Is Algeria the Litmus Test for Modern Colonialism?
Once the central hub of Carthaginian power in ancient times, Algeria today is one of Africa’s most prosperous nations. However, prosperity these days comes at a heavy cost to the people of the world, and Algerians are mightily weighed down like most other nations by greedy oligarchs and vested foreign interests. Here’s a short take on the North African nation today.
When I read recently that the Rothschilds, the Bildelbergs, and their lackey, French President Emmanuel Macron were sold the Algerian legacy, I was skeptical as any analyst would be. But wild conspiracies these days end up being true, more often than not. So, I began looking into how the former French colony operates in the 21st century. The country that lost almost one million to French colonialism in the 1800s is still under the heavy boot of the French banker elites through close ties to 81-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the military, and the powerful Algerian businessmen who have supported him. Today, with President Bouteflika’s health failing, these Algerian moguls are making their move to take rein in control over the former French colony. And make no mistake; these business people are even more ruthless than the notorious “God of Algeria” (See the Al Jazeera story), the man who was just unseated by the string pullers in Algiers.
To show how power is shifting in Algiers, the most powerful in Algeria up until 2015, Mohamed Mediène has finally been forced out by the business elites. Once the legendary head of Algeria’s military intelligence, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), the self-proclaimed “God of Algeria” was the world’s longest-serving intelligence chief. Like a character right out of a Hollywood spy flick, the former DRS boss is still an enigma. Legend has it that anyone who has seen General Mediene’s face expires soon after soon afterward. There is currently no discernable photograph of the mysterious leader of the ominous “Eradicator Faction” of Algeria’s secret services. It is said Mediène withdrew his support from Bouteflika after the government reined in Mediène’s power after the In Amenas hostage crisis. Mediène, whose investment portfolio must be a golden parachute, has now been replaced as Algeria’s most powerful force by billionaire Ali Haddad. With the younger brother of the aging president, Saïd Bouteflika now running what amounts to a puppet government, Algeria’s oligarch elites are wheeling and dealing for themselves, and leveraging France versus American and China.
Since decades Algeria has had restricted freedom of the press, rights to the demonstration, and intense censorship of media. So, imagine the coming plight of the people with insatiable business sharks running the country. With no more power balance in place, Haddad and others are all set to ink deals with Macron and France that will drastically increase profits for Haddad’s digital and infrastructure endeavors. The short take here is, Haddad’s role holdings are vast in everything from the housing (BERHTO), media (Dzair TV), and on to tourism, cancer treatment technologies (cialfarm), and alternative energy, to name a few. Today, Haddad sits at the head of Algerian business elites who want to squeeze the country harder to produce growth. Barons like Haddad flourished under governmental contracts allotted under Bouteflika, but now the youth and even professional people have been marginalized to the point of unrest (Financial Times).
The incremental carving up of Algeria’s wealth by oligarchs is a sign of our times. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Algiers was a veritable Mecca for revolutionaries from all over who sought relief from colonial domination and internationalism of the so-called third world. This international activism was mirrored by domestic progressivism that led to better health and education, and to the rapid industrialization of Algeria. But Algeria’s leadership’s big focus on energy led to deindustrialization and the fall of privatized entrepreneurship. And now Algeria’s economy is stagnant, the oligarchs and others in power having sapped the nation’s wealth for decades. The only thing that Algeria’s oil has bought for Algerians was veritable immunity from the west’s incubated chaos, Arab Spring. Algeria is the third-largest provider of natural gas to the European Union, so regime change plans in Algiers were never planned. Now, the power vacuum predicted by Abdelaziz Bouteflika opponents like Ali Benflis and Louisa Hanoune will be filled by new Algerian oligarch puppets.
The outlook for Algerians today seems fairly bleak. This is evident with the recent downfall of Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was a staunch opponent of Haddad’s and the other oligarchs’ leveraging of the Algerian government. Forced to resign because of Haddad and the others, Tebboune was replaced by the man ordinary Algerians called “Mr. Dirty Work,” Ahmed Ouyahi. Al Jazeera Algeria correspondent Djamila Ould Khettab wrote last year:
“ Surprising comeback of Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia could herald the start of a deep austerity programme, analysts say.”
While official austerity measures by Algeria’s government have not been instituted, the tightening of government subsidies and its refusal to recharter international investment rules aggravate economic situation. Algerians now complain of the erosion of their purchasing power as the currency depreciates. Furthermore, protests by doctors and other professionals signify deeper unrest. In the face of the discord, the oligarchs are pressing for another term by their sick puppet Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The problems the country faces are crystal clear to those who want positive change there.
First and foremost, the influence of France, the United States, and even China must be offset by appropriate rules and safeguards on international investment and influence in the country. This report from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs deals with China’s recent Algeria moves frames my contentions about Haddad and his businesses. Among other things, the implementation plan for the Chinese tour groups to visit Algeria directly affects some of Haddad’s businesses, as do construction projects being discussed in cooperation with Chinese countries. This was as recently as July 11th. Secondly, the undue influence of a few elites in Algeria is the country’s core problem. Considered a hero by many Algerians, Abdelaziz Bouteflika seems to be the only viable choice for the ruling elite of the country. What makes matters worse is the fact there is no credible opposition being put forth. Dr. Dalia Ghanem Yazbeck, who’s Resident Scholar at Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut put it this way:
“..the military in Algeria is “ruling but not governing. It does so from atop a pyramid of power in which the interests of the military, the FLN leadership, and members of the political and economic elite are intertwined.”
The picture in Algeria’s countryside is far worse than in Algiers too. In ,the countryside, a lost generation of Algerians, now in their 20s and 30s, has been molded by an era of fear, fighting, corruption, and government curfews. This group is wholly depending on sagging state subsidies to survive, and the rural problem is migrating to the urban landscape. The secret police scour neighborhoods canvassing for the signs of rebellion. Algiers is plagued by what are termed “micro-riots” and the dividing line in between visionary elites and the disenfranchised grows daily. In the bigger social picture of Algeria, the divide in between Arab and Berber, Islamist and secularists, and poor versus rich will eventually tear the country apart. The only thing that can save Algeria will be if Ali Haddad and his friends are stricken with a spell of altruism to supplant their greed. Ironically, it is this same nationalistic sickness that needs to strike many world oligarchs. But I fear Algeria may only cease being a French colony to become a Chinese or American one.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”