Algeria: Why did the Arab Spring fail?


Why Algeria? Why singling out that country?

It’s an Arab country, but at the same time African. Except Algeria, almost any other North African has experienced fundamental political changes following the popular uprising of early 2011 in the region.

Algeria is as well the first African country alphabetically.

And in 2013 we at Organizing for Africa gave ourselves a goal of covering all African countries in our writing.

For each country, in a few paragraphs, we will be looking at the following aspects

  • Facts in the news that connect the country to some of its recent or long-gone past
  • Current affairs with references to regional developments
  • Opportunities and political and economic risks

But for Algeria, where do we start?

Abelaziz Bouteflika and Francois HollandOf course, there is the December 2012 official visit of Francois Hollande. The French president recognizing on behalf of his country the brutal character of colonization that Algerians suffered.

History, even when it is tragic, even when it is painful for our two countries, must be told,” Hollande told Algerian MPs on Thursday 20th, December 2012. “For 132 years, Algeria was subjected to a profoundly unjust and brutal system of colonization.” I recognize here the suffering that colonization has inflicted on the Algerian people,” he added.

He went to Algeria to establish the foundations of a new era of relationships between the two countries, taking some tangible distances from his predecessors. France with its flattening economy seems more in need of Algerian better growth outlook and ready to humble itself somehow.

The visit was for the French government an opportunity to conclude, among many other beneficial arrangements, an agreement to develop a joint venture of Renault, French giant car-maker and two Algerian companies. An agreed plant which aims to serve Algeria and the rest of the African continent will be built outside Oran, a port city west of Algiers.

When the Arab Spring, the movement of popular uprising which started in Tunisia in January 2011 and today is ongoing particularly in Syria, engulfed several North African countries (Egypt, Libya and Morocco), it failed in Algeria.

One of the reasons some analysts advance is that the Algerian population was still traumatized by the violence that took over the entire country in the 1990s with the Muslim fundamentalists. It has not apparently managed yet to put in the past those events and make itself ready for another radical social change from the present political context. And it is not the system’s imperfections which are lacking.

Starting early 2011 Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have drastically changed politically, not necessarily in the way that those who initially were at the forefront of their social renewal expected. Consequences of that transformation are continuing being experienced even beyond these countries.

The mess that was created by NATO bombing of Libya and assassination of Kaddafi on 20th October 2011 has created an explosion of insecurity in the whole Saharan countries. The most acute situation is presently Mali where Muslim fundamentalists with some having strong connections in Algeria through AQMI have split the country into two.

Algeria has categorically opposed the intervention of any international force in Mali, particularly from outside the continent to re-establish the authority of Bamako in the separatist Malian north. Anyone who is objective about how the UN Security Council resolution 1973 was abused by NATO countries and their alliance in destroying Libya and by so doing destabilizing almost intentionally several African countries, would agree and understand that future international military interventions on the African continent are very detrimental, therefore not welcome.

If Algeria became destabilized, this would mean that all African big countries (Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo) would have been. As the Cameroonian writer Charles Onana explains, “If one wants to destabilize Africa, they can achieve that by attacking the big countries. What follows is only a domino effect, engulfing the other smaller ones in the process.”

On the economic front, Mbendi Information Services report that “Although Algeria is one of the major oil and gas producing countries of Africa it is still considered to be relatively under-explored. Its hydrocarbon industry is key to its economy.” “Algeria has experienced a significant economic upturn in recent years, in large part aided by strong oil and natural gas export revenues,” the source adds.

Reuters on its part indicates that in terms of shale gas, Algeria has huge untapped reserves. “The African nation of Algeria, already a major exporter of oil and natural gas, could become an even bigger exporter in the coming years as it develops up to 1,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas trapped in shale rock more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) below the surface.”

A year or so I was talking to a well educated Algerian citizen living in UK and daughter of a freedom fighter whose determination and sacrifices helped Algeria gain its independence. She knows the ongoing realities of her country of origin since she visits it regularly. However, she complains about the level of corruption and ineptitude of the present political elite. That the Algerian youth whose unemployment remains high [in 2008 Algerian rates for youth participation in the economy were about 28 per cent], this despite the wealth generated from oil and gas particularly, the context was according to her somehow revolting.

Will Algeria have its own version of an Arab Spring? There are certainly many young unemployed and other disadvantaged groups in the country who would find in it the only way of bettering their future. Could any radical political change shift from the present political context deteriorates in total destabilization of the country? That is a prospect not to be wished for Algerians and Africans in general who benefit from any stable society whatever the many huddles it might be facing.


4 responses to “Algeria: Why did the Arab Spring fail?

  1. At the time of NATO invading Libya, Qaddafi regime had in Western coffers between $150 billions and $200 billions. With a new regime in Tripoli more than a year, do we today know where those billions went? Have they served to pay or overpay NATO’s destruction of Libya? It would appear cynical for the new Libyan leaders to feel forced to pay with their money the suffering that their population endured and continue to suffer from.


  2. I think I understand where you are coming from. On the context of “mess,” – that’s how I see the current political Libyan situation where the central government in Tripoli cannot assert its authority over the whole country, and militia groups affiliated to tribes still control a significant portion of power in many regions even some areas of the capital, I don’t know how you describe such vacuum of security. Who caused it? You tell me!. NATO intervention is more a punitive action of Western powers against Qaddafi, aimed at annihilating his growing influence in uniting African nations, and also getting back into ownership of some of the oil and gas wealth that he had denied them access to, rather than a response to calls from Benghazi insurgents. For more than 40 years, he had stood up against the West asking them for example to repair financially the wrong their colonization had done to his country [Italy had already entered in an arrangement with Qaddafi where it would pay annually the equivalent of $500 millions for many years]. Would for example the Italians been happy not paying that compensation? You tell me! If you remember NATO airplanes which destroyed Libya 24/7 from March to October 2011 were flying from Italy. Is Libya the only place where people have stood up against subversive regimes? No. Is it the only country where there has been an atrocious dictator? No. I think even comparatively in some cases, Qaddafi would look like a saint, though he was not. The Arab Spring provided the right context, and Benghazi uprising an opportunity to strike hard on the Libyan leader. NATO, even UN with its peacekeepers who are agents of destabilization rather than stabilization should leave Africans alone to solve their own problems. So the article is not misleading or distorting facts. It depends on who led the lecture of them. Is it western media which had to justify NATO actions or Africans’ perspective which reads what happened from the understanding of the countries within that organisation which want to control the wealth of African nations?


  3. “The mess that was created by NATO bombing of Libya” — “Anyone who is objective about how the UN Security Council resolution 1973 was abused by NATO countries and their alliance in destroying Libya and by so doing destabilizing almost intentionally several African countries”

    It is right that NATO undertook more action as it was supposed to according to UNSC Resolution 1973. However, it is simply not true to argue that NATO created a “mess”. NATO intervened as wished by the Libyan people and did not destabilize intentionally several African countries. People stood up against suppressive regimes. These regimes are the root cause for the destabilization not NATO. Though, I do think that NATO should not play a major role in Africa. It’s up to the AU to stabilize the region.

    Sorry, but this article is very misleading and distorts the facts.


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