Category: Amazigh Land of Algeria


December 1, 2017

The African Union has chosen Algeria as the coordinator of its counterterrorism strategy. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his country were named by the chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki, in an official announcement made in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Thursday.

Faki said that Algeria was chosen because of its “pioneering experience” in this area and its effective policy to combat extremism. “All African countries could follow Algeria’s experience in the fight against terrorism,” he added.

The AU official congratulated Algeria and President Bouteflika for their efforts in coordinating the bloc’s efforts towards preventing and combating terrorism.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171201-african-union-chooses-algeria-as-counterterrorism-coordinator/.

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November 30, 2017

Algeria has joined Iran, Syria and Iraq and refused to join the Saudi-led Muslim Military Alliance, The Algeria Daily reported on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia leads two alliances including one against Houthi rebels in Yemen in addition to the Muslim Military Alliance.

While Saudi Arabia and its allies brand Lebanese Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen as terrorist organizations, Algeria does not agree with this position and maintains relations with Saudi Arabia at the same time with its rival, Iran.

The newspaper reported retired Algerian Colonel, Abdul Hamid Al-Sharif as saying that the alliance is an alliance of aggression that represents the conflicts of interests raging in the region which Algeria refuses to be part of.

Meanwhile, security expert, Ahmad Azimi said in a statement that the Muslim Military Alliance does not mean anything to Algeria because the member states are under Western influence.

“If the goal of the alliance is to liberate and defend Arab countries then we welcome it, but if it aims to attack Muslim countries then Algeria cannot be part of its”.

Saudi Arabia announced on December 14, 2015 the formation of the Anti- Terrorism Muslim Military Alliance with the participation of 41 countries, including Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia and Egypt.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171130-algeria-refuses-to-join-saudi-led-muslim-military-alliance/.

2017-11-04

ALGIERS – Selembouha Dadi can only imagine the homeland she dreams of but has never seen, agonizingly out of reach beyond the Algerian refugee camp where she has spent her whole life.

“They tell me it was beautiful,” the 25-year-old said.

The territory that Dadi yearns for is Western Sahara, a sprawling swathe of desert on Africa’s Atlantic coast that has been disputed by Morocco and independence fighters from the Polisario Front for decades.

Her father Moulay abandoned everything and fled 42 years ago when Moroccan troops arrived in 1975 during the rush to claim the former Spanish colony as Madrid let it go.

Now, along with tens of thousands of other refugees, their family of nine lives in one of a string of refugee camps just 50 kilometers (30 miles) away, beyond the Algerian border and a “defense wall” erected by Morocco in the 1980s.

Morocco and Mauritania were meant to share Western Sahara when Spain relinquished control, but in 1976 the Polisario proclaimed the independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic — and was determined to fight for it.

Mauritania in 1979 gave up its claim, leaving Morocco to seize most of the 266,000 square kilometer (100,000 square mile) territory, but it was not until 1991 that a UN-backed ceasefire came into force.

Rabat considers Western Sahara an integral part of Morocco and proposes autonomy for the resource-rich territory, but the Algerian-backed Polisario Front insists on a United Nations-backed referendum on independence.

The 2,700-kilometer barrier erected by Morocco slicing from north to south divides the 80 percent of Western Sahara controlled by Morocco from the 20 percent held by the Polisario.

– ‘Left everything behind’ –

Moulay Dadi, 72, served tea in a large traditional tent, a vestige of the Sahrawis’ nomadic past, and cooler than the nearby family cottage with its zinc roof.

He recalled his life back in his desert homeland herding the family’s animals. He was 30 when the Moroccan forces arrived.

“We fled and we left everything behind us, our animals, our property, the houses,” he said.

“We left everything behind us.”

He settled in Algeria’s Tindouf region with his wife and parents, who did not live to see their homeland again.

Some 100,000 Sahrawi refugees live today in the camps around Tindouf. They belong to a mosaic of nomadic tribes who have for centuries plied the sandy expanses of the Sahara with their camels.

The Dadi family’s Boujdour camp, which, like the other camps, bears the name of an area of the Western Sahara controlled by Morocco, is dotted with brown-walled houses the color of the surrounding desert, one of the most inhospitable in the world.

Their home consists of a large living room, a small dining room and a kitchen. The shower and toilets are in a separate building.

There is intermittent electricity and no running water. Trucks pass regularly to fill a large canvas water reservoir.

Like the Dadis, many Sahrawis have set up traditional tents next to their houses in the camp, where life moves slowly.

After the morning prayer, Selembouha Dadi and her mother, in her sixties, cook and clean.

The youngest of the children, 12-year-old Mellah, goes to school.

Some of her brothers work on building sites and the others are in the army of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Sahrawi refugees in Algeria live mostly on funds from exiled relatives in Europe and on international aid.

The European Union provides some, $11.6 million (10 million euros) a year, despite the Polisario Front being accused of embezzlement in recent years.

Some residents have set up small shops — groceries, bakeries, fruit and vegetable stalls — in the camps.

Others work as officials for the SADR, which has its central administration in Rabouni, not far from Tindouf.

Isolated for decades and largely forgotten by the world, many Sahrawis still believe that they will one day return to the lands of their ancestors.

“We want our land whatever we find there,” Selembouha said.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85763.

October 7, 2017

The collective of the families of the disappeared in Algeria (CFDA) and SOS Disparu launched the “Days against forgetting” campaign this week to mark the 12th anniversary of the National Reconciliation charter deal that ended the 1990’s civil war.

The campaign marked a week of meetings in which the families of the disappeared called for justice for their loved ones who disappeared during the civil war.

At a press conference held this week at the headquarters of the Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS) in Algiers, CDFA spokesperson Nacera Dutour, President of the Djazairouna Association Cherifa Kheddar, founding member of the collective SOS Disparus, Hacene Ferhati, and a mother of a missing person, Fatma-Zohra Boucherf, met to call on the Algerian government to do more to unveil the extent of the disappearances during the Black Decade and to highlight the threats against the victims who have campaigned tirelessly for the truth.

“We have faced several amnesties during the black decade and we continue to suffer the consequences,” Dutour explained citing the Reconciliation Charter decreed in 1995 by President Liamine Zeroual which was the foundation for the referendum of the Civil Concord in 1999 and the Charter in 2005 both initiated by current president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Boucherf affirmed Dutour’s comments on the Charter adding that it “advocates the forgetting and the silence of the victims”.

According to Boucherf, whose son has been missing for the last 25 years, the “Charter asks us to forget our children and turn the page” as “President Bouteflika wished in 1999, when he declared that our children were not in his pockets.”

The criticism of the Civil Concord is mainly driven by its foundation which prioritizes “impunity and forgetting” as oppose to coming to terms with the atrocities committed during the war and bringing those complicit to justice. Article 46 of the Concord which “threatens to imprison the victims who refuse to remain silent” is what the collective have been campaigning against in getting closer to knowing what happened during the war.

“We want to know what happened, how we got there, why an Algerian killed an Algerian, why did government agents kidnap Algerians. They are asking us to turn the page but every Algerian has the right to know its history,” Boucherf concluded.

Kheddar added that not only are the victims of terrorism and enforced disappearances ignored but also condemned to prison in punishment for their demands. “Apparently, all those who have not carried weapons or committed crime cannot benefit from this Charter,” she said.

The civil war began after democratic elections in the country were cancelled by the army after it became apparent that the Islamic Salvation Front would win a majority.

It would last ten brutal years, with depraved levels of violence recorded towards the latter part by both the military and secret services and militant groups guilty of senseless violence and massacres.

Around 200,000 Algerians would perish in the war, 18,000 would disappear and one million forced to leave the country.  The Concord and subsequent Charter would allow for many government agents to walk free due to the offered impunity which meant that no one was brought to justice over the atrocities in a desperate attempt to move on from the damaging war.

Kheddar renewed calls to propose an alternative charter to integrate new demands but the calls have remained unanswered by Algerian authorities. The National Charter Commission on the National Reconciliation has also not taken on the victims’ demands.

“Twelve years later, we are unaware of what this commission has become, what it has done, if it has contacted the victims,” she continued.

The government’s recent decision to broadcast graphic images and videos from the civil war for the first time on Algerian TV has been viewed as a scare tactic by the victims in keeping them silent. “They will strike us, beat us or scare us,” Boucherf said, because they are “afraid of the truth”.

As the country takes a turn for the worst due to its current economic woes and the government attempts to ease in reforms, public assurances in the government is running low.

By broadcasting images from the civil war the government hopes to remind Algerians of the face of terrorism and how placing their hopes in an alternative is likely to force the country into the same type of violence during the Black Decade.

One of the founding members of SOS Disparus also reiterated how the figures put forward in the past by Mustapha Farouk Ksentini, the former president of the National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH), have been much lower than the numbers of victims who have come forward, adding to the authority’s culpability in not adequately investigating the disappearances.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171007-algerians-continue-fight-for-justice-for-victims-of-the-black-decade/.

June 15, 2017

Co-founder of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front, Sheikh Ali Belhadj, has criticized the siege imposed by a number of Gulf and Arab countries on Qatar.

In an interview with Quds Press, Belhadj strongly criticized the involvement of Islamic institutions and using them to achieve political purposes against the State of Qatar.

“The involvement of the Muslim World League, with the aim of gaining legitimacy for the siege against Qatar, is an insult to this institution and to the teachings of Islam which refuse such behavior in the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.

The Muslim World League should have remained neutral towards this dispute and sought to heal the rift instead of involving itself in such a way.

Belhadj pointed out that Qatar is not the target of the blockade, but the aim is to strike every Arab or Islamic country that wants to support the oppressed or the Palestinian cause.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170615-algerias-belhadj-slams-boycott-of-qatar/.

2017-06-07

ALGIERS – Dozens of Syrian refugees remained stranded in no-man’s land between Morocco and Algeria on Tuesday, non-governmental groups said, despite an Algerian offer to help.

Algiers said last week it would take in the refugees after the United Nations urged both sides to help the Syrians, who include a pregnant woman and have been stranded in the desert area since April 17.

“The Syrian refugee families are still blocked on the border between Algeria and Morocco. Authorities on both sides are passing each other the buck,” said Noureddine Benissad of the Algerian League of Human Rights.

Saida Benhabiles, the head of the Algerian Red Crescent, said a joint team from her organisation and the UN refugee agency have been waiting on the Algerian border since late Monday.

“There’s no obstacle on the Algerian side,” she said. “But the problem is they’re in Moroccan territory and we can’t go to get them.”

In a statement, non-governmental groups including the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, International Federation for Human Rights and the Algerian League of Human Rights urged “authorities in both countries to find an immediate solution”.

The zone between the two countries has been closed since 1994. The North African rivals have very difficult relations, especially over the question of Western Sahara.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83429.

May 8, 2017

What: French massacre of Algerians

When: 8 May 1945

Where: Setif, Guelma and surrounding areas

What Happened?

As Europe celebrated the beginning of the end of World War II with Germany surrendering on 8 May 1945, thousands of Algerian men, women and children were mobilized by the French in Algeria to mark the victory of the Allied forces over the Nazis.

Anti-French sentiment and the anti-colonial movement had been building across Algeria for months, leading to protests prior to 8 May. Some 4,000 protesters took to the streets of Setif, a town in northern Algeria, to press new demands for independence on the colonial government and greater rights.

Many organizations joined the protest where they held up placards including “End to occupation” and “We want equality”. When a 14-year-old member of the Muslim Scouts, Saal Bouzid, held an Algerian flag, the French on orders from General Duval, opened fire on the unarmed protesters killing Bouzid and thousands of others.

Panic ensued and clashes between the Algerians and French quickly led to violence with the French using all attempts to control the population. The colonial forces launched an air and ground offensive against several eastern cities, particularly in Setif and Guelma.

The head of the temporary government of France at the time, General De Gaulle, ordered for farmers and villagers from surrounding areas to be killed in what quickly became lynching operations and summary executions.

Thousands of bodies accumulated so quickly that burying them was impossible so they were often dumped in wells or surrounding ravines.

The violence would continue until 22 May when the tribes surrendered. By then, 45,000 Algerian men, women and children in and around the region of Setif, Guelma and Kherrata had been killed along with 102 French casualties.

What Happened next?

The massacre by the French provoked the anti-colonial movement and nine years later Algeria began its War of Independence in November 1954 – a fight which would claim the lives of 1.5 million Algerians until independence was declared in 1962.

The 8 May is an official day of mourning in Algeria which contrasts heavily with the celebratory anniversary around Europe. On February 2005, Hubert Colin de Verdière, France’s ambassador to Algeria, formally apologized for the massacre, calling it an “inexcusable tragedy”. President of Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika has called the Setif massacre the beginning of a “genocide” perpetrated during the Algerian War by French occupation forces. France has denounced this description.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170508-remembering-the-massacre-of-45000-algerians/.

2017-03-01

ALGIERS – Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has rarely appeared in public since a crippling stroke in 2013, marks his 80th birthday on Thursday amid persistent doubts over his health.

He suffered a bout of bronchitis in February, forcing German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the last minute to cancel a scheduled visit to Algiers and sparking renewed speculation about his future.

“The president has not directly addressed the Algerians since 2012. No Algerian can believe that there is not a power vacuum,” Ahmed Adhimi, a professor of political science at the University of Algiers, said.

In a May 2012 speech, Bouteflika hinted he would give up power at the end of his third term in 2014.

“For my generation, it’s game over,” the president told a room full of young Algerians.

But despite a stroke the following year which forced him to spend nearly three months recovering in France, he fought the 2014 election and soundly beat his longtime rival, former prime minister Ali Benflis.

Bouteflika attended his inauguration in a wheelchair, barely able to deliver more than a few paragraphs of his speech and mumble through the oath of office.

Since then, he has rarely appeared in public, receiving foreign heads of state or government in privacy at his official residence in Zeralda, west of the capital.

– ‘Power vacuum’ –

His opponents repeatedly speak of a power vacuum at the top of government.

But Bouteflika has clung to power, restructuring the army and intelligence services and keeping rivals at bay.

In 2015, he dismissed the Abdelkader Ait Ouarabi, a powerful counter-terrorism chief known as “General Hassan” who was later sentenced to five years in jail for destroying documents and disobeying orders.

The following day, Bouteflika dismissed secret service boss General Mohamed Mediene, a political kingmaker during his 25 years at the head of the DRS intelligence agency.

But the cancellation of the octogenarian’s meeting with Merkel last month rekindled doubts about the state of political life in Algeria.

“Bouteflika’s illness is not a problem in itself,” said Redouane Boudjemaa, a media expert at the University of Algiers.

“The real debate is not about whether the president goes or stays, but about the fate of this system, (which is) corrupt, resistant to any change and ready to keep him president for life,” he said.

For many Algerians, the president’s long disappearances reflect an opaque system dominated by the military.

“I sometimes question the authenticity of the images broadcast on (public) television showing President Bouteflika receiving foreign guests,” said Mourad, a retiree aged nearly 70 who struggles to get by on a derisory pension.

He said he is “convinced that the army has ruled the country since the country’s independence in 1962”.

But Djamel, an employee of Algeria’s state railway company, said Bouteflika had achieved a lot and “sacrificed himself” for Algeria.

“He accepted a fourth mandate to complete the projects he launched,” he said, underlining the division of public opinion on Bouteflika.

A veteran of Algeria’s war of independence, “Boutef” was born on March 2, 1937 in the Moroccan border town of Oujda to a family from Tlemcen, western Algeria.

In power since 1999, he has faced a decade of health problems that have forced him to spend long periods being treated abroad.

A bleeding stomach ulcer dispatched him to Paris for an operation in late 2005, one of multiple stays in French hospitals.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81772.

February 15, 2017

The top human rights organisation in Algeria announced yesterday that it has contacted the UN Human Rights Council regarding France’s refusal to admit to the crimes of its nuclear test program. The French government carried out 17 nuclear tests in the Algerian desert, causing the death of 42,000 individuals; thousands more were left chronically ill due to being exposed to nuclear radiation.

The details were revealed in a statement by the National Secretary of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, Houari Kaddour, who is tasked with this issue, during an interview with Anadolu news agency. Kaddour stressed that his organisation “is trying to use all legal means to put the French authorities on trial and prosecute them in all international legal bodies, as well as in the EU, for their crimes.”

Algeria marked the 57th anniversary of the French nuclear tests two days ago. They were carried out between 1960 and 1966; Algeria gained independence from France in 1962. The French authorities still refuse to admit to these crimes and instead have announced that they will pay financial compensation to the victims.

According to Kaddour, his organisation contacted the UN Human Rights council and requested it to look into the crimes. “We also urged the Algerians in Europe to help us find lawyers specializing in international law to file a lawsuit against France in the next three months, before the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in the EU. We also plan to prosecute France in the local courts in Switzerland which specialize in international crimes.”

Kaddour said that his organisation is coordinating with a number of human rights and international bodies in this regard, including all international human rights organisations, international organisations against nuclear testing, and French human rights groups. He noted that the Algerians had submitted over 730,000 compensation cases that were rejected by the compensation committee due to the impossible conditions imposed on the victims. Civilian victims, he added, are not recognized.

The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights accused the Algerian authorities of “not putting enough pressure on France to admit to these crimes.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170215-algerians-take-steps-to-prosecute-france-for-nuclear-tests/.

January 11, 2017

What: 1992 elections are cancelled by the military

Where: Algeria

When: 11 January 1992

What happened?

By October 1988, Algerians’ anger was made tangible for the country’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party, and deadly protests in Algiers forced the FLN to accept the reality that they were no longer infallible against the masses.

As a result, new constitutional reforms introduced by President Chadli Bendjedid enabled multi-party participation for the first time since the inception of the autocratic FLN regime in 1962. The party which benefited the most from this new introduction was the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), formed on 18 February 1989, whose popularity exploded amongst marginalized Algerians tired of their exclusion from the socio-political environment.

The FIS were able to make considerable gains in their first year by building bridges with the young urban poor. Indeed, it was mainly due to meetings between Bendjedid and FIS’ Ali Benhadj, as well as members of the Muslim Brotherhood, that the October riots began to peter out.

By 12 June 1990, the first free local elections since independence took place, with Algerian voters choosing the FIS and winning 54% of votes; more than double what the FLN received or any other parties.

However, the Gulf War against Iraq in January 1991 provoked a change in the FLN’s tolerance of FIS. Benhadj, a charismatic preacher, delivered an impassioned speech for volunteers to fight alongside Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and this was seen as an affront to the military hierarchy. A strike called by the FIS against the realignment of electoral districts provoked a state of emergency in June 1991 in which parliamentary elections were postponed till December. Soon after, FIS leaders Abassi Madani and Ali Benhadj were arrested and later sentenced to twelve years in prison.

Despite all this, FIS participated in the first round of legislative elections on 26 December 1991 and won with a resounding majority in a voter turnout of 59%. The party was able to secure 231 seats with more predictable gains in the second round of ballots on 13 January 1992. The FLN came second with just 16 elected deputies and Hocine Ait Ahmed’s Socialist Forces Front in third place.

The inevitability of a victory, a first for an Islamist party, was beginning to make the Algerian elite uncomfortable, not to mention elites in Paris who were watching their former colony. For the US, the possibility of a party, despite being democratically elected, that could be hostile to the United States and indeed their interests in the region was enough to justify the FLN’s forthcoming action, which led to a bloody civil war that lasted until 2002.

On 11 January 1992, the military stepped in, cancelling the electoral process and banning FIS as a party which was later completely dissolved by March. According to the Algerian authorities, 5,000 FIS members were arrested. However, French researcher Gilles Kepel put the number at 40,000 members, including then-leader Abdelkader Hachani. President Bendjedid was forced to resign and his successor, a former exiled independence fighter, Mohamed Boudiaf, was sworn in as president. His reign was short-lived by his assassination four months later.

Offshoot organisations of FIS, mainly the Islamic Armed Movement (MIA) and Armed Islamic Group (GIA), saw the military’s actions as a cause for war and a justification to take up arms against the state.

This war would last ten brutal years, with depraved levels of violence recorded towards the latter part by both the military and secret services and militant groups guilty of senseless violence and massacres.

Around 200,000 Algerians would perish in the war, 18,000 would disappear and one million forced to leave the country. The state of emergency would only be lifted in 2011 by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has held office since 1999, as a response to protests during the onset of the Arab Spring.

Benhadj and Madani were later released in 2003, and in 2005 Bouteflika offered a general amnesty to end legal proceedings against former fighters which was supported by 97% of the country in a national referendum. The Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation was implemented on September 2006, formally reconciling the warring parties and leading to the Algeria we see today.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170111-algeria-how-cancelling-elections-led-to-war/.