May 28, 2024
When Your Next-Door Neighbour is a Military Regime
Politics

When Your Next-Door Neighbour is a Military Regime

By Abdelkader Filali, Ottawa, Canada

There comes a day when we will see our brothers from Algeria discuss their endeavors for their future and the establishment of peace in their civilian country from Moroccan cities of Oujda, Tangiers, Bouznika and Skhirat, as our Libyan and Syrian brothers did.

Predictability is a sign of vulnerability.  The Algerian military regime became so predictable. To put it in the Clausewitzian way, “the military in Algeria is the continuation of politics by other means”. The military reproduced its own class, military aristocracy, which embedded a military psyche into Algerians who were ambitiously hoping to change the nature of civil- military relations from a “Garrison State” to reinforcing a “Military State”. Last week, a strange incident surfaced in the air that is the public declaration of the military regime in Algeria of a group of highest-ranking officers who are sympathizers of the “Novemberian Badissiyah”.

“The Novemberian Badissiyah”: The Seeds of a Military Coup

Wednesday July 14th, 2021, 30 Algerian generals, and other high-ranking officers were put in prison on charges of “corruption and promoting proposals to divide the country”. Among them is the former Secretary-General of the Ministry of National Defense, Major General Abdel Hamid Gheris, on charges of “unlawful enrichment, misuse of office, embezzlement of public funds”. But the most important segment of the military verdict is “for their involvement with other imprisoned generals in the systematic electronic propaganda war of the so-called “Novemberian Badissiyah” according to what was reported by the French-language pro-regime newspaper “Al-Watan.”  Rupiya and Moyo have called this phenomenon of continuous civil-military rule as a “stable coup system”, whose continued reign has been recognized as a legitimate body by the international community and even groups within the state (Rupya and Moyo, 2015, p. 7).

According to Roberts, Algerian presidents act as “figureheads or front men for the real power holders” who do little more than “ceremonial or public relations functions” (p. 8). In fact, since 1992, the presidents in power were left to work with army officers they did not appoint and whom they could not depose (p. 10).

In the late 1980’s, dissent against the military regime of President Chadli Bendjedid was threatening the hegemony of the military-politico oligarchy forcing Bendjedid to call multi-party elections in 1991. When it became clear that the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party- who proposed a platform of open markets and privatization rather than having the military dominate in the economy- was going to win the elections, the security forces of Algeria staged a coup d’état against Chadli and violently repressed the FIS in order to maintain hegemony.

The Garrison State: Operationalizing the Concept

By studying the process of state formation throughout Algeria’s history stretching back to French colonial rule until the protracted civil war in the early 1990’s and then comparing Algeria’s case with five similar oil-exporting states, oil is proven not to have a causal effect on the robustness of authoritarianism or the weakness of state institutions prevalent in Algeria. We attribute it rather to the strategies employed by the political elites to weaken any opposition to the state, including strategies of repression, co-option and manipulation.

  • Military Oligarch

The Algerian formal political monopoly of the Party of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale) thought to have a say over the political agenda.  However, that assessment ignored the fact that FLN was not the source of power in the Algerian state and that the problem of authoritarianism was not a function of its formal monopoly, but rather of the power of the executive branch of the state over the legislative branch and the judiciary and the fact that the executive branch as a whole has been subject throughout to the hegemony of the military.

The authoritarian military regime’s ability to maintain political authority and legitimacy, its formal introduction of pluralism, and the state’s dependence on hydrocarbons as a principal source of revenue all prevent Algeria from being demilitarized and ultimately achieving a democratic state.

The rentier state framework is also interested in the political implications of oil and rent. Having vast amounts of rent from oil, leaders “become less accountable to the societies they govern, and more autonomous in their decision-making and behavior”. We reject the rentier state model as it fails to “trace casual relationships” and to account for “contradictory trajectories and outcomes”. Instead, oil rents are instrumental to political elites as they repress, co-opt, and manipulate society with these resources to ensure they maintain their hegemony in power.

  • Praetorianism

According to Samuel Huntington when political and social institutions have failed, military rule is often perceived as a solution to the crisis and can often command with high levels of popular support. The most important role of the militaries is staying in the barracks and defending the country.the Algerian military managed to position itself as the protectors and liberators of the Algerian people; thus, giving it the political legitimacy, it needs to thrive.

Through co-option, the opposition was divided, and prevented from mass mobilization. With a $20 billion loan from the IMF in 1994, the state was able to keep clientelist networks greased and the façade of a functioning, redistributive state. As oil prices steadily increased in the 2000’s, political leaders had more rent with which to manipulate public opinion with and mitigate opposition.

  • Hydrocarbon and Algeria’s Military

The Price of Stability by Lahcen Achy efficiently highlights the effect of hydrocarbons on the Algerian economy and by extension the political regime. More specifically, it points to the loyalty the Algerian government can buy in order to maintain its power. For quite some time, the Algerian regime was able to avoid a popular uprising through its hydrocarbon revenues, which results in a generous amount of money to be distributed to the masses (Achy, 2013, p. 1). As the author succinctly puts it, “oil revenues enabled the government to buy the loyalty of different segments of the population and has largely constituted the basis of the regime’s legitimacy” (Achy, 2013, p. 10). The social transfer system used by the Algerian regime has a way of benefitting almost every Algerian through the state subsidies, transfers and rents, effectively buying the population’s loyalty and social quiet with financial rewards (Volpi, 2013, p. 105). This was especially effective when faced with the end of the independence-era reverence for the FLN. (Achy, 2013, p. 10) The hydrocarbon sector represents a key element to the aforementioned strategy as it provides the Algerian government with liquidity that does not originate from citizen taxation and thus would not become a source of resentment from the mass population (Achy, 2013, p. 10).

Morocco’s Historical Patience

Morocco’ approach to the problems coming from Algeria has been termed as historical patience. At the heart of historical patience is a belief that the shared history and brotherly relations, while less than ideal, is better than many possible consequences of taking action. The premise of this argument is incorrect while dealing with a country such as Algeria. What we see coming from Algeria is not brothers to brothers and good neighborhoods, but rather a situation worsening at an exponential pace. Sooner rather than later, this pace has led to an Algeria, a garrison state to finance, harbour, detain Moroccan Sahraouis in an Algerian town called Tinduf for the sole purpose: to destabilise Morocco.

Morocco seems to have tried a dose of everything good under the sun to address the threat the ills coming from Algeria. Yet over the past quarter century, nothing has improved. There will be no magic formula for Algeria. As long as the militaries are in power. Our best option for the future must consist of some combination of tools we have already employed against Algeria’s obstinacy. The move came with a Moroccan robust approach by the opening of diplomatic representations in the southern provinces.

For over four decades, Algerian diplomacy, to which enormous financial resources have been allocated, has had the primary role of carrying out hostile, imaginary and false facts campaigns against Morocco. We remember that, on October 20, 2017, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, had declared in a forum of Algerian entrepreneurs: Morocco launders, via its banks, the money of “hashish” and the “Royal Air Maroc transports something other than passenger’

In addition to the army of diplomats, a battalion of journalists from the Algerian press agency (APS) has never stopped fueling hate speech towards Morocco, most often using disinformation and propaganda of cold war era. Their favorite subject in the international news section is none other than the Moroccan Sahara. To get an idea of ​​this unhealthy fixation, statistics for the month of April alone, a period par excellence of total confinement, show that 60 APS dispatches, or an average of two dispatches per day, were devoted to attack only Morocco.

Algeria’s behavior since Al Moravids 1086

Using historical institutionalism HI as a method of analysis (Hall, 2010, Mahoney&Thelen, 2010, and Pierson, 2004), we can identify systematically the ways in which the institution of the presidency in Algeria and the institution of the army reinforce over time the adversarial nature against Morocco that goes back in time. We will operationalize this argument by emphasizing on the Al Moravids dynasty under Youssef Ibn Tashfine when fighting the battle of Sagrajas or Zallaqa battle in 1086.


When Youssef Ibn Tashfine crossed into Andalusia in 1086 to fight against the Castilian King Alfonso VI in the Battle of Zallaqa, Banu Hammad who were governing what was known back then as the Middle Maghreb (half of Algeria of today) since Telmcen was part of Al Moravids territory, created troubles by allaying with Banu Hilal tribe to divide the eastern part of the dynasty.  This led Prince Youssef Ibn Tashfine to return to Morocco immediately after his victory in the battle of Zalka. He avoided entering the war with Banu Hammad. With wisdom, Youssef Ibn Tashfine sent a letter to the prince of Bani Hammad, accusing him of creating and using other tribes against him to invade his territory at a time when they must unite to confront the Castilians in Andalusia (Ibn Khaldoun 1385, Ibn Al Athir,  1231 and Ali Ben Moussa 1955 ). Ten years later, Banu Hammad tried to enter from the east, Prince Youssef Ibn Tashfine ordered his armies to retreat, extending his hand and reconciling with them again and appeasing them by isolating the governor of Telmcen and appinting a new one (Ibn Al Athir, 1231).

Relations in the everyday life

In the following statements of two former politicians representing both Morocco and Algeria confirm our hypothesis in this article. Abderrahmane Al Youssefi former prime minister of Morocco and the historical personality who was raised in the left and accompanied the Alternance period with success in the 90’s argues that:  “I received with great joy and great satisfaction what was stated in the speech of His Majesty the King on the 43rd anniversary of the Green March,” He said that the call for the creation of all the positive conditions for achieving historic reconciliation with our Algerian brothers, in a constructive spirit compatible between the leadership of the two countries, and that all files are open for deliberation without any clues, and that our countries and their leaders do not need any mediation to have the courage to innovate solutions to all outstanding problems between them.

Contrary to the enthusiasm of Abderrahmane Al Youssefi, the former Algerian minister Mouhieddin Amimore said Algeria’s failure to respond to Morocco’s call for dialogue was a “polite response” because of the uncertainty in the move, since confidence between the two countries had been missing since 1963. In his analysis of King Mohammed 6th step, the Algerian politician says, “at first sight the Moroccan monarch’s speech seemed laden with goodwill and good intention, but conscious reading confirms a clear deception”.

The two statements of the political leaders entail one truth that is Algeria is convinced of the good intentions of Morocco, yet their military doctrine does not with whatever price allow such reconciliation process to take place and opening a genuine bilateral dialogue. 

There is no gathering or an event internationally through which Algeria tries do distort Morocco’s reputation and pays money to countries in Africa and Latin America and lobbing firms in the US.

Algeria was the only country in the Arab that has criticized Morocco’s right to the Leila’ Islands. Algerian diplomats in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Washington pay generously and siphoning off the money of the Algerian people who are in need of it at the banquets and lobbying firms for just one mission: to destabilize Morocco Despite all this, Morocco is still patient and sound.

References:

Achy, L. (2013). The Price of Stability in Algeria. Beirut, Lebanon; Carnegie Middle East Center.

Hugh, R. (2007). Demilitarizing Algeria (pp. 1-28). Washington, USA: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Rupiya, M., & Moyo, G. (2015). The New African Civil-Military Relations. Pretoria, South Africa: African Books Collective.

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