in this important electoral event and their successful choice, in all transparency, integrity and conscience, of Mr Abdelmadjid Tebboune, as President of the Republic.’
General Gaid Salah stressed that ‘the Algerian people have just expressed their sovereign choice, with conscience, maturity and total freedom’. In his laudatory statement he made no reference to weekly protests of Hirak or the poor election results.
Since independence, the Algerian armed forces, like those in Egypt and Pakistan, have tended to support a presidential candidate who will simply be an intermediary between them and Algerian civil society, and pose no challenge to their authority.
Tebboune acted quickly to consolidate his power base, and ignored the demands of the Hirak movement protesters. Three factors helped him greatly: (1) the sudden death of General Ahmed Gaid Salah, which allowed him to appoint an unambitious army officer who Tebboune trusted; (2) the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced all popular protesters who considered the result of his election illegitimate to self-isolate; and (3) action taken by Gaid Salah before his death against ministers and the close associate and brother of former president Bouteflika, who were charged with corruption and are now serving long prison terms.
On 23 December 2019, Tebboune abolished the office of Vice-Minister of Defence and appointed Major General Said Chengriha as interim chief of staff, then chief of staff on 3 July 2020.1
According to the Algerian constitution, the president is the minister of defence and the supreme commander of the armed forces. But in practice, decisions are made by army command and the military intelligence, the backbone of the political system, and it is unlikely that the president will succeed in reducing their power in political decision-making in Algeria. Indeed, on 16 October 2020 Jeune Afrique reported that President Tebboune and General Chengriha disagree on foreign policy, the text in the new constitution relating to the armed forces deployed outside Algeria, and the president’s interference with the generals’ running of his department and the nomination of officers and personnel in different departments of the Ministry of Defence. Chengriha was particularly annoyed when the president forced Major General Abdelaziz Medjahed, a close colleague of Chengriha, to retire from his job as security adviser to the Minister of Defence. Said Chengriha’s aim, like that of Gaid Salah before him, is to restore the army’s former role as a political arbitrator. According to many commentators on Algerian politics, President Tebboune will not allow general Chengriha to become a powerful officer like General Salah.
The president continued his purge. In April 2020 he fired Brigadier General Wassini Bouazza, the head of internal security and intelligence, for committing ‘serious violations’ during his eight-month tenure, put him under house arrest and then replaced him with Brigadier Abdelghani Rashidi. On 17 April he dismissed Colonel Kamel-Eddine Remili, chief of the external security directorate, and replaced him with Major General Mohamed Bouzit. Tebboune also dismissed civil servants he did not trust. On 2 April 2021, General Bouazza was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
This sort of action is quite common in Algerian politics. Every president appoints people who will protect him and implement his policies without challenge.
Referendum on new constitution
President Tebboune proposed amendments to the Algerian constitution and announced that there would be a referendum to approve them. He set the referendum date for 1 November 2020. This date marks the start of Algeria’s war of independence against France, and was chosen for its symbolism. According to the Algerian veteran lawyer and human rights activist Mustapha Bouchachi, however, the new draft constitution would present the country with an autocratic regime and turn the post of president into something like that of an emperor. The president would have the power to control the work of the legislature, and to appoint the governor of the central bank, the chief judge of the constitutional court and four of the tribunal’s 12 members, as well as officers of the armed forces.
The election body declared on 2 November that there had been a 23% turnout for the referendum the day before, and the majority vote was in favour of the new constitution. The turnout was the lowest at an election since Algeria attained its independence. This indicated lukewarm support for a referendum that Hirak had decried as a sham which was intended to quash their movement for good. They said the reason Algerians did not bother to vote is that the regime had come up with identical promises to those made by former presidents: Chadli Bendjedid 1979–1992 and Abdelaziz Bouteflika 1999–2019 – promises that remain unfulfilled.
Independent media, such as Elwatan newspaper, which campaigned against the referendum, lost government advertising support. The previous regime had used the same procedure to intimate independent media. Journalists who reported on the Hirak protests for the foreign media were arrested and imprisoned. A prominent journalist, Khaled Drareni, was arrested on 7 March 2020 while covering Hirak protests, and charged with ‘incitement to unarmed gathering, harming the integrity of national territory and with spying for France’ and sentenced to three years in prison. This was reduced to two years on appeal on 15 September 2020. Other foreign media such as Jeune Afrique were simply banned from entering the country, without any explanation.
Since the removal of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, there have been four elections:
- 12 December 2019 to elect the President;
- 1 November 2020, referendum to revise the Constitution;
- 12 June 2021 Algerians turned out to vote in the country’s latest legislative elections, which had been called a year early after a constitutional referendum on 1 November 2020 and a presidential election eleven months before. Despite huge government and national press propaganda, few of them actually did take part, in the elections for 407 seats in the National Assembly – lower house of Algeria’s bicameral system – saw the lowest turnout ever recorded in the national election in the country. Only 23.09 per cent of the 25 million registered voters bothered to vote and a fifth of them had spoilt their ballots in protest!
By those standards, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune had received what would have been considered a resounding endorsement at his own presidential election on 12 December 2019, with 58.13% of votes actually cast on a turnout of 39.88%. Even the two previous legislative elections – in 2012 and 2017 – had persuaded 43% and 35% of the registered vote respectively to take part.
The reasons for these depressing low and worsening turnout figures in the Algerian electoral process are not difficult to identify. They reflect the longstanding alienation of Algerians from the political system operating in their country and their feelings of being disenfranchised by it – sentiments captured by the popular description of it as ‘façade democracy’. Its origins go back to the single-party state established after Algeria’s independence in 1962. Then there was the hegemonic role of the new country’s revolutionary political leadership in turning the FLN into a political handmaiden of the army and the security forces as the real powers from independence to the present.
- On 8 November 2021 local elections were held to elect 1,541 municipal representatives and 58 prefect assemblies for a five-year term.
But despite huge official campaigns about change and those urging Algerians to vote, the people showed little interest. Indeed, the authorities said nothing about the huge economic and social challenges of the coming years and the ruling elite has neither the vision nor the strategy to respond to the economic and COVID-19 crisis in the future.
According to the head of the Independent National Election Authority, the turnout was 36.58% in the municipal elections and 34.76% in the provincial polls. He pointed out that the figure was higher than for the parliamentary election on 12 June, which was 30.2%. But many observers reported just that 23% of Algerian voters had taken part. The FLN, which had run the country since independence, narrowly won the local elections gaining 5,978 seats nationwide, followed by its traditional wing, the Democratic National Rally (RND) with 4,585, according to the head of the Independent National Election Authority in a press conference on 1 December 2021.
President Tebboune hoped that the November 2021 local elections would turn the page on the two-decade rule of the previous regime, of which he was a member. However, he still has one enemy in the country which will be difficult to dislodge; that is the ruling FLN party and its armed wing, the National Liberation Army.
The FLN was the main target of Hirak movement protesters and many observers of Algerian politics think that the FLN is finished.
Abdelmadjid Tebboune encouraged independent candidate to stand in the 12 June 2021 parliamentary election and 8 November local elections in order to reduce the influence of other political parties. Eighty-four independents were elected to Parliament, but none to the municipal elections.
FLN present itself as the party that won Algerian independence and its nationalist ideology is still attractive to Algerian people. It is also deeply rooted in the entire public administration and has organisational skills and funds to win elections. Therefore, if Tebboune intends to stand for re-election in two years’ time, without the support of the FLN and the National Liberation Army, he will not win. In any case, a presidential candidate who does not have the support of both will not win the presidency.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who is 76 and a heavy smoker, caught COVID-19, according to his office press release of 22 October 2020, after coming into contact with staff who tested positive for coronavirus. The president went into self-isolation. On the advice of his doctors he was admitted to the Algerian military hospital on 23 October and on 28 October he was transferred by French medical air ambulance to University Hospital in Cologne, Germany for treatment. He spent several months there before returning to duty. The Algerian president’s actual state of health is shrouded in total secrecy and the Algerian media are forbidden to report on it.
Non-Aligned Movement ideology
Abdelmadjid Tebboune is the first Algerian president who was not previously a member of the armed forces. He was 15 years old when Algeria’s independence war against France began. Throughout his time in office up to becoming president he was devoted to the regime and the ruling party, Le Front de libération nationale, and the old Third World and Non-Aligned Movement ideology which is now completely obsolete. It is clear in his recent speeches that this will continue to shape his domestic and foreign policy during his presidency.
Algeria and the Western Sahara
In his first speech, Tebboune promised that ‘they will see from us only good things and good intentions. They will see no harm and no trouble from our side.’ He was referring here to Morocco. He repeated Algiers’ policy towards the Western Sahara conflict, which he described as an issue of ‘decolonisation’. The Western Sahara issue is the root of a decades-old rift between Morocco and Algeria that started when Algeria founded the Polisario movement in 1973. The movement, which is based in Tindouf, Algeria, has received financial, diplomatic and military support from Algeria since its foundation and cannot exist without it. All experts agree that Polisario has no other resources to buy arms, or pay for its armed forces and the organisation of the movement. After independence, Algeria hosted many freedom fighters, revolutionaries, terrorists, and even the US Black Panther Party, until the 1990s. The Polisario movement is Algeria’s last remaining guest.
Algeria’s ‘Polisario first’ policy is damaging the Maghreb Arab Union, founded on 17 February 1989 as an economic and political union of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. Formation of the union was a key opportunity to address the security and economic challenges of the region, but progress will remain stagnant for the region as long as Algeria continues its uncompromising financial and diplomatic support to the Polisario movement. The conflict has caused the closure of the border between Algeria and Morocco since 16 August 1994 and stopped almost all trade between the two countries since then.
In Morocco, Western Sahara is an issue of national pride and concern and there is a determination not to give up an inch of its Sahara. Indeed, King Mohammed VI made it clear in his Green March speech on 6 November 2021 that ‘Morocco does not negotiate over its Saharan land but will negotiate on a peace settlement’. He also said that foreign companies that wish to do business in Morocco from now on cannot refuse to invest in the Saharan provinces.
Morocco knows that Algeria, as founder and financier of the Polisario movement, sees Western Sahara ideologically and militarily as an important strategic area for Algeria’s wider regional influence and does not expect the present leadership to change course.
A few years ago, Morocco proposed a solution in the form of granting autonomy to the indigenous Sahrawis population. Algeria and the Polisario movement insist on a referendum on independence for Polisario. However, since 2020, the situation has completely changed in the following respects.
- Both Algeria and Polisario have opposed any census of the population in the Tindouf camps, despite repeated requests from the UN Refugee Agency since 1977. Polisario has reported a population of 155,000 refugees in the area but there is no independent verification.
Referendum is no longer mentioned in the recent UN Resolutions on Western Sahara and is no longer considered by the international community to be an option. Particularly Resolution 2602 (2021) which can be found on this link:www.securitycouncilreport.org › atf › cf
On 31 October 2021, The Algerian Press Agency published the following statement issued by Algerian Foreign Minister Mr Ramtane Lamamra:
The text of Resolution adopted by the Security Council No. 2602, according to which it renewed the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum Organization in Western Sahara (MINURSO), Algeria regrets very much that it will not support the biased decision that would encourage the extortionary stances of the occupying state, as well as its stubbornness and maneuvers aimed at obstructing and undermining the course of decolonizing Western Sahara and changing its nature.
It is clear from this statement that Algeria will not cooperate with Secretary-General of the United Nations’ special Envoy on Western Sahara, Mr Staffan de Mistura.
- Therefore, the autonomy solution proposed by Morocco is the best way to solve this deadlock. Morocco has made clear that it will not accept any negotiation with Polisario unless Algeria is included as a party. In the past, Algeria attended the negotiations as an observer and adviser to Polisario negotiators.
- The game has now changed in favour of Morocco. Several countries, including the United States, have recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Moroccan Sahara and more than 26 countries have open consulate offices in Laayoun and Dakhla.
- On 25 December 2021, the Arab League issued an official map of the Arab world which includes the entire Moroccan Sahara in Kingdom of Morocco National Map.
Although Algerian politicians and army officers do not say it publicly, they do not support their government’s policy and Polisario. However, Amar Saadani, former MP and Speaker of the Algerian Parliament from 2004 to 2007 and Secretary General of Algeria’s ruling party the National Liberation Front from September 2013 to 22 October 2016 broke ranks with the Algerian government’s policy and said in an interview with the TSA Algerian news website Tout sur L’Algérie on 24 March 2019: ‘The Sahara is Moroccan and this issue must end, while Algeria and Morocco must open their borders and normalise their relations.’ Saadani continued: ‘To be honest, I consider, from a historical point of view, that the Sahara is Moroccan and nothing else. It was snatched from Morocco at the Berlin Congress. … Also, I think that for fifty years Algeria has poured huge sums into what is called the Polisario and this organisation did nothing and failed to break the impasse.’
Saadani’s interview was also aired by the Algerian Television Ennahar and other Middle Eastern media. The interview shocked the Algerian regime. The Algerian intelligence services and Polisario supporters accused Saadani of being a Moroccan agent.
August 2021 Wildfire destruction
On 9 August 2021 a wildfire ripped through Tizi Ouzou, one of the most populous cities in Algeria’s Kabylie region. According to Le Monde of 19 August 2021, 90 people, including 28 soldiers, were killed. When the wildfire started, the local authorities had nothing to use to extinguish it, even though the region had suffered many wildfires in the past (in 2020 nearly 440 sq km (170 sq miles) of forest were destroyed by fire). It was only when the fire was out of control that the Algerian authorities tried to obtain firefighting vehicles and planes.
This tragedy clearly demonstrated that in recent years there has not been any serious investment in the firefighting and forestry services in Algeria, despite the country’s wealth from oil and gas. Also, firefighters are not adequately trained and equipped to deal with fires of this magnitude .
On 17 August 2021, President Tebboune ordered his government to buy four firefighting planes from Russia.
The President as well as Minister for the Interior, Kamel Beldjoud, immediately accused arsonists of starting the fire, without providing any evidence, and it was announced that 22 individuals had been arrested, including 11 in Tizi Ouzou. A climate of mistrust and paranoia was created by the belief that the fires were not natural but man-made and had nothing to do with climate change. Indeed, climate change is intensifying droughts and creating the perfect conditions for wildfires to spread and cause unprecedented environmental, material and human damage across the region. In August 2021, devastating wildfires, in Greece, Turkey and parts of the USA confirmed that the increased impact of wildfires is a global environmental crisis. Algerian and European weather forecasters warned that temperatures during August 2021 would exceed 118 Fahrenheit (48 C).
Various local independent newspaper reporters who were present in the area at the time disagree with the official accusation. Elwatan Newspaper reporter wrote on 23 August 2021:
Le postulat d’une origine criminelle et organisée des incendies de forêt en Algérie ne fait pas l’unanimité. Il n’est pas accepté par ceux qui ont gardé la tête froide et pris de la distance avec des conjectures politiciennes qui ont déclenché une chasse aux sorcières suivie d’hystérie collective qui a conduit au drame de Larbaâ Nath Irathen.
Pas l’ombre d’une preuve matérielle, pas même des aveux n’ont en effet été produits. Face à l’embrasement général du bassin méditerranéen, du Portugal à la Syrie en passant par la Sicile, le sud de l’Italie, les Balkans, avec la Grèce et la Turquie qui ont payé un lourd tribut et au sud du Maroc à l’Egypte, l’Algérie fait cavalier seul, s’isole.
Another journalist, Abdelkrim Zerzouri , Le Quotidien d’Oran wrote:
La « piste criminelle » à l’origine des incendies qui endeuillent le pays a été évoquée avec insistance par les autorités algériennes. Dans leurs déclarations au sujet de ces incendies, le Premier ministre et le ministre de l’Intérieur ont tous deux interprété la situation sous le même angle de cette piste criminelle, sans donner plus de détail à ce propos. Bien que la radio publique algérienne a annoncé mardi l’arrestation de trois « pyromanes » à Médéa et un quatrième a à Annaba, qu’ont ait expliqué que les premiers indices laissent penser qu’il s’agit là d’actes à «caractère criminel» et soutenir qu’on ne peut pas croire que des départs de feux puissent avoir lieu sur une cinquantaine de sites en même temps, l’opinion reste sur sa faim dans le prolongement de ces soupçons.
En 2020 également, les enquêtes sur les incendies qui ont causé des décès, d’importants dégâts matériel et ravagé 44.000 hectares de forêts et broussailles ont abouti à l’arrestation de plusieurs individus pour leur implication dans les incendies, mais on n’en saura pas plus à leur sujet. A quelles peines ont-ils été condamnés et, surtout, quelles étaient les motivations qui les ont poussés à mettre le pays en feu?”
See also BBC Analyst Magdi Abdelhadi: www.bbc.co.uk › news › world-africa-58383947 Viewpoint:Algerian blame games expose deep …- bbc.co.uk
At the time of writing this piece, January 2022, the arsonists arrested by the authorities have not yet been put on trial.
As Turkey and Greece recorded significantly lower death tolls than Algeria in the face of similarly widespread and intense wildfires, Algerians started to question why their state had been unable to respond as effectively to the crisis.
AFP journalists saw villagers desperately trying to put out the spreading fires with makeshift brooms in an effort to save their homes.
On 12 August 2021, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI instructed his interior and foreign ministers to ‘express to their Algerian counterparts the readiness of Morocco to help Algeria combat the wildfires’. He also ordered the mobilisation of two Canadair planes and 15 firefighting vehicles to take part in this operation, upon agreement with the Algerian authorities. The Algerian government did not respond.
Government statements continued to insist that arsonists were behind the fires, and on 18 August 2021 the government blamed two groups designated by Algeria as terrorist organisations. The government said that the Movement for the self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) and Rachad, an Algerian political movement founded in 2007 by a number of Algerian opponents of the current government based in Europe and backed by the Moroccan–Zionist States were responsible, without providing any proof.
On 24 August 2021 Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra announced at a press conference that Algeria was cutting diplomatic ties with Morocco. He accused Morocco of using spyware against Algerian officials and supporting a separatist Algerian Berber group seeking self-determination for the Kabylie region, but he did not present evidence to journalists present at his press conference.
On 24 September 2021, the Algerian presidency said in a statement that after a meeting of the High Security Council chaired by the President it had closed its airspace to all Moroccan planes due to ‘provocations and hostile practices’. Algeria did not provide any evidence.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel on 10 December 2020, Algeria has become very nervous and has increased its criticism in every field. And yet, Algeria does not criticise other Middle Eastern countries which have established diplomatic relations with Israel.
Due to the Establishment of Diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel, Algeria has been refusing to renew the Maghreb–Europe gas pipeline through Morocco to Spain for the past 25 years. This pipeline supplied Spain with 15% of all its natural gas in 2020 and Morocco gets a $60 million annual fee for the pipeline crossing its territory. Algeria’s stance will cause more inconvenience to Spain than Morocco.
Since Tebboune was elected president, Algerian media, political parties and think tanks, such as the newly established l’Institut des études stratégiques globales, have increased their anti-Morocco rhetoric. Retired General Major Abdelaziz Medjahed, Director of the institute, who has also been security and military affairs adviser to the president since February 2020, said in a Radio Algérie interview on 20 November 2020 that Algeria should take action against countries that support Moroccan policy on Western Sahara and refuse to recognise and support the Polisario movement. Algerian media, political parties and think tanks present Morocco to their readers and audiences as the worst regime in the world.
Arab League Summit on 22 March 2022
President Tebboune, speaking at meeting of Algeria’s diplomatic mission on 8 November 2021, announced that the Arab League summit would be held in Algiers on 22 March 2022.
Tebboune said he hoped that the summit would bring forth an opportunity to ‘reform the Arab League’. However, this announcement of the summit’s location came during a period of tensions between member states. Algeria had cut diplomatic relations with its neighbour Morocco on 24 August 2021, as stated above. A diplomatic row between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies over criticism the previous November by Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi of Saudi Arabia and its allies’ war in Yemen sparked reprisals from Saudi Arabia and its allies and forced Kordahi to resign on 3 December 2021.
The other issue which divided member states was reinstating Syria as a member of the Arab League after a ten-year suspension.
Tebboune stressed that the Palestinian cause would remain ‘sacred’ for Algeria, reaffirming his country’s commitment to the Arab peace initiative adopted in the Arab summit held in Beirut in 2002. Other Arab states have also made this commitment.
The tragedy is that the Palestinians have not been able to present a united front and Mahmoud Abbas, 84, who has been President of the Palestinian National Authority for more than 17 years, has made no efforts to unite the Palestinians at home and abroad.
Hamas leader visit to Morocco
When Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader, was invited to visit Morocco on 16 June 2021, Mahmoud Abbas was annoyed with Morocco, particularly as Haniyeh and his delegation were given a huge welcome. Mr Haniyeh and his delegation had meetings with all heads of political parties and the speakers of both Houses of Parliament and were given a state dinner by the head of government, Dr Saadeddine Othmani. The delegation expressed gratitude to Mohamed VI for funding the newly build hospital in Gaza which was inaugurated on 18 August 2021. https://atalayar.com /en/ content/mohammed-vi-funded-hospital-gaza-inaugurated
Morocco does not agree with Mahmoud Abbas wants to have the final say on how the entire Arab leadership deals with Israel and Hamas leaders. Mohamed VI has been urging Hamas leadership and Mahmoud Abbas to engage in ‘confidence-building measures’
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited Morocco on 24–25 November 2021. The purpose of his visit was to increase security and defence cooperation between Israel and Morocco. During his visit, Mohamed VI had a long telephone conversation with Israel’s Prime Minister and urged Israel to engage in dialogue with the Palestinians. On his return from Morocco, Gantz invited Mahmoud Abbas to visit Israel on 28 December 2021. During this rare visit to Israel, Gantz stated that ‘the two men discussed security and civil matters’, and on 29 December, Israel’s defence ministry announced ‘confidence-building measures’ with the PA. They included a $32m advance payment to the PA of taxes collected on its behalf by Israel and the granting of 600 extra permits allowing Palestinian businessmen to cross into Israel.
On Libya: Tebboune said on 19 December 2019: ‘Algeria will make more effort to achieve stability in Libya and safeguard the unity of its people and its territory’, and ‘Algeria is the first and foremost country concerned by Libya’s stability, whether one likes it or not. Algeria will never accept being excluded from the proposed solutions to the Libyan crisis.’
His comments coincided with a German-initiated move towards an international conference on Libya to which Algeria was not invited. The Algerian Foreign Minister was annoyed when Algeria was not invited to Libyan peace talks in Morocco, Geneva and Tunisia in October and November 2020. He was also annoyed by the United Nations rejection on 16 April 2020 of former Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra’s nomination as the UN envoy to Libya. Algeria blamed Morocco and the United States for this rejection.
Doing business in Algeria is not easy. The economy remains under state control – a legacy of the country’s socialist post-independence development model. In recent years, the government has halted the privatisation of state-owned industries and imposed restrictions on imports and foreign involvement in its entire economy, pursuing an explicit import substitution policy.
The economy is dominated by the export of petroleum and natural gas which have long been the backbone of Algeria’s economy, accounting for roughly 30% of GDP, 60% of budget revenues, and nearly 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the tenth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world – including the third-largest reserves of shale gas – and is the sixth-largest gas exporter. It ranks sixteenth in proven oil reserves. Hydrocarbon exports enabled Algeria to maintain macroeconomic stability, amass large foreign currency reserves, and maintain low external debt while global oil prices were high. With lower oil prices since 2014, Algeria’s foreign exchange reserves have declined by more than half and its oil stabilisation fund decreased from about $20 billion at the end of 2013 to about $6 billion in 2019.
The protectionist measures taken by the Algerian government, as well as corruption, bureaucracy, a weak financial sector and legal insecurity in terms of intellectual property rights, are serious obstacles to investment. The participation of a foreign investor in an Algerian company is limited to 49% and foreign contractors are forced to find local partners for public tenders. In addition, the judiciary carries a high corruption risk for companies operating in Algeria. The courts are subject to political influence and are susceptible to corruption. The Algerians perceive their judiciary to be the most corrupt public institution.
Foreign judgments are considered as interference in Algerian affairs and are not recognised by the courts despite Algeria being a signatory of the New York Convention 1958 and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Algiers has increased protectionist measures since 2020 to limit its import bill and encourage domestic production and in 2021 imposed additional restrictions on access to foreign exchange for imports, and import quotas for specific products such as cars and luxury goods.
New Investment Law
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on 18 September 2021, the Algerian Prime Minister and Minister of finance said that Algeria was preparing a new investment law to improve the country’s business climate and attract foreign investors with the aim of boosting the non-energy sector. He did not give a deadline for completion of this investment law. He also announced plans to develop the country’s small stock exchange and launch banking and financial reforms to find new funding sources for the oil-reliant economy.
On 22 December 2021, the World Bank produced its latest economic report, which painted a staggering picture of the Algerian economy. The report is available here.
On 28 December the Algerian Minister of Finance responded through the official press agency: https://www.aps.dz/economie/133749-rapport-errone-de-la-banque-mondiale-sur-l-algerie-rien-d-etonnant
As in all previous articles in APS and in other Algerian media, as well as ministers and armed force statements since December 2019, Algeria continues to claim that the Morocco-Zionist State [Israel] (referring to the 2021 diplomatic relations between the two countries) are plotting to damage and destabilise the country, but without providing any evidence to the world media of this plot.
World Bank Statement to Algerian official press agency allegation is available here:
Tebboune was elected in a contentious, widely boycotted 2019 ballot after Bouteflika stepped down under pressure from the army and protesters.
He promised to ‘build the institutions of the state on a solid foundation’ and break with the Bouteflika era. He promised to promote democracy, freedom of the press and the empowerment of women; to reform the country’s infrastructure and to slash spending on imports, support the role of youth, raise the minimum wages, abolish taxes on low salaries and launch a consultation on drawing up a new constitution that would be put to voters in a referendum. He promised he would also extend a hand to the leaderless movement known as the Hirak. However, as soon as he consolidated his power and after his recovery from COVID-19 in February 2021, he began his crackdown on local and foreign journalists and Hirak activists. His Minister of Communications expelled foreign correspondents and closed down offices of the foreign media in Algeria. He even accused Agence France Presse (AFP) of supporting terrorists and of defamation. AFP’s crime was that they reported and interviewed Hirak protesters and other opposition leaders inside and outside of Algeria. Similarly, foreign newspapers and magazines that criticise the regime were simply banned.
Since the beginning of 2021, politics has been dominated by slogans stating that Algeria has entered a new era. However, extensive propaganda in all national media since the beginning of 2021 insists that Algeria is facing threat from the Morocco–Zionist entity [Israel] and separatists outside and inside the country. Experts and scholars on Algeria disagree that these are the country’s worst problems, however.
Redouane Boudjemaa of Algiers University said in an interview with Aljazeera on 27 November 2021, ‘the main issue at stake is the huge economic and social challenges of the coming year’, warning that Algerians’ purchasing power could ‘collapse’. ‘Several indicators show that the pouvoir (ruling elite) has neither the vision nor the strategy to respond to the crisis’, he said.
In addition to his diplomatic crisis with Morocco, Tebboune also had another one, with France. On 2 October 2021 President Emmanuel Macron invited to a meeting the families of Algerians who were members of the French armed forces and collaborated with France during the war of Algerian independence, known as pieds-noir. They were evacuated and resettled in France after Algerian independence, but were given very little help. At this meeting, President Macron made a speech and promised to compensate every family who stood with France at that time and he also referred to ‘a political-military system’ of rewriting history and fomenting ‘hatred towards France’.
The Algerian presidency expressed its ‘rejection of any interference in its internal affairs’, and decided ‘to immediately recall for consultation’ its ambassador, Mohamed Antar-Daoud. It banned French military planes from its airspace, which they regularly use to carry out operations against jihadist groups in West Africa and the Sahel region.
The other disagreement between France and Algeria is that Algerian authorities refuse to take back their illegal immigrant nationals in France, which the head of the French immigration authority (Ofii) Didier Leschi wants to return to Algeria. Leschi said: ‘The problem is that these Algerians, who want to return and request voluntary return, are prevented from returning home by Algeria, which refuses to take them back from us. It is the only country with which we have this problem.’
Spain too, has huge problems with illegal migration boats from Algeria; some of which have on board political activists and civil servants fleeing Algeria. On 12 June 2021, members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) rescued 2,000 Algerian youths including a pregnant woman with her 5 children. According to the Algerian website tsa.com 1,600 reached Malaga.
On 8 December 2021, French foreign minister Mr Le Drian visited Algeria to discuss the crisis and after his meeting with Tebboune, Le Drian told journalists: ‘I hope that our two countries will return together to the path of a peaceful relationship and look to the future.’
Tebboune said in a televised interview that ‘these relations must return to normal provided the other party (France) conceives them on an equal basis, without provocation’.
Although Algerian Ambassador to France Mohamed Antar Daoud returned to his post on 6 January 2022, all other issues relating to Algerian immigrants in France and the resumption of French military flights over Algeria have not yet been settled. According to diplomatic sources, these issues will be put on hold until after French presidential election in April 2022.