The Algerian army should not be scared of effective civilian control

The smile revolution quickly encountered the stubbornness of a General Staff of the army, in a hurry to rebuild a civil facade

Source: Brookings

Formally responsible for the defense of the country since independence, the National Popular Army (PNA), this pillar of the Algerian regime which has always worked behind the scenes of power, was forced, after February 22, 2019, to appear in broad daylight as “the true maker of kings”.

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The smile revolution, which pushed a whole people in the streets of the cities of Algeria and elsewhere, demanding a change of system and a civil state, quickly encountered the stubbornness of a General Staff of the army, in a hurry to rebuild a “civil facade” behind which to take shelter again to pull the strings and continue to survive.

The primacy of the armed forces over politics is not new. We know that in 1957, Abbane Ramdane, the true thinking head of the FLN, paid with his life for his desire to impose “the primacy of the political over the military”. He was strangled in December 1957, in Morocco, on the orders of the military chief of the intelligence and counterintelligence service of the Algerian revolution…

It is still this same bad scenario that some senior officials of the Algerian Army are trying to replay today, suffocating the Hirak by imprisoning its symbols, dividing our nation and imposing a servile president and government without personalities. A mistake by the military power that Algeria will certainly pay dearly for.

For there are many of us who think that, like any institution in our homeland, our army should no longer escape effective civilian control or well-founded and constructive criticism of its activities, which must be limited to the implementation of defense policy.

This should be defined by a national security strategy in association with the parliament, a true representative of the people, in order to remove the great dumb from politics definitively.

If we must certainly not deny the ANP, and we are all convinced of it, an important and crucial role in the stability of Algeria in the defense of its borders and in the relentless fight engaged against terrorism, it is necessary however recognize that its leaders were responsible for the failed democratic transition of the early 1990s, when they had decided, rightly or wrongly, to interrupt the legislative elections which the Islamists were preparing to win.

Is it moreover for fear of having to assume again a failure in the march towards democracy which would explain why the new chief of staff, Said Chengriha does not want to reinvest directly in the management of politics?

Or would it be because the army does not want to find itself managing extremely difficult and worrying economic and social situations that are looming on the Algerian horizon in the very short term and likely to fuel the potential for urban violence?

If the Algerian people legitimately aspire to live in a state of law, endowed with strong democratic institutions, or the right of each one is guaranteed as regards equal opportunities, freedom of worship, or expression, the history of its recent peaceful uprising recalls that of other nations.

The Carnation Revolution which took place in April 1974 and which lasted two years, had brought about the fall of the military dictatorship which had dominated Portugal for over 40 years. This revolution had seen soldiers carrying out a real democratic project providing for the establishment of a civil government, and the organization of free elections which succeeded in overthrowing the regime, without establishing an authoritarian regime.

This event was the beginning of the democratization of all of southern Europe, leading to the fall of several dictatorships including those of the Spanish and Greece.

More recently, the revolution in Sudan which brought about a major political change in the regime, had continued for eight months with a movement of civil disobedience leading to the fall of President Omar al-Bashir by the soldiers who had placed him there, after thirty years of power…

In July 2019, representatives of civil society and the army accepted the formation of a Sovereignty Council composed of five soldiers, five civilians and an eleventh member chosen by consensus, and which will ensure the democratic transition until the holding of civil government elections.

As for our country, positive developments adapted to the aspirations of the people and directed in the direction of the movement of modern nations should no longer be eluded by the ANP.

Our army must focus on its organization and must continue the professionalization of its armed forces started in the early 2000s, while accelerating the gradual abandonment of conscription as soon as the return of civil peace is registered.

Indeed, the professionalization of the ANP seems to be essential due to the reorganization of the army and the modernization of its equipment by recent armament in combat aviation or in the air defense of the territory to take only these examples.

“Conscripts in the constituency do not spend enough time to be trained, and if they are, they do not stay long enough to use military weapons. It is a colossal human and financial loss for the army. ”We will learn from an Algerian military pensioner.

This professionalization of army personnel, which remains subject to the provisions of the law relating to the status of military personnel, adopted in 2006 to replace that of 1969 governing this body, must, in our view, be reformed to adapt to the modern requirements of armies.

If the provisions of this ordinance of law, signed by the deposed president Abdelaziz Bouteflika on February 28, 2006, limit the political activities of the members of the ANP, it will be noted that it allowed in its article 5, the creation of a council superior of the military function (CSFM) chaired by the Minister of Defense- President, who will decide on career promotions or the retirement of all army officers, generals and generals-general included.

The same law also regulated the retirement of all members of the army according to age and length of service.

Thus, the chief of staff cannot exceed the age of 64 in his post, and General Major 60, or even General 56. Likewise a colonel cannot exceed the age of 53 in his post and 48 for the lieutenant-colonel, or finally 45 years for the commander.

Beyond that age, no officer who has reached retirement age could potentially remain in the ranks of the military.

Except that the ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika left himself the possibility, through article 21 of this ordinance of law, to provide for special derogations in favor of certain superior officers …

If the Algerian army today has so many generals and major generals who have largely passed the age limit, would they all have really benefited from this presidential waiver decided at the CSFM? We only ask to see …

On the other hand, this new statute marked out by the ordinance-law 2006, excludes through article 26 to any officer the possibility of expressing himself in the media or of animating conferences without the prior agreement of his hierarchy and even provides for heavy sanctions which can go as far as striking off and abolishing the grade against offenders …

The question that arises is: whether it was the late Gaid Salah, who had multiplied the media declarations or the recent Chief of Staff Chengriha who has just revealed in his recent declaration that the army was at the origin of the designation of president of the republic Abdelmadjid Tebboune, did they really obey the law and did they have the authorization of their hierarchical chief who is the Minister of Defense? Again we ask to see …

The National People’s Army, pillar and fundamental institution of our nation, must be as consistent as exemplary in its action internally or within the environment which surrounds it, it will no longer be able to afford to depart from the law or the constitution.

Its modernization and professionalization necessarily involve respecting the rules of generational alternation and the development of its many young skills, blocked today by obscure opaque legal provisions, even fluctuating depending on the power play between presidency, services Intelligence and Army Staff. It would be just as unproductive as dangerous for the military hierarchy, at a time of the great challenges it faces (border surveillance, war in Libya, instability in the Sahel, terrorism, drug trafficking, etc.) to be involved in blocking this process capital for the ANP.

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