As waves of protests have hit the hydrocarbon-rich Algerian south since 2013, authorities maintained a tenuous peace through handouts, repression and policing. To calm tensions, the state needs to clarify policies, communicate with local protestors and address underlying issues of governance.
Originally published in Slate Afrique
Parties 9 April began campaigning for 4 May parliamentary elections. Two minor opposition parties Jil Jadid and Talaiyet el Houria said they would boycott, but leading opposition coalition National Coordination for Democratic Liberties and Transition said it would compete. Govt 15 April said Facebook user who mocked campaign posters arrested for trying to “undermine the legislative process”. French PM in Algiers 5 April signed ten bilateral agreements with govt. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini 8 April visited Algiers for second time in two years to intensify dialogue, including on Libya, Mali, Sahel and Western Sahara. Army 4 April arrested four people in Jijel city (NE) for suspected terrorist links. Military 14 April killed three armed drug traffickers near Mauritanian border (SW).
Algeria has emerged as an indispensable broker of stability in North Africa and the Sahel. But, especially as it enters a generational transition in domestic politics, it needs better strategies to deal with financial pressures, a neighbourhood in turmoil, cross-border jihadi threats, and ongoing tensions with France and Morocco. It should also resolve a presidential succession that is paralysing institutions.
This is the third of a series of briefings and reports on Islamism in North Africa. The first provided general background on the range and diversity of Islamic activism in the region, and subsequent papers examine with respect to particular states, the outlook and strategies of the main Islamist movements and organisations, their relations with the state and each other and how they have evolved. The analysis focuses on the relationship between Islamic activism and violence, especially but not only terrorism and the problem of political reform in general and democratisation in particular.
Islamism, terrorism, reform: the triangle formed by these three concepts and the complex and changeable realities to which they refer is at the centre of political debate in and about North Africa today.
In late April 2001, lethal provocations by elements of Algeria’s National Gendarmerie triggered protracted and deadly rioting in Kabylia. That the unrest from Kabylia’s Black Spring continues to this day reflects the political system’s nation-wide failure to adopt reforms that address its deficit of democratic representation.
Multiparty parliamentary elections are a comparatively recent innovation in Algeria, and in each instance to date the outcome has been overshadowed by the process that preceded or followed it.
Originally published in International New York Times