Algeria's generals face prosecution and arrest

Algeria's generals face prosecution and arrest
3 min read
06 October, 2015
Analysis: Algerian President Bouteflika is moving to the second phase of his bid to curtail the influence of the military over politics.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika wants to curtail the influence of the army over politics [AFP]
Fifteen years ago, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika addressed the Algerians, calling on them to help him curtail the influence of "the fifteen".

This was during the campaign that preceded the referendum over the National Accord Charter, a few months after he took power in 1999.

Bouteflika was referencing fifteen army generals who at the time controlled decision-making in the country and a large chunk of the national economy. It was clear the Algerian president was embarking on a complex journey that had many domestic and foreign requirements before he could deliver on his promises to the Algerians.

One example of how complex implementing these promises has been is what happened to retired general Hussein Ben-Hadid. Shortly after appearing on television a few days ago attacking Said Bouteflika, the president's brother, and Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah, security forces surrounded Ben-Hadid's house and arrested him.

Ben-Hadid was charged with "divulging military secrets".

This is the second time within a month that a senior general has been arrested. Before him, General Hassan - also known as Abdelkader Ait-Ouarab - was arrested.

Hassan was in charge of counter-terrorism, and was detained on charge of "possessing firearms without informing higher authorities". He remains in military prison.
This is the second time in a month that a senior general has been arrested

The arrests have sparked anxiety over Bouteflika's conduct against his opponents in the military, with support from the army chiefs of staff.

The impression is that Bouteflika is moving to the second phase of his bid to curtail the influence of the military over politics, following the dismissals and forced retirements of several army and intelligence generals.

It is thought that this second phase will be sharper than the first, involving arrests of generals critical of the president's policies. This could deter other generals from expressing political positions or revealing information related to the events of the past two decades.

Some observers believe one of the leading motivations of Ben-Hadid's arrest is his willingness to testify on certain events during "the black decade" - the civil war in Algeria in the 1990s. During that time, the generals played a major role after pressuring President Chadli Bendjedid to resign in January 1992. The war left more than 120,000 dead and 7,400 missing.

Many of Algeria's ruling class do not want to restart any discussions about these events, especially since many local and international parties believe the generals were involved.

Several senior commanders in the intelligence services have already been forced to retire. Before that, many powerful army generals had fallen, one after the other, since Bouteflika took power.

Observers say that the 78-year-old Bouteflika is in the process of transitioning from the phase of dismantling influential military cadres to the phase of preventing them from engaging in politics - to subdue any response by retired or active generals who reject his reforms, and to prepare the grounds for his successor.