#GetToKnowCapeVerde
July 5, 2016
#AfricanLeaders: Malawi
July 6, 2016

#GetToKnowAlgeria

Algeria, a gateway between Africa and Europe, has experienced violence over the past half-century. More than a million Algerians were killed in the fight for independence from France in 1962. The country emerged from a brutal internal conflict caused when elections that Islamists appeared certain to win were cancelled in 1992. A low-level Islamist insurgency still affects Algeria today[1]. The Sahara Desert covers more than four-fifths of the Algeria and it is the continent’s biggest country, and is the world’s 10th largest. Most Algerians live along the northern coast. Oil and gas reserves were discovered there in the desert in the 1950s.

Algeria was conquered by the French in 1830 and was given the status of an overseas province. The struggle for independence began in 1954 headed by the National Liberation Front (FLN), which came to power on independence in 1962. After the independence, a violent civil war emerged, that was the result of an undemocratic interference of the military in the politics of the country. In the 1990s, Algerian politics was dominated by the struggle involving the military and Islamist militants. In 1992, a general election won by an Islamist party was cancelled, resulting in a bloody civil war in which more than 150,000 people died [2]. An amnesty in 1999 led many rebels to lay down their arms. Although political violence in Algeria has declined since the 1990s, the country has been shaken by a campaign of bombings carried out by a group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Algerian political system has historically been dominated by factional politics between and within various groups and individuals. These include the National Liberation Front (FLN); the most powerful and organized political party in the country, the Algerian Peoples’ National Army (ANP), the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), and several formal opposition parties. The Algerian military has also played an influential role in Algerian politics. The institution reasserted itself in the early 1990s, after forcibly canceling the second round of parliamentary elections in 1991 when the popular Islamist party at the time, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), appeared set to win [3].

Since being elected president in 1999, Abdelaziz  Bouteflika has been credited with managing a period of economic growth and stability. His rise to power came with the army’s support, a necessary requirement in the country’s political landscape. Bouteflika helped put an end to the country’s armed conflict, restricted the military’s role in civilian affairs, and improved Algeria’s relations with other countries.  His economic policies have even been credited with declining youth unemployment.

In the beginning of 2011, widespread protests broke out in Algeria over the sudden increase in staple food prices. The government lowered the food prices, but the Arab spring in neighboring countries inspired labor unions, opposition parties and religious groups to organize large-scale protests across the entire country. As a response to the unrest the authorities promised to make the 2012 parliamentary elections a next step on the road towards real democracy. But while officials have called the elections as ‘an Algerian spring’ they were mainly marked by a low turnout [4].

The Bouteflika regime has continued to oppress independent labor unions and tightly monitoring anti-regime protests, including those seen in the months leading up to and following the 2014 presidential election. While election boycotters were officially allowed to organize rallies, the regime kept a close eye on meetings and was quick to dissolve them. Opposition political parties in Algeria remain divided and weak which has attributed the long stay of Bouteflika. According to Kamal Benkoussa, a former London-based financier who returned to Algeria in September 2013 to enter the presidential elections race and later withdrew his candidacy, “In Algeria, it is very difficult to speak about a real opposition. This is one of the reasons why it was very easy to impose Bouteflika’s new term,” [5].

 

Independence year 5 July 1962
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Government Republic
Capital City Algiers
GDP (2014) $ 214.06 billion
Population (2015) 35.5 million
Religion Islam
Major Languages Arabic, French, Berber
Currency Dinar[6]
Life Expectancy  72 years (men), 75 years (women)

 

[1] BBC News. 2015. Algeria country profile. Available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14118852.

 (Accessed on: 2 July 2016).

[2] n 1

[3] European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity. Algeria. Available at: http://www.europeanforum.net/country/algeria. (Accessed on: 3 July 2016).

[4] n 3

[5]Aljazeera News. 2014.  Divisions run deep within Algerian opposition. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/06/divisions-run-deep-within-algerian-opposition-20146610562183943.html. (Accessed on: 1 July 2016).

[6] n 1