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
Protests including against light austerity measures in 2017 budget continued. Police 15 Feb dispersed pharmacy and dental surgery students in central Algiers as they tried to protest for better training and employment. Relations with Saudi Arabia continued to thaw; eight MoUs on phosphates, mining and tourism signed at Algeria-Saudi Arabia business council in Algiers 15 Feb. Two French women arrested 1 Feb at Algerian husbands’ houses near Boumerdes in north for belonging to terrorist groups. Army 15 Feb said it had killed five “terrorists” in Bouira, 125km from Algiers. Army found two significant arms caches 24 Feb in Adrar governorate in south, near border with Mali and Niger. Govt 28 Feb said army same day “neutralised” nine suspected Islamist militants in Kabylie region in north, seizing weapons and ammunition. Islamic State claimed 26 Feb suicide bombing at police station in Constantine in north, two officers injured.
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