In this Muftah podcast, we speak with Amel Boubekeur, research fellow at the Ecole Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, about her recent report on Algeria for Freedom House. In this wide-ranging interview, we speak with Amel about political developments in Algeria since the end of the country’s civil war, the Algerian response to the Arab Spring, and the country’s political future.

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  • This is to witness the fact that took place in Algeria in 1988, 1991 and more recently in the wake of the Arab uprising.

    After the Algerian uprising in 1988, the transition was compromised from its begging as the FLN, the regime unique political party, which was ruling the country since Algeria independence in 1962, was not dissolved but kept with its 26-year well established structure without been subject to any accountability. Furthermore, the government that was in charge of the transition was forced in one way or the other to declare itself “as a government from the front” means from the FLN, since all its members or ministers were FLN members and only few were independent after they have been previously excluded from the regime.

    President Zeroual did resign because the “talks” with the jihadist were conducted in secrecy and without completely involving him. But it was already about getting an amnesty to the islamists whom rebelled against the Algerian regime that was already back to its old ruling by stopping the legislative election in 1992 won by the Islamic front of salvation ( FIS), after president Chadli was forced to resign in a “silent coup”.

    The islamists in Algeria before the election promised an Islamic state and agreed to participate in the election as a “one time” election, that will never be held again under an Islamic regime.

    Bouteflika in 1999 came at period that the amnesty for the jihadist was losing its credibility by reaching its deadline after imposing some criteria that didn’t solve the problem since it was specifically designed to pardon only those who didn’t committed any murder, which term confused those who were involved in the war against the security forces. So the law was just extended to allow those who didn’t agree to the amnesty in its first version to stop fighting and to reintegrate a normal life. Most of the jihadist did even receive a salary adjustment, from the day they rebelled against the regime to the day they signed the amnesty agreement!

    President Bouteflika cannot claim credit on that but can certainly do on another process which was to rebuild the credibility of the” Zaouiyates”, an Islamic religion school in charge of spreading Islam, to restructure the Islamic movement in Algeria and put it therefore under the immediate control of the state, and as to have a political support in the Islamic political trend later on.

    When President Bouteflika was asked about corruption soon after taking office, he said that a line was drawn in the sand to him, as to explain that he was limited in his actions against corruption. In that time most of the army generals who participated in “protecting the country from the jihadist” did claim their share of wealth as compensation. Bouteflika power was by then limited to reactivate the Algerian diplomacy.

    Today the corruption that is reaching all administrations is a result of the deep inflation Algeria is facing even when displaying a kind of economical growth (GDP) and the lack of an investment strategy that will revise the investment laws in the country. It is also an obstacle for local and international investors who wish to extend their operations in Algeria.

    The private sector in Algeria is still subject to “the connection” its operators must have with the military junta and persons of influence. There is no procedure that can be concluded without the participation of one of these two circles of influence. The rule of law is far to be established and the democratic reforms promised by Bouteflika after a hearing, where some participants were asked to provide their poltical views in writing, seems to turn to a political circus, where no reel commitment is made and no agenda for change is provided but a change in some laws under the same parliament, same prime minister, same president is taken place as a transition before a transition, which is just another scenario to face a situation created by the uprising taken place in Arab countries..

    Chafik Ben Guesmia