Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Algerians, diplomacy and Libya

I have translated below from the French an article from Le Soir d'Algerie just published on 23 August. I think this article is quite important as a first document to the saga of the Algerian diplomacy's yawn when 'Libya' is mentioned v. the TNC's accusation of lukewarm love from Algeria. It looks like the TNC is a little emotionally needy and keeps bawling for Algerian attention (you won't get it that way guys, no Algerian responds well to whining).

In the papers this morning, there is a proliferation of articles pointing the finger to the dormancy of the Algerian governement who is staying mute throughout all developments of the Libyan situation. (It should be noted however: when is the government not mute these days, don't take it so hard.) As I am reading these articles I can't help being amused at their tone. Anyways, what is noteworthy in Le Soir's article is the four interviews of civilians who all worry about security in Algeria. It seems to be the emphasis here, whether it reflects what the majority thinks of not, security is the word since the revival of the islamist-wolf.

This article gathers in short form the reporting on the latest diplomatic (non) response from the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More interestingly it has gathered a few short interviews of Algerians (civilians) and the statements published by the so-called political class (the usual pantomime) regarding the entry of the rebels in Tripoli and the raising of the TNC flag at the Libyan Embassy in Algiers on Sunday night.

So this is for anyone who can't read French (or who fakes it) and who is genuinely interested in how Algerians view these events - how it is covered and what is chosen for publication, needless to say, is significant.

[The original article in French is HERE]

The Libyan Crisis

The astonishing Algerian stance

The course of events is accelerating in Libya. The stance taken by Algerian diplomacy remains that of waiting. Since the beginning of the conflict in Libya, Algeria has excelled by its deafening silence, then by statements of the utmost ambiguity.

Nawal Imes – Algiers (le Soir) – Libya is negotiating a significant turn which will determine its future and probably that of the entire region. Its immediate neighbours reacted in very different ways. Tunisia has, as soon as Sunday, recognised the TNC as sole representative of the Libyan people. Algeria’s position has remained unaltered: no comments and an official and legible stance even less. The artistic blur intentionally kept up by Algeria has intrigued its regional partners. Mourad Medelci, after weeks of silence, finally came to explain the absence of an official Algerian reaction as being born out of the “Algerian tradition” which is to “respect what happens other countries, even those of our neighbours”. Algeria, participating against its will to the debate, has found itself under the obligation to respond to accusations from members of the Transitional National Council. This latter on several occasions accused Algeria to having sent Algerian mercenaries to help the Libyan regime. It is via a statement that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies, in the strongest manner, the veracity of allegations made by certain websites and satellite television channels as to an alleged use of Algerian military airplanes to transport mercenaries to Libya. These insidious allegations go against the well-known doctrinal policy of Algeria, who rejects in absolute terms the interference in internal matters of states”, underlined the Ministry. Since then, it has been radio silence. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has barely, and only so urged by journalists’ questions, called for “the two parties to dialogue”. Now that the dialogue is indeed broken, and that the process towards the end of the regime is accelerating, which attitude will Algeria adopt? Wait and see….


The NTC flag is raised over the Embassy in Algiers

The Libyan Embassy in Algiers. The old flag of king Idris the First’s monarchy, symbol of the Libyan revolution is raised: the Libyan Embassy has joined the Transitional National Council. The four colour flag was hoisted in the night of Sunday to Monday, thereby replacing the official Libyan flag, as declared by employees of the Embassy. During the day yesterday, apart from the “reinforced” police presence put in place around the Embassy, the presence of a few Libyan citizen who had come to renew their passports, and journalists looking for information, a great calm reigned. The security agents posted at the entrance were steadfast. Impossible to access the Embassy. This was also the case for Libyan citizens. No officials seemed to be present including the Ambassador, according to the entrance agents. “Come back tomorrow, we are not working today” says the agent. A man leaves empty handed grumbling. The agent is firmer with journalists: “no one can see you. Only the Cultural Attaché is empowered to do so, but you must book an appointment or come back tomorrow”, he tells us. Before the insistence of journalists he adds “tomorrow he will see you”. Photographers attempt to take photos of the Embassy with the TNC flag flying above it. In vain. Policemen forbid them to and order them to leave the premises. Contacted by telephone, the Libyan Ambassador in Algeria has refused to comment: “I am sorry I cannot respond”. Also, according to a well informed source, the Libyan consulate confirms they have now joined the rebels’ sides.


The ministry of Foreign Affairs member of the absentees’ club

Wanting to know the position of Algeria following the latest development of the situation in Libya, we have tried to contact yesterday the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but in vain. Our several attempts to contact this official were unsuccessful, despite the importance of the events unfolding yesterday in Libya. And this, in addition to the Libyan Embassy in Algiers having replaced yesterday the Libyan flag by that of the TNC. Contacted by telephone, the communication officer of this department could only redirect us to the spokesman of the Ministry, the only one empowered to make statements, but who, according to him, remained unreachable. The ministry of Foreign Affairs only reacted in the face of the incident reported at the Algerian Embassy in Tripoli, which was subject to a series of violations in the night of Sunday to Monday. The spokesman to the Ministry, M. Belani quoted the APS and declared that Mourad Medelci sent an “urgent” message to the secretary general of the United Nations to attract his attention to “the violation of Algerian diplomatic premises.” Mourad Medelci also requested that the protection of Algerian diplomats and the premises of the Algerian mission be ensured as well as all its property, according to the rules of international law.” According to the spokesman, the Ministry was in “permanent” contact, with the Algerian diplomats in Tripoli to ensure their security.




The street in Algiers worries

The situation in Libya is worrying Algerians. The fall of El Gaddafi’s regime implies the building of a state, a challenge for new Libya. Many citizens questioned in the street do not hide their anguish as to the turn of events that will follow and the after-Gaddafi.



“It’s good but what will happen after?”

“What is happening in Libya is the logical consequence of the nature of the Libyan regime, a dictatorship. It is also the case for the majority of Arab countries. The same ingredients lead to the same results. The fall of the regime was inevitable as it was overtaken by time. The principle of the change is good but I think that Libyans are not yet mature to escape manipulations from great powers nor to engage themselves in the building of a solid state. First, their revolution does not have any ideological platform. The concerns of Libyans were to free themselves of the regime without proposing an alternative and engaging themselves in the building of a state. A state is not just something physical but it is made of principles and of a philosophy. For example, the American revolution was started when Great Britain raised taxes. This was the beginning of a true revolution which gave birth to the America, a strong state. It was the philosophy that was put in place by 55 signatories of the Declaration of Independence.”



“Important changes in the region”

“The end of the Libyan regime is bringing tides of important changes in the region of the Maghreb, however, I cannot foretell if these will be positive or negative. It is difficult to pronounce oneself because the situation is not clear. It is chaos. In Egypt and Tunisia, the uprisings were popular uprisings, people demanded the departure of two dictators. In Libya, the movement is armed and we do not know the nature of the rebels, who could not have advanced without the aid of NATO, of France, of the Americans and of Arab monarchies. Of course, this support is far from free. These are geostrategic issues. All this is not good for Algeria. The threat that weighs at our borders is heavy. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the south, Morocco on the other side and now the Libyan threat, the insurgents and the flood of weapons. The regime has fallen, now a state must be built.”



“Our borders are thrice under threat”

“Sunday, I went to sleep at around 4am, I was watching television and following live the development of the situation and the insurgents’ entering Tripoli. Gaddafi gave himself up, he was giving an interview on Al Jazeera in his house when they were surprised by rebels. He had heard shots in his house, he was scared, then the live feed was cut. A quarter of an hour later, the President of the TNC declared to the media that Gaddafi had been captured but that he had refused to leave Benghazi. He was probably wanted killed. This new situation scared me. Our country is in danger. The colonisation is at our borders, it is our neighbour. The change in Tunisia is unclear, terrorism hits the south and we have problems with Morocco and the western Sahara. To this the situation in Libya is now added. Our regime is not strong, we are heading towards an impasse.



“Who will replace Gaddafi?”

“I am following the news from time to time on the net. Yes I know that Gaddafi has fallen and that he is negotiating his exile. The fall of the regime is good for the people who have rid themselves of a dictator. It is a good sign. Gaddafi has killed, stolen and is involved with his children in cases of corruption. He even entertained dubious relations with certain European states. This is a president who has never put first the interests of his country, of his people. Who will replace him? This is the big question. Libya is a rich country, its resources must be protected and such a country should not be handed just like that to anybody.”

Interviews collected by Irane Belkhedim

The political class is reacting


“We are awaiting statements from Foreign Affairs”

The FLN shall not comment on the development of the situation in Libya. Its communication officer declares that its party is awaiting a statement from Foreign Affairs. “We are following the situation. As soon as we have elements of information, we will comment” he said.


“We respect the popular wish of Libyans”

Calling the situation “preoccupying”, Seddik Chihab declared that the position of the RND is that of the government. “We respect the wish of the people of Libya. It is a people who was at our side during our war of national liberation, with whom we have had relations and interactions” he said. Of course, he continues “Moammar Gaddafi has always been a neighbour not very easy to deal with but every time we were able to find a solution and to keep a serene climate and good neighbourly relations”. He reminds that as soon as it was formed, the TNC demonstrated a certain “animosity” towards Algeria. However, “we remain calm as to the future. The wish of the Libyan people will be respected and Algeria will strive to work towards maintaining fraternal and good neighbourly relations.”


“This is a logical ending to any dictatorship”

The MSP welcomes the “victory” of the Libyan rebels before underlining that the presence of foreign forces has no cause to be any longer. “We respect the will of the Libyan people and we consider that this denouement was inevitable”, said the MSP spokesman. He however hopes to see that Libyans will cross this stage and will come to belong to a state of law and democracy. “An authentic democracy needs to be brought forth and it is especially important not fall for vengeance or civil war”. Calling the situation as “the logical ending to any dictatorship”, he explains that the Gaddafi regime monopolised power and all the country’s resources while denying citizens their basic rights.”

Statements collected by Rym Nasri


The LADDH welcomes the “victory” of the Libyan people

The Algerian League for the defence of Human Rights (LADDH) welcomes the victory of the “revolution for the freedom and dignity” of the Libyan people. The LADDH, in a public statement issued yesterday, “hopes that Libyans will build a democratic state, a sovereign state, a state of law where citizens and the dignity of people will be the centre of interest.” It declares its availability to collaborate and participate with the organisations of the Libyan civil society with a view to strive towards reinforcing and developing human rights in the Maghreb.

Rym N.

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