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Algeria could be the light at the end of the counter-revolutionary tunnel

Thousands of students, doctors and civil servants stage a protest to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step from power, in front of Central Post Office Square in Algiers, Algeria on March 19, 2019 [Farouk Batiche / Anadolu Agency]
Thousands of students, doctors and civil servants stage a protest to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step from power, in front of Central Post Office Square in Algiers, Algeria on 19 March 2019 [Farouk Batiche / Anadolu Agency]

There is no doubt that the Algerian revolution achieved a great victory by ousting the head of state, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to step down in the face of public pressure. Having blocked army commander Ahmed Kayed Saleh’s plan to implement Article 102, in accordance with which he would be dismissed due to ill health, he handed in his resignation to the president of the constitutional council, who is one of the men loyal to him.

The constitutional council has in turn announced the vacancy of the position of state president, which will be filled temporarily by the Speaker of the Council of the Nation, Abdul Qadir Bin Salih, for a period not exceeding three months as a transitional phase during which a new president will be elected, in accordance with the Algerian constitution. Abdul Qadir, one of Bouteflika’s men, has been in this position for 17 years, meaning that the body of the regime will remain firmly in place while the head is replaced.

A new Bouteflika will be chosen by army generals, or, as the Algerians call them, “the sons of Paris in the country of [the iconic Abdelhamid] Bin Badis”. This new president will be a puppet in their hands, as Bouteflika has been since 2013, when his health took a turn for the worse and he was unable to govern the country. However, at the time they insisted that he run for a fourth term with the same enthusiasm that they showed for his fifth term before being thwarted by the rebels, so that they might rule from behind the scenes and remain in control of Algeria.

READ: Algeria’s parliament to elect new interim president on Tuesday 

When the educated and politically-aware Algerian people were conspired against and their revolution was aborted, millions took to the streets on the first Friday after Bouteflika’s departure to protest against the entire gang ruling their country. They demanded the departure of the whole regime and called it the “Friday to overthrow the three Bs”: the Speaker of the Council of the Nation, Bin Salih; the Head of the Constitutional Council, Tayeb Belaiz; and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, recently appointed by Bouteflika.

It is both interesting and odd that the Algerian rebels did not call for the departure of the army Chief of Staff, Ahmed Caid Saleh, who is almost 80 years old and has been in his position for 15 years. Despite being a member of the “gang”, as he called the regime, he has appeared to sympathise with the rebels’ legitimate demands. In fact, he has vacillated over the past seven weeks, alternating between sympathy and threats, and hinting at a repeat of the Black Decade of civil war post-1992 election thwarted by the army.

It is apparent that the internal conflict within the regime has reached an all-time high between the military officers loyal to Bouteflika, headed by his brother Said, and the officers loyal to the Chief of Staff, who mentioned their secret meetings in his statement about the corrupt gang. This is why he dismissed the head of the intelligence agency and put it back under the control of the army, not under the control of the president, as it was during Bouteflika’s rule. Said Bouteflika was banned from leaving the country and news has been circulating about his arrest.

Who's really in charge in Algeria - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Who’s really in charge in Algeria – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The events behind the scenes are a clash between the various factions of the deep state which has ruled Algeria for 60 years; the people have nothing to do with this, although the results will have a negative impact on them, regardless of who wins. These military officials do not care about the people, they are only concerned about their own personal interests and gains, not the higher interests of the country. Their only national concern is that Algeria remains in their grasp, even if they push it to the edge and create chaos, as they did in the 1990s. Someone once said that Algeria is the only country looking for chaos while the people are looking for peace and stability.

We have to ask if the generals controlling the leadership didn’t understand that the people would revolt against the decision for Bouteflika to run for another term. I am certain that they did indeed know that the people of the country of a million martyrs would not allow themselves to be disregarded. They must also have known that the rebels’ demands would not stop at removing Bouteflika, but that they would also call for the removal of the entire regime, that corrupt gang, as the chief of staff has described them. As such, the generals clearly wanted to use this revolution in their favour to serve their own interests, as was the case with the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011.

We can expect the same scenario. Just as Major General Mohsen Al-Fanagry of the Egyptian military council stood and saluted the martyrs of the January 2011 Revolution, the Algerian Chief of Staff saluted the Algerian people and announced his complete support for their legitimate demands. He even used the same sweet talk, claiming that he would stand by the people until they restore their rights and sovereignty, although he is the same person who threatened them at the beginning of their revolution, claiming that there were infiltrators and traitors amongst them. Just as the Egyptian people were deceived and proclaimed the people and the army as one, the Algerian people chanted that the people and the army are brothers.

READ: Tunisia’s Arab Summit and the Algerian uprising 

Advice based on our bitter experience in Egypt has been rejected by our Algerian brothers. They insist that the Algerian army is different to the Egyptian armed forces. However, all Arab armies are the same and follow the same doctrine. They were established to protect the ruling regimes and not the state; their guns point at the people, not the enemy. We have seen this in all of the Arab countries that witnessed Arab Spring revolutions.

People stage a demonstration demanding regime change in Algeria at Trafalgar Square in London, United Kingdom on 16 March, 2019 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

People stage a demonstration demanding regime change in Algeria at Trafalgar Square in London, United Kingdom on 16 March, 2019 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

The Algerian revolution is now, post-Bouteflika, facing its most dangerous stage. The rebels must be careful and look out for what is being plotted against them by dark international, regional and local intelligence agencies. We must not disregard the role played by international and regional forces, linked by mutual interests to the Algerian regime. The leaders of other Arab countries, especially the Gulf States, are monitoring the situation closely; they fear that a successful revolution bringing democracy to Algeria will weaken their own thrones. They will not hesitate to do whatever they can to thwart the ambitions of the Algerian people, as they have done elsewhere. This might be proved by Ahmed Caid Saleh’s visit to the UAE at the beginning of the revolution; that is the seat of the counter-revolutions, in which conspiracies have been and are plotted against the Arab people, under Israeli supervision. While in the UAE, he met with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Zayed, which raises a lot of concern and suspicion about what is being planned for the new Algeria.

Unlike their rulers, however, the Arab people support their brothers in Algeria and want them to succeed by eliminating the entire corrupt system which has ruled them for decades. They hope that a second republic will be established by the people’s free and independent will. Their dreams of freedom, dignity, justice and democracy are being pinned on this revolution after the Arab Spring revolutions were aborted by the counter-revolutionaries who restored the oppressive, corrupt dictatorships. Algeria is perhaps the light at the end of the dark counter-revolutionary tunnel which can be the catalyst for pulling the Arabs out of the frustration that has engulfed them for years.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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