What's going on in Algeria?

What's going on in Algeria?
Comment: The sacking and replacement of senior military and intelligence heads point to a serious shake up in the country that could affect the entire region, writes Ali Anouzla.
3 min read
12 Nov, 2015
Bouteflika's health and rare public appearances have given rise to speculation [Getty]
Foreign observers, Algerian opposition figures and even close aides and supporters of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika are questioning the strange and sometimes contradictory events that have recently been taking place in the country.

Last week, 19 prominent Algerian figures held a press conference in the capital, Algiers, demanding to know whether the recent changes in the military and intelligence leadership were actually made by the president.

Among the participants who demanded to meet the president to make sure he was healthy enough to run the country was the author Rachid Boudjedra, and Louisa Hanoune, the leader of Algeria's opposition Workers' Party, who ran for president in 2004.
     The Algerian president, reelected for a fourth consecutive term last year, has not addressed his people for 18 months

The Algerian president, reelected for a fourth consecutive term last year, has not addressed his people for 18 months, the last time being when he read the oath of office - with great difficulty.

Furthermore, the last time Bouteflika was seen walking was in April 2013, just before suffering a stroke. Since then, the Algerian media has only shown him sitting in a wheelchair, barely moving his hands and having difficulties speaking.

However, despite his terminal illness and stroke-induced paralysis, Bouteflika has made some very important decisions that have toppled military and intelligence heavyweights thought by many Algerians to be the country's real kingmakers.

Read more: 'No power struggle' over Algeria's presidency, says analyst

These were decisions that former Algerian presidents could not make, and which Bouteflika himself was hesitant to make during his first two terms in office, despite a clean bill of health. They have spurred many to wonder who Algeria's true ruler making these critical decisions may be.

Speculation abounds

I have posed this question to numerous Algerian figures known for their credibility and independence, and every time, I received the same answer: no one in Algeria knows what is going on in the presidential palace.

There are those who speculate that the ailing president's brother, Said Bouteflika, or his inner circle, is responsible.

However, critics of this theory point out that since the independence of Algeria, the country has been in the firm hands of the military, which under no circumstance would allow a civilian, even if president, let alone Bouteflika's brother, to dismiss senior military or intelligence generals without securing the military's approval.

Furthermore, those who know the strength of Algeria's military - which has ruled the country for 50 years - realise that dismantling its power is no easy feat, and even former presidents who came from within the military were not able to clip the military's wings.

     It is impossible to believe that a terminally ill and paralysed man named Abdelaziz Bouteflika is responsible for these major decisions

Therefore, it is impossible to believe that a terminally ill and paralysed man named Abdelaziz Bouteflika is responsible for these major decisions.

Yet, regardless of the person who made the orders, whose identity is probably only known to a select few, the changes made at the top of Algeria's security apparatus point to very serious developments that could have grave ramifications.

The rapid developments in the centres of Algerian power indicate that any changes that could affect the country would have severe ramifications, not only on Algeria but the entire region, due to the country's size and strategic weight.

Furthermore, the collapse of the Algerian regime for any reason will not be in anyone's interest, as it will represent an earthquake whose shockwaves will undoubtedly be felt in neighbouring countries and further destabilise the entire geopolitical neighbourhood.

Ali Anouzla is a Morrocan-Sahrawi journalist and editor-in-chief of Lakome. Follow him on Twitter: @anouzlaali

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.