Algeria: The Committee Of Thieves
The government is under growing political and popular pressure for being out of touch. The government has consistently sided with dictators in the last year of Arab Spring uprisings. The government was also very upset with what happened next door in Libya, when NATO airpower enabled untrained and poorly armed (but very angry and enthusiastic) civilians to overthrow the large and well organized security force of a decades old police state. While not as brutal and theatrical as the Libyan dictatorship, the Algerian strongmen maintain power using the same combination of corruption and terror. The Algerian dictatorship (it’s more of a committee of thieves than a single guy in charge) is hustling to make friends with Western states, especially those who might be called on to supply warplanes and smart bombs for the liberation of Algeria. The recently deceased dictator of Libya (Moamar Kaddafi) was a very unpopular fellow among most national leaders. He was loved by some African nations to the south, who received billions of dollars in Libyan aid for building religious schools and mosques. Kaddafi also supported many rebel groups in Africa, and elsewhere, which led to a lot of violence and death. Overall, Kaddafi was not popular. Noting how that worked out, the Algerian leadership that used to be a lot more unfriendly to Western governments has changed. The Algerian dictatorship is looking for love in all the right places.
Sensing a huge anti-government sentiment among the voters Islamic parties are pulling out of a pro-government coalition. The Islamic parties are betting that the military dictatorship that has run the Algerian democracy for decades is ready to allow a free and (fairly fair) election so they can step down gracefully and escape prosecution. That might work.
January 10, 2012: In a southern oil town, police injured ten people suppressing a spontaneous demonstration against corruption and police brutality (especially a recent incident where cops mistreated elderly people during a bus stop disturbance). Protestors were also unhappy with a shortage of housing and jobs. People note that the construction contracts are given out to cronies of officials and a lot of the money is stolen. Jobs are given out as political favors, not to those who can best do the job.
January 3, 2012: Police stopped four SUVs coming from Niger and arrested the occupants when they found the vehicles full of weapons. These were apparently just smugglers, who did not expect to encounter police in a remote part of the border. But patrols along the border have been increased since thousands of weapons (mainly assault rifles, machine-guns, and RPGs) were stolen from Libyan bases during nearly a year of violent disorder. Lots of ammunition and portable missiles disappeared as well.
January 2, 2012: Algerian police killed the al Qaeda chief for northwest Africa, Sidi Mohand Ormadein, and his deputy. The police identified the two at a roadblock, which led to a brief gun battle.
- Algeria troops in Mali to fight Qaeda (indepthafrica.com)
- Algeria, Niger step up border security (indepthafrica.com)
- Algeria leaders have lost touch, risk anger: review (indepthafrica.com)
- US Secretary of State Remarks With Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci (indepthafrica.com)