Algeria’s revolutionary history is tarnished by its regime

Algeria’s independence from France has been celebrated globally, but the 60th anniversary is likely to be overshadowed by decades of corruption, backdoor deals with the former colonizer and political repression by the regime, writes Abdelkader Cheref.

Algeria declared its independence after signing the Evian Accords on March 18, 1962. [GETTY]

On July 5, 2022, Algeria celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence from France.

Sixty years have passed since the triumph of the Algerian war of independence (1954-1962). And the victory remains a jubilant episode in modern Arab history.

The Algerian Revolution was a national armed struggle whose ultimate objective was to bring down the colonial domination of the French colonists which prevailed for more than a century (1830-1962).

Not only was this a major event in the MENA region and the world, but it also had an impact on the decolonization movement in sub-Saharan Africa.

Many historians believe that the “savage war of peace” took the lives of some 1.5 million people. Algerians.

Yet the aftermath of the Revolution continues to raise questions about the current political and socio-economic situation in Algeria.

”Sixty years after hard-won independence, dozens of analysts are struggling to accept that Algeria – an oil-rich country – is struggling with poor infrastructure, high unemployment, limited civil libertiescronyism, hundreds of political prisoners and a muzzled opposition.”

Despite the fact that the country wasmecca of revolutionariespost-independence leaders were more concerned with seizing power than improving the miserable conditions of the Algerian people. And repairing the devastation wrought by the eight-year War of Independence was the least of their worries.

A good example is that of ousted former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whom many analysts consider a putschist and one of the architects of the Algerian authoritarian regime.

The man played a key role in the dissolution of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA) and in the organization of the June 1965 coup. A coup that overthrew Ahmed Ben Bella, the first president elected civilian from Algeria, and installed Colonel Houari Boumediene as de facto president.

This coup not only allowed the high military ranks to dominate the political scene, but it also allowed a group of National Liberation Front (FLN) apparatchiks to seize power and impose a corrupt authoritarian regime. with a democratic facade.

And when the riots of October 1988 occurred, the powers that be were forced to write a new constitution and allowed the emergence of a relatively free press. They also allowed the legal existence of secular and Islamist political parties.

But when the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was about to win the first free legislative elections in December 1991, the army intervened, canceled the elections, halted the democratic process, imprisoned thousands of Algerians in camps of concentration in the Sahara desert and triggered a dirty civil war who pinned the Islamist militants against the Algerian military.

The civil war claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Algerians and foreign nationals.

It should be mentioned that despite Algeria’s vast oil wealth, the various post-independence governments have all exercised power in a tribal manner, based on systemic corruption, nepotism, embezzlement, cronyism and resistance to change.

According to some estimates, more than US$1 trillion in oil revenue was stolen or misused during former President Bouteflika’s 20-year rule.

The intransigence of the system has been so full of twists and turns that Algeria has experienced multiple crises with the former colonizer as well as with the neighboring countries of the Maghreb.

Although Algeria and Morocco share a common historical and cultural heritage, hostility towards Morocco dates back to the 1963 border conflict, called the War of the Sands. This territorial dispute, which took place less than a year after Algerian independence, claimed the lives of hundreds of people on both sides and ultimately defined the malevolent relationship between the two brotherly countries.

Since the signing of the Evian Accords on March 18, 1962 – which ended the Algerian War and paved the way for independence from France, Algeria has maintained a strained relationship with the former colonial power.

Although France was authorized to carry out 17 of its nuclear tests in the Algerian Sahara Desert until 1966, and former French President de Gaulle managed to strike a secret deal with Boumediene and Bouteflika to allow chemical weapons testing until 1978the regime’s anti-French rhetoric was primarily aimed at domestic consumption.

For many observers, Paris has always maintained good relations with Algiers. Intelligence and military cooperation that takes place without public knowledge has been remarkably successful. In January 2013, the Algerian authorities authorized French military jets use the country’s airspace to reach Mali when the French were fighting the jihadists. Such closeness to the former colonial ruler did not sit well with Algerians.

If for the former French ambassador to Algeria, Mr. Xavier Driencourt, whose recent book – The Algerian Puzzlehighlights the complex and complicated relationship between Algeria and France, for Luis Martinezpolitical scientist at Sciences Po Paris, “despite appearances and criticism, there was a stable, very balanced relationship”.

However, this neo-colonial enterprise was rejected by the Hirak.

protesters showed that the interference of the French establishment in Algerian affairs was made possible only by “french hizb(Party of France) – those Algerian officials who spare no effort to defend French interests at the expense of those of Algeria.

Given the seismic effect of the Algerian Revolution on the post-colonial world, the current corrupt and authoritarian regime has tarnished Algeria’s position.

Do Algerians deserve to be in such an impasse? What happened to the Algerian combativeness? Did the glorious Revolution rise like a rocket to fall like a stick? These questions are worth asking.

Sixty years after hard-won independence, dozens of analysts are struggling to accept that Algeria – an oil-rich country – is struggling with poor infrastructure, high unemployment, limited civil libertiescronyism, hundreds of political prisoners and a muzzled opposition.

It should be mentioned that many To see the Hirak as “a struggle for post-dictatorial independence after the struggle for post-colonial independence”.

will be the Hirak, in the continuity of the Algerian national movement, succeed in overthrowing the regime which confiscated the independence of Algeria? Time will tell us.

Dr. Abdelkader Cheref is an Algerian scholar and freelance journalist based in the United States. A former Fulbright Scholar, he holds a PhD from the University of Exeter, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. His research interests are mainly politics in the MENA region, democratization, Islam/Islamism and political violence with a particular focus on the Maghreb.

Follow him on Twitter @Abdel_Cheref

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The views expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or its staff.