Algeria faces interlocking political and socio-economic challenges three years after a long-awaited presidential transition. A largely peaceful protest movement called the Hirak – prompted by the ex-president's attempt to prolong his tenure but driven by deeper grievances – filled the streets on Fridays for much of the period 2019-2021. The Hirak has faded, but its goals are unrealised, and renewed unrest is an ever present possibility. Tensions with Morocco, including over Western Sahara, also loom, threatening to roil North Africa. Through fieldwork and engagement with senior officials, Crisis Group works to enhance Algeria’s contribution to stability and conflict resolution in a troubled neighbourhood.
Le chef de l’Etat algérien, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a convoqué des élections législatives anticipées qui se tiendront le 12 juin. Dans ce Q&A, l’expert de Crisis Group Michael Ayari explique pourquoi ce scrutin pourrait marquer l’entrée dans une nouvelle phase d’instabilité.
Restrictions on free speech continued, tensions with Morocco remained high over Western Sahara, and diplomatic engagement with Mali and France continued.
Crackdown on dissent continued. Court in capital Algiers 15 Jan extended pre-trial detention of prominent journalist Ihsane El Kadi – arrested in Dec and charged with “receiving foreign funds” and “harming the security of the state” – in absence of journalist’s lawyers as court failed to inform them that appeal hearing initially scheduled for 18 Jan had been moved to earlier date. Ruling of administrative court dissolving NGO Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights leaked online 20 Jan; league 22 Jan confirmed document’s authenticity, while also saying it had never been notified of procedure.
Relations between Algiers and Rabat remained tense over Western Sahara. Authorities refused to grant Moroccan football team authorisation to fly directly to Algeria for African Nations Championship (CHAN) held 13 Jan-4 Feb, resulting in team’s absence from competition; airspace has remained closed to all Moroccan flights since Sept 2021. At CHAN’s opening ceremony, Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela 13 Jan called for liberation of “the last colony of Africa, Western Sahara”; Morocco’s football federation next day condemned “provocative” speech.
Authorities discussed regional security with Mali and France. Malian FM Abdoulaye Diop 15-16 Jan visited Algiers, discussed issues related to 2015 Algiers peace agreement between Bamako and northern armed groups with President Tebboune and FM Ramtane Lamamra (see Mali). Army chief of staff Gen. Saïd Chengriha 24 Jan visited France, met with French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu reportedly to discuss security situation in Sahel after Tebboune late Dec criticised presence of Russian private military company Wagner Group in Mali.
In other important developments. Tebboune 19 Jan said foreign exchange reserves were exceeding $60bn and economic growth was expected to reach 5% in 2023.
Morocco cannot follow Algeria in terms of military spending, so a military alliance with Israel is a way to balance the power with Algeria.
We're seeing a diplomatic war [over Western Sahara], where both sides [Algeria and Morocco] are resorting to anything short of open conflict.
Israel's alliance with Morocco could mean that in the long-term Rabat becomes militarily superior to Algiers and dominant in the region.
[...] here we have three crises -- economic, political and the virus -- potentially converging at a time when the population is still highly mobilized and trust in the [A...
The [Algerian] protest movement could be made more determined in the future due to the economic and social consequences of the [COVID-19] restrictions, as well as the rep...
[The fall in oil prices] may not be so bad, if it is only for a month or two, but if it is for longer, [Algeria] will have to speed up its adoption of austerity measures.
Le 1er novembre 2020, le référendum constitutionnel sur lequel comptait le pouvoir algérien pour avancer vers des réformes a été éclipsé par l’hospitalisation du président Tebboune. Dans ce Q&A, notre analyste principal pour l’Algérie et la Tunisie, Michael Ayari, anticipe les risques de cette situation.
Algeria is now facing more challenges due to the social and economic fallout from the Covid-19 crisis and the country’s official lockdown measures. The authorities should respond to popular protests with a lighter touch and sit together with Hirak members to discuss the country’s economy.
A new wave of popular protests has jolted an already deeply unsettled Arab world. Nine years ago, uprisings across the region signalled a rejection of corrupt autocratic rule that failed to deliver jobs, basic services and reliable infrastructure. Yet regime repression and the protests’ lack of organisation, leadership and unified vision thwarted hopes of a new order. As suddenly as the uprisings erupted, as quickly they descended into violence. What followed was either brutal civil war or regime retrenchment. Tunisia stands as the sole, still fragile, exception.
A groundswell of popular unrest has ended Bouteflika’s twenty-year rule and brought Algeria to a fork in the road. The regime should embark on substantive reforms and enter dialogue with protest leaders in order to prevent the cycle of mass protests and repressive counter-measures spiralling out of control.
Protests against Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika have seized the country since he announced his candidacy for a fifth term ahead of the April election. In this Q&A, our analyst Michaël Ayari looks at the causes of an unprecedented uprising and examines future scenarios.
Political paralysis in oil-dependent Algeria has blocked much-needed economic reform. To avoid a new era of instability, the government should increase transparency and accountability within state institutions and the private sector, as well as improve opportunities for the country’s burgeoning youth.
Refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, have long been run by the Polisario movement, which seeks an independent state in Western Sahara, also claimed by Morocco. But a new generation of Sahrawi refugees is growing fractious as aid dwindles and diplomatic efforts fail to deliver a settlement.
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.
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