ALGERIA’S DEVELOPING ‘ARAB SPRING’:
CAUSE FOR ALARM?
An Algerian Spring: Roger Kaplan, American Spectator, March 4, 2019 — Demonstrations across Algeria suggest another “Arab Spring” may be on the way. It would have to be called an Arabo-Berber Spring to be demographically accurate, and it may have to go the patient route, starting with the symbolic step of forcing a symbolic president to stand down.
Europe Has Its Fingers Crossed on Algeria: Bobby Ghosh, Bloomberg, Mar. 1, 2019 — The Algerian government is bracing for more demonstrations on Friday against President Abdulaziz Bouteflika’s plan to seek a fifth term in April’s elections.
Bouteflika Can’t Afford to Ignore Algeria’s Angry Youth: Malia Bouattia, The New Arab, Mar. 1, 2019 — “Not in my name” is the banner under which thousands of Algerian students are demonstrating across the country, in what has been a series of anti-government protests, strike action and sit-ins.
Algeria Releases Blogger Jailed for Interview with Israel: Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 5, 2019 — Algeria’s government released on Monday blogger Marzoug Touati, who had launched a hunger strike last July to protest his seven-year prison term he received after interviewing an Israeli Foreign Ministry official.
ON TOPIC LINKS
How Does Reclusive President Bouteflika Run Algeria?: Rana Jawad, BBC, Mar. 6, 2019 — For many Algerians it is difficult to understand how their 82-year-old president, who suffered a stroke six years ago and can hardly walk or talk, can run the country.
Protests in Algeria May Help Radical Islamists Come to Power, Russian Expert Says: TASS, Mar. 4, 2019 — Opposition protests in Algeria may help radical Islamist groups come to power in case the incumbent head of state, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, steps down, Program Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club Oleg Barabanov told TASS on Monday.
‘We Need Change’: Algerian Expats Join Anti-Bouteflika Rallies: Al Jazeera, Mar. 3, 2019 — Just as students across Algeria on Sunday began gathering once again to demand their country’s president step down, thousands of kilometres away, on the other side of the Mediterranean, their compatriots were also getting ready to pour into the streets.
Former Colonial Power France Silent on Algerian Protests: Lisa Bryant, VOA, Mar. 5, 2019 — In recent weeks, French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken out forcefully in favor of the European Union and Venezuela’s opposition protests. He has dominated town hall meetings to address grievances at home and sought stronger ties in China.
AN ALGERIAN SPRING
American Spectator, Mar. 4, 2019
Demonstrations across Algeria suggest another “Arab Spring” may be on the way. It would have to be called an Arabo-Berber Spring to be demographically accurate, and it may have
to go the patient route, starting with the symbolic step of forcing a symbolic president stand
down. A presidential election is scheduled for April, and the incumbent, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who never recovered from a stroke in 2013, is letting his image on posters campaign for him, while street demonstrators shout their disgust for the contempt this represents.
We know Algeria chiefly for its place in the foreign policies of Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt. To get a sense of what has happened since Operation Torch, a thumb nail bio of its president is in order.
In one of his early acts as president of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika participated in the infamous Durban conference against racism. As its name indicated, it was in truth a racist meeting, brazenly antisemitic and anti-American. It was a kind of Nuremberg Rally for the Third World Internationale. It further discredited the United Nations, its sponsor, if such was still possible at that late date in the organization’s shameful trajectory.
Like the event itself, the Algerian government’s participation had no meaningful impact on international comity. Its date — 8 September 2001 — could not have been more symbolic, for its real effect was to highlight hostility toward free societies. With the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century defeated, the task of keeping hatred of liberal democracy alive passed to the non-Western despotic regimes and terror organizations in Africa and the Islamo-Arabic world for whom Durban was a grand assembly.
The common denominator of the heirs of the anti-colonial movements of the 20th century was that they confiscated or usurped power in their respective countries, over the dead or exiled bodies of men and women who actually had fought for freedom. And instead of sending gunboats at them, the liberal democracies caved to their agendas and demands, even as they kept them on life support through massive transfers of aid in cash and kind.
Now is not the moment to re-examine the complicated question of the West’s relations with the rest, nor why non-Western regimes tend to replicate our vices without the saving grace of our virtues. What we do know is that George Orwell had it just right in Animal Farm. In this regard, Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s presence at Durban was apt.
He grew up in towns that straddle the disputed border between Algeria and Morocco, Oujda and Tlemcen which, like nearby Fez, were at one time important Jewish centers, producing doctors and scholars and poets as well as merchants and craftsmen… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
EUROPE HAS ITS FINGERS CROSSED ON ALGERIA
Bloomberg, Mar. 1, 2019
The Algerian government is bracing for more demonstrations on Friday against President Abdulaziz Bouteflika’s plan to seek a fifth term in April’s elections. The protests, organized anonymously over social-media platforms, seemed to achieve critical mass last weekend, and have continued throughout the week, prompting authorities to increase the security presence in urban centers. They represent the greatest challenge in years to the country’s rulers, a loose but durable coalition of interests that includes the president, the military and intelligence services.
The protests will also be watched with some alarm across the Mediterranean Sea by European leaders—especially in France, Italy and Spain—who have a great interest in Algeria’s stability, but little influence over its political class. The EU is by far Algeria’s largest trading partner, and regards it as a steady source for hydrocarbons. But arguably more important, the littoral European countries rely on Algeria as a bulwark against the twin challenges of terrorism and illegal immigration.
On immigration, the Europeans need Algerian authorities to head off potential migrants from sub-Saharan Africa before they can get on the boats. Algeria’s contribution to European counterterrorism efforts is twofold: it helps monitor and thwart groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and its intelligence services work with their counterparts to keep an eye on criminal and radical elements of the Algerian diaspora. This is especially helpful to France, home to a huge Algerian diaspora. President Emmanuel Macron reportedly regards the situation in France’s former colony as a potentially grave foreign-policy crisis.
Like his predecessors, Macron has had to worry about unrest upon Bouteflika’s death: the Algerian leader is a very infirm 81 and has been greatly incapacitated since a stroke in 2013. Bouteflika, who has not given a speech in five years, is thought to be in a hospital in Geneva, his condition a closely guarded secret.
But the demonstrations raise the prospect of instability while the president is still alive. “If the demonstrations grow, a point will come when the government could respond with violence,” says Dalia Ghanem, a resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, whose research focuses on Algeria.
This weekend will be especially tense because Bouteflika’s staff have said they will file his candidacy papers on Monday, and the protesters hope to force the clique around the president—including his brother Said, and army chief of staff General Ahmed Gaid Salah—to change their mind. Ghanem believes that is possible. “At a certain point, they will sacrifice the candidate to preserve stability and power,” she says… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
BOUTEFLIKA CAN’T AFFORD
TO IGNORE ALGERIA’S ANGRY YOUTH
The New Arab, Mar. 1, 2019
“Not in my name” is the banner under which thousands of Algerian students are demonstrating across the country, in what has been a series of anti-government protests, strike action and sit-ins.
Following the announcement that Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will indeed be seeking a fifth mandate in the general elections in April, thousands of people have taken to the streets in opposition.
The mobilisations have been described as unprecedented by some international media outlets, largely because Bouteflika had not faced such visible opposition when he presented himself for a fourth term back in 2014 – despite having suffered a stroke. There is also the claim that the destabilised reality of neighbouring Libya – and Syria – following the Arab Spring in 2011 has quashed any desire for an uprising.
Algerians had already partaken in similar uprisings back in the late 1980s, when thousands of people protested deteriorating living conditions, unemployment, political repression and decades of a single-party rule by the National Liberation Front (FLN). The decade-long civil war which followed had more of an impact on dissuading the masses to repeat any public acts of dissent.
There is also, of course, the fact that Algeria is a military state that hasn’t shied away from exercising its force against the people when they show signs of being openly critical of the status quo, let alone attempt to organise others on that basis.
The Algerian state has also been running on the assumption that the collective trauma of the civil war, which took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Algerians during the 1990s, would remain a strong enough memory to stop the people from taking to the streets again. It not only underestimated just how much suffering, state violence and poverty the people have had to endure, but also that the country’s young adults are an entire generation who were born after this period, or too young to be politically shaped by its experience.
The scars of their parents aren’t as painful for them, and certainly weigh less than the injustices inflicted by the regime today. The youth of Algeria, the majority of the country in fact, is left living in dire conditions, with no jobs, no opportunities, and most of all, no hope.
This is why the actions led by students are so pivotal. It marks the awakening of a considerable section of Algerian society who have grown up surrounded by state corruption, the targeting of political opposition, the continued lack of investment or progress across education and welfare services.
This state of affairs is also made all the more shocking by the fact that Algeria is a key natural gas supplier for Europe. The youth are plagued with the reality that 30 percent of Algerians under the age of 30 are unemployed, and the pursuit of higher education seems to matter little in the improvement of job opportunities. Another contributing factor to the anger of the demonstrators is the support that 11 students’ unions have given to Bouteflika’s candidacy. Many student protesters claimed this decision was not representative of what the majority of them wanted.
An important development is therefore taking place, and one which is now familiar across the region: the mass organisations of the past have become bureaucratised, detached from the people, as well as from reality. The once powerful pull they exercised across society has considerably weakened and their former base increasingly rejects their leadership. In that sense the FLN and the Algerian unions are no different than their Syrian, Egyptian, or Libyan counterparts… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
ALGERIA RELEASES BLOGGER JAILED
FOR INTERVIEW WITH ISRAEL
Jerusalem Post, Mar. 5, 2019
Algeria’s government released on Monday blogger Marzoug Touati, who had launched a hunger strike last July to protest his seven-year prison term he received after interviewing an Israeli Foreign Ministry official. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote on its Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Twitter feed: “Today, blogger Marzoug Touati was freed after a criminal court sentenced him to two years in prison, which he already served, in addition to a three-year suspended sentence.”
The release of the citizen journalist comes amid large protests against a fifth term of Algeria’s ailing 82-year-old president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is currently in Switzerland receiving medical attention for his condition following his stroke in 2013.
On the website of CPJ, the journalists’ organization wrote “Algerian security forces arrested the blogger at his Béjaïa home on January 18, 2017, according to his employer, lawyer, and news reports. According to the London-based regional daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat, security forces interrogated Touati about a YouTube video he published on January 9, 2017, that shows an interview he conducted via teleconference with Hasan Kaabiah, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson.”
The CJP article stated “In that interview, the official said Israel has had a liaison office in Algiers since before 2000. Algeria and Israel do not have full diplomatic relations, and Algeria’s government is frequently critical of Israeli actions.”
According to CPJ, “During Touati’s interview with Kaabiah, the journalist asked for the official’s reaction to then Algerian Housing and Urban Development Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s allegations that planned protests against inflation were organized by foreign countries, including Israel, and that Israel was behind the Arab Spring.”
CPJ noted “Touati began serving his sentence at the Oued Ghir prison in Béjaïa. According to media reports and Amnesty International, Touati was held in solitary confinement and had to purchase his own food because authorities barely fed him. On November 3, 2018, Touati was transferred to a prison in the Algerian province of Bouira, according to news reports and a Facebook post by his lawyer, Salah Dabouz.”
CPJ reported that “The judge refused Touati’s multiple requests to summon witnesses who could have an integral role in the case, Dabouz wrote on Facebook. The judge also refused to release the journalist on a provisional basis, according to Dabouz.” Algeria’s largely one-party and military government has faced criticism from the United Nations Human Rights Committee for violations of freedom of expression. The release of Touati coincides with mass protests against a fifth term of Bouteflika, who just nominated for a fifth term in office. Bouteflika has been in power since 1999 and seeks to secure a new five-year term until 2024.
In response to what could be a new Arab revolt in the region, Bouteflika proposed reforms to take the sting out of the demonstrations and growing unrest. According to a letter from Bouteflika to the citizens of Algeria, he promises “an inclusive and independent national conference to discuss, elaborate and adopt political, institutional, economic and social reforms” and “implementation of public policies to ensure a fairer and equitable redistribution of national wealth and the elimination of social marginalization and exclusion.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]