Africa and Asia have had painful experiences of colonization. Countries in these continents have had to fight many times for their independence. One such country is Algeria.
After 130 years of French occupation, Algeria gained its independence with the War of Independence of 1954-1962. According to Algerian sources, 1.5 million people were martyred in that war, more than 1 million Algerians were imprisoned and some 2.5 million were displaced.
In the wake of independence, the country attempted to heal its wounds through a single-party regime under the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale, FLN). It may have thrown off French occupation, but this time Algeria began being governed under far from democratic conditions.
The period following World War II was an era when Arab socialism dominated the entire MENA region with its cold and loveless policies. No value was placed on women, young people, art or beauty under that loveless system, in which wealth was in the monopoly of a tiny minority, the various “presidential systems” constantly implemented in the region turned into dictatorships, freedoms were restricted and violence ruled the day.
Similar cold and false policies were applied in Algeria too, and the country was badly affected by them. Popular reactions were not late in coming. The “Bread Riots” protests in particular, which began in 1988, represented a major demand for a change to the single-party system. As a result of increasing social demands, a process of liberalization was initiated in 1988 and a multi-party system was set up in 1989. That did not last long, however: The Islamic Salvation Front declared victory in the first democratic election in the country in December 1991, but the outcome was rejected by the army. The elections were nullified.
Algeria then suffered a period of domestic conflict and terror. Some 200,000 people died and thousands were detained in a climate of anarchy that persisted up to 2002. A state of emergency was declared, and rights and freedoms were restricted; democracy was temporarily suppressed. This period between 1992 and 2002 is therefore known as the “Black Decade.”
The adverse effects of that period are still being felt: Al-Qaeda-inspired extremist and radical organizations are active in many parts of the country and clashes with security forces take place in tribal areas close to the capital. Many people died in pre-election attacks in energy-rich areas.
The Algerian regime is currently looking to quell radicalism with force, but it is of course impossible to totally eliminate radicalism through mere military means. The philosophy that leads to radicalism needs to be intellectually annihilated first, and an educational mobilization based on a culture of love, tolerance and cohabitation and peace needs to be implemented.
Positive Developments with the Bouteflike Administration
Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected president in the elections held toward the end of the Black Decade, in April 1999. After taking office, Bouteflika made efforts toward ending the civil strife and ushering in a process of normalization. Bouteflika emerged victorious from elections in 2014, thus being elected president for the fourth time.
The Arab Spring that began in neighboring Tunisia in 2010 set off alarm bells in the Algerian administration, as it did in a good many other Arab countries. Support was shown for Tunisia and the administration was forced to make reforms at meetings and protests in Algeria. Following that, the state of emergency was lifted in the name of a “National Reconciliation” program hastily brought in by the regime, and some 20,000 detainees were released under amnesty laws.
High wage hikes were given to public sector workers, and street controls were relaxed. A record number of women were elected - compared to previous elections - with women winning 145 seats (31.38%) in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Bearing in mind that only 31 of the 389 seats in parliament were won by women in the 2007 general election, these are of course excellent developments.
Algeria is still looking for advanced democracy. Efforts are being made to find solutions to socioeconomic problems, install transparency in the running of the state and to build a just order. In addition, major agricultural and industrial reforms are also taking place. Bouteflika is reported to be opposed to Algeria's bureaucratic dictatorship in order to expand the oil-based Algerian economy and attract investment to the country.
A Union of Islamic Countries Modeled on the EU
Algeria possesses major underground wealth, being the world’s fourth largest natural gas exporter and the ninth largest oil exporter. Nonetheless, GDP per capita is a mere $5,400.
Turkish President Erdoğan recently visited Algeria. The aim is to raise the volume of trade between the two countries from $4.5 billion to $10 billion: In addition, it is also important to further improve relations with neighboring Tunisia, an agricultural country, and Morocco, one of the best economies in Africa. The establishment of a union modeled on the EU will also increase security in the region and make trade and movement much easier.
Common mobilization around the ideas of social justice, the development of infrastructure and improving education and the implementation of advanced democratic criteria, such as human rights and freedoms in the shortest time frame possible will regenerate tourism, trade and investment in the region. Most important of all, the region will become a paradise in which people smile at one another and love prevails.
Algeria’s aim must be to achieve standards of democracy and quality at least equal to those of the EU countries. That is what will befit the hospitable, tolerant and fine people of Algeria.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Morocco World News & Indian Muslim Observer: