The Islamic movement was missing from anti-government protests in Algeria last year. How did this come about when in the 1990s, the Islamic Salvation Front had swept all polls—local as well as those at state level? We examine the issue.
Shaykh Abbasi Madani, the leader of the Algerian Islamic movement, passed away in Qatar on Wednesday (April 24). He was 88. Following Salatul Janaza (funeral prayers) in Doha, capital of Qatar, his body was flown to Algiers for burial today (April 27).
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 77, has been declared winner in the Algerian presidential election that his nearest rival, one-time prime minister Ali Benflis said was marred by massive fraud. Bouteflika won a fourth five-year term. He was first elected in 1999.
AN ENQUIRY INTO THE ALGERIAN MASSACRES edited by Youcef Bedjaoui, Abbas Aroua and Meziane Ait-Larbi. Pub: Hoggar Books, Geneva, Switzerland, 1999. Hbk: UK24.00 (UK); pp: 1,473.
Algeria is no stranger to violence: Islamic groups and the armed forces engage in deadly confrontations that extend over long periods and cause huge loss of life. It is not, therefore, surprising that the recent bombing attacks – attributed to al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – have led to widespread fears that the country is about to be engulfed in another civil war similar to the one in the 1990s, in which more than 150,000 people lost their lives.
The Algerian people are not unaccustomed to violence. Their brave struggle for independence from 1954 to 1962 cost many lives – a price considered worth paying to end 132 years of French rule. But the civil conflict that erupted in Algeria in 1992 after the regime cancelled elections (in December 1991) that FIS (an Islamic group) was about to win proved more destructive and lasted longer. Moreover, the lull in violence evaporated last year, when suicide bombers struck several times, culminating in the twin explosions on December 11 in Algiers that cost dozens of lives.
In the past decade, the US has been able to replace France as the most influential foreign power in former French colonies such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Given the US’s status as the “world’s sole superpower” and its ruthless determination to entrench and exploit that status, it is not strange that France lost its self-confidence as a world power and played second fiddle to Washington even in its own former colonies.
The Maghreb countries in North Africa are rich in oil and gas resources, and have substantial tourist potential. However, bureaucracy and corruption – familiar ills in every public and business sector – have blocked economic development. Consequently poverty is endemic; educational and employment opportunities are few in a region most of whose people are young and eager to learn and work. Add to this the fact that political (especially Islamic) opposition is severely suppressed and thereby driven underground, and it becomes obvious why the region has long been subject to violence, and has recently suffered suicide bombings for the first time.
There is hardly any doubt that the majority of the people in the three Maghreb countries – Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia – believe their leaders to be autocratic, corrupt and closely allied with the West against Islamic groups in the region. Add to this belief the fact that wealth in all three countries is monopolised by rich elites, while most people are deprived and poor, and it becomes plain why there is so much popular resistance to the ruling elites and the long-serving rulers they maintain in power.
Speaking in Algiers on February 12, at the beginning of a tour of North African countries designed to secure their support for the US's agendas in the Muslim world, US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld promised to strengthen military ties with North African countries. During a joint appearance with Algeria's president, Abdulaziz Bouteflika, he said: "We look forward to strengthening our military-to-military relationship and our cooperation in counter-terrorism."
The Charter of Peace and National Reconciliation – approved in a referendum in early October – is ostensibly intended to lay to rest the aftermath of a conflict that lasted for more than a decade, in which at least 150,000 Algerians lost their lives.
The rising tide of public corruption in Algeria – an issue that was never the centre of concern before – has now forced the regime to address it. The senior military officers who have really ruled the country since its independence in 1962, and the civilian politicians who have been a cloak for them, have focused their attention on fighting Islamic groups, rather than controlling a practice that they obviously benefit from.
Abbas Madani, the leader of Algeria’s banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and his deputy, Ali Belhadj, were released from house arrest and jail respectively on July 2...
The large number of North American Muslims, mostly Algerians, who have been arrested in recent weeks throughout Europe and America for their alleged connection with al-Qa’ida has focused unprecedented attention on the Algerian ‘civil war’. But the wrong conclusions have been drawn...
So far neither Algiers nor Washington has announced the kinds of weapons Algeria will receive under the new security pact. But successive Algerian governments have ascribed their failure to end the decade-old civil strife to a shortage of attack helicopters and night-vision equipment.
Algeria is in the grip of political, economic and security problems after 40 years of ‘independence’ that came at a heavy cost to its people, many of whom believe that things will not improve in the foreseeable future.
There is a strong feeling among Algerians that the parliamentary elections, on May 30 will not resolve the crises gripping their country. The legislators elected have no influence on policy, and the military, which cancelled the elections in 1991 which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) were set to win
Algerian President Abdulaziz Bouteflika claimed spectacular diplomatic success last month when he concluded security accords with the US and NATO and signed an economic agreement with the EU that provides, on his own insistence, for cooperation in the “war against terrorism”.
Violence in Algeria has increased considerably in recent weeks and has now spread from outlying districts to Algiers, the capital, and holiday resorts in its vicinity. The attacks apparently occur at random, and responsibility for them is seldom claimed by anybody, with the result that Algerians throughout the country feel unprotected and bewildered.