The Malian Crisis: Algeria’ Destabilising Interference
By Abdelkader Filali. Ph.D.
The military regime in Algeria, cannot and will never be a peace broker, but a conflict maker. The whole literature, which studied military regimes in various geographies notes that by its nature, a military regime does not have the authenticity and the credibility to manage peace mediation.
The Cash Diplomacy
The junta in Algeria have accelerated its efforts to resurrect the arsenal of ‘active malign measures’ tools of political warfare once used in the Cold War era that aimed to influence African events through the manipulation of media, society, and politics. Algeria tried to leverage the tools they have to help creating warlords, and fortunes of fewer elites such as using the Cash Diplomacy to pay for the medicines, salaries to just hindering Morocco, and at the same time increase their dependence on Algeria, which in turn gives leverage over them.
The History of the Algerian Diplomatic Failure
In 2012, Jeremy Keenan an anthropologist and an associate professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and works as a consultant on the Sahara and the Sahel for many international organizations, including the United Nations, the European Commission, and many others- warned against the maneuvers of the Algerian secret military intel to destabilize the Sahel. He anticipated, back then when argued that Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the Sahara-Sahel is a predominantly an Algerian construct.
According to Keenan, AQIM’s leaders in the region, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, Yahia Djouadi and Mokhtar ben Mokhtar all have links with Algeria’s secret intelligence service, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS). Iyad has been an accomplice of the DRS in the fabrication of terrorism.
In 2012, Keenan noted, Algeria sought to get its favored candidate, Iyad Ghali. He was the main leader of the Tuareg rebellion that began in 1990 and ended with the peace ceremony at Timbuktu in 1996. During that period, Iyad came under the eye of the DRS who were concerned that the rebellion might spread into Algeria. Abdelkrim”, a cousin of Iyad Ag Ghali, the former Tuareg rebel leader and a prominent dignitary in Mali’s northeastern Kidal region, had conducted the abduction of French expatriates. As early as November 27, the French newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, security experts in Niamey, pointed the finger very firmly at Iyad Ghali with the support of ‘a secret service of a military neighboring country!?’
Two days later, on December 15, Iyad had announced the establishment of a new popular jihadist group called Ansar Al-Din, (“The Supporters of the Faith”). Five days later, Algerian forces entered Mali. The incidents were also used to underpin the name change of the Groupe Salafiste pour le Prédication et le Combat (GSPC) to AQIM. By now, Iyad was fully in hock to the DRS. Notes Keenan.
In 2013, Harsh criticisms were made by the capitals of the countries to which the foreign hostages mainly Norwegian, Japanese, French, American and British nationalities working in the gas exploitation field in the Ain Aminas operation (a small municipality part of Illizi, located in the depths of the Sahara, near the Algerian-Libyan border). The Algerian army intervened. 23 hostages were killed. This high number of civilian casualties should not have occurred.
The Usual Business since Boumediene
Jeremy Keenan, an anthropologist said that Algeria’ apparent attempts to interfere in the internal politics of Mali are a familiar sight. In Libya, Algeria has been cultivating relationships with several groups that are currently enjoying a surge in popularity. Closer to home, in its western borders, Algeria has made many attempts since 1975 to destabilise Morocco for the purpose of gaining access to the Atlantic, most clearly a corridor to the ocean for its suffocating trade routes.
This is the kind of thing that Algeria has been doing for a long time, going back to the 1975 when 40.000 Moroccan families residing in Algeria were forcibly expelled in an early morning of a religious day.
Operating in the shadows of the grey zone that, Algeria’ hybrid warfare aims to undermine rising regional economic powers and societies through a toxic mix of Cold War old manoeuvres, disinformation, malign alliances, economic pressure and the use of all means to simply counter Morocco.
These operations are intended to support the survival of the military regime’s ultimate objectives: to erode Morocco’ rising power, re-consolidate military demagoguery of a group of geriatric soldiers to remain in power as long as possible.
The Algerian army and government’s use of non-kinetic strategies and tactics to counter Morocco and gain a temporary advantage over its sole enemy (Morocco) is not new and can be traced back to Boumadien era.
However, evolving technologies, instant media landscapes and the growing emphasis placed on the image, the military regime finds itself in a state of chaos and confusion. The Dean of the International Center and Professor of Political Science and African Studies Leonardo A Villalón edited The Oxford Handbook of the African Sahel (2021). One the key arguments of the handbook, is that regional actors pursuing their own agendas are the real threat to Mali and its future.
Algeria and the Rent Security in the Sahel
Whilst attention focuses on the geopolitics of the Sahel, a more significant political and economic struggle concerning the spread of private securities in Mali is related to its contractual benefits. Mali for some regional actors became a source of rent for the elites. The encouragement by Algeria of the private (mercenary) security firms’ contractors, with their unknown beneficiaries, offshore registration and low visibility, built close links to secret services along the northern and eastern borders. The illicit contracts and subcontracts were purportedly used for personal enrichment in a security rent seeking climate.
A long-established pattern of covert malfeasance, meddling, hiring mercenaries and subversion to simply maintain a status quo of chaos and disorder in the Sahel region and in Africa as a whole. Algeria’ short and myopic vision assume that taking advantage of any situation in which states in crisis and in need would not reject financial support such as Tunisia.
All the tactics and crime scene of the assassination of the two Moroccan lorry drivers in Mali suggests that Algeria wages proxy and malign manoeuvres in Mali after “being convinced” that the Moroccan Sahara is no longer a subject of discussion by Moroccans.
Mali former President Modibo Keita (1960) if still alive today, he would change his mind that his struggle against imperialism means nothing in the unfortunate neighbors who are becoming the real tool of imperialism. Algeria let the French military planes to cross its spheres towards Mali since Bouteflika. That is why “A Weaker Africa is one of Algeria’ Larger Aims”.