Algeria

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Algeria (Arabic: الجزائر, Al Jazair, Barr Al Jazair), officially the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria (Arabic: الجمهورية الجزائرية الديمقراطية الشّعبية, Jumhuriyya Al Jazairiyya Ad Dimuqratiya Ash Shabiyya), is a country in North Africa, the largest of the countries that make up the Maghreb region. Algeria is the second largest country in Africa, and the eleventh largest country in the world. [1]

History

North Africa's geographic position makes it a natural path between the Middle East and Europe. Its indigenous population, therefore, was influenced heavily by populations in transit.

Pre-Islamic

From the original people and those traversing it, the Berber people became the early Algerians, with leadership in the Almoravid Dynasty and Almohad Dynasty. They were periodically conquered by peoples including the Carthaginians, Romans, and Byzantines.[2]

Islam and Arabism

Some of the more locally powerful politics, in the period of early Isalmic influence, was a group called the Ibadis. They picked, as leaders, those who were perceived as most worthy, rather than having Shi'a or Sunni legitimacy; there was no attempt to make them permanent rulers. A leader would be more likely to be an arbitrator than a king. Within these constraints, the Rustamid Dynasty held the leadership role in western Algeria between 777 and 909; they also influenced Oman in southeast Arabia. [3]

Ottoman Empire

"For 300 years, beginning in the early sixteenth century, Algeria was a province of the Ottoman Empire under a regency that had Algiers as its capital. During this period, the modern Algerian state began to emerge as a distinct territory between Tunisia and Morocco."[2]

French colony

France took control of Algeria in the 1830's, with the definitive event usually considered General Thomas Robert Bugeaud's 1847 capture of the Arab leader Abd-el-Kader. Bugeand's methods of "pacification" were harsh: "We have burned a great deal and destroyed a great deal.

"Sporadic fighting continued until 1871 when the Algerians, encouraged by the results of the Franco-Prussian War, again tried unsuccessfully to overthrow their French conquerors."

Bugeaud called the wave of colon colonists referred to as "the agricultural scum of the European countries. " "The colons, as these settlers were called, were crude but hard-working stock and soon extracted a prosperous yield from the unwilling soil. They developed a love for the land that was at least the equal of their Muslim compatriots." In understanding Algeria, it is important to remember that there is a large non-Arab component of the population, although many left after the war.

"In the Twentieth Century, Marshal Lyautey introduced his famous " oil_spot" (tache d'huile) concept of national development. Lyautey's military and social concepts did much to give the country a national character. His handling, of the Rif War in Morocco in 1925-1926 established Lyautey as a combination "soldier, nation-builder." [4]

After eight years of fighting between French forces and nationalists led by the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), independence was conceded by France. The Algerian War (1954-1962) was complex in that it was both a war of national independence, but with three major sides: after French policy moved toward Algerian independence, other French factions in Algeria actively fought against independence while the French colonial administration had different goals. Some of the colons considered themselves Algerian, while others identified as French.

The 1954-1962 war was, even among wars, considered a dirty one. It was distinguished by having a formal policy of torture articulated by Colonel Roger Trinquier of the French Army. This policy may have helped FLN to win, even though the FLN itself practiced terrorism and torture. French methods prevented natives opposed to the FLN from seeking French protection.[5]

Independence

Geography

Algeria is bordered to the North by the Mediterranean Sea, to the East by Tunisia and Libya, to the south by Niger and Mali, and to the west by Mauritania and Morocco. It has almost 1000km of coastline and has an area of 2,381,741sq km.[1]

The fertile lands of Algeria are situated to the North, along the coast. To the south are the forested mountainous ranges of the Tellian and Saharan Atlas, rising to over 2000m, and then the Sahara desert which covers around 80% of the country. In the extreme south the desert is interrupted by two mountain ranges, the largest rising to just over 3,000m at the summit of Mt. Tahat, Algeria's highest peak. The mountainous areas of the North, which form part of the Atlas Mountains, remain geologically unstable and liable to severe earthquakes.[6]

The climate of the coastal plain, known as the Tel, is typically Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and warm, wet winters during which most of the annual rainfall occurs. The northern mountainous areas, once forested in their entirety, experience less rainfall and have suffered from over-exploitation, now supporting forests only in higher, more isolated parts. South of the Saharan Atlas the climate is significantly more arid, with average yearly rainfall less than 130mm, and in some central desert areas less than 10mm.

Population

The 2008 census in Algeria reported a population of 34.8 million people, of which more than 90% live on the Tel, the Mediterranean coastal plain.

The majority of the population speak Arabic, with the remainder speaking mostly the Berber language, Tamazight. Since 1996 Arabic has been the only official language, although Tamazight was promoted to the status of national language in 2002. French remains common, especially for official transactions.[7]

Economy

Agriculture in Algeria is mostly confined to the coastal areas, which provide cereals, fruits and vegetables, and support the production of wine. Dates are cultivated both in the north and in the oases of the Sahara to the south. Algeria has a strong trade in mineral resources, especially petroleum and natural gas, which in 2004 made up over 40% of the gross domestic product (GDP).[6] In 2008 Algeria's GDP was almost 160bn U.S. dollars, a per capita product of around 6,900 dollars.[8] A member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is the 4th largest natural gas and 9th largest oil exporter in the world.

Information and communications technology

The country connects to the SEA-ME-WE-4 fiber-optic submarine cable system that provides links to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. There is microwave radio relay to Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, and Tunisia. Morocco and Tunisia connect by underground coaxial cable. It is a participant in the Medarabtel consortium, and has 51 satellite earth stations variously homed to Intelsat, Intersputnik, and Arabsat.

Along with Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, and with support from France, Algeria is part of the Web based system for scientific and technical information, "SIST".

Politics

The current president has been Abdelaziz Bouteflika e since 27th April 1999 e.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika took office in April 1999 following disputed elections, and was re-elected, first in 2004, and again in 2009 after the government had amended the constitution to remove restrictions on presidential term limits.

International relations

For more information, see: Algeria/Catalogs.

Algeria is considered a leader of the neutralist bloc; its diplomats enjoy considerable if deliberately low-key respect. It is a member of the G-15, G-24 and G-77. A member of the United Nations and African Union, has observer status in the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

There have been a number of cases, both in bilateral and multinational situations, where Algerians, such as Lakhdar Brahimi, are regarded as honest brokers between radicals and more established groups. In 1981, after the U.S. Embassy hostages taken in the 1979 Islamic Revolution were freed, the U.S. House of Representatives “conveyed its deep appreciation to the Algerian negotiators for the role which they played in resolving the crisis”.[9]

Transnational threats

The country continues to suffer from transnational threats. While, like most "franchises" of al-Qaeda, there is no specific mailing address for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, it is most often placed in Algeria. A number of other radical Islamist, transborder groups, have Algerian ties, such as the Armed Islamic Group.

Algeria and the Arab Spring

Algeria's government and people are quite aware of the Arab Spring changes taking place around it. In April 2011, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika a constitutional revision committee was formed, "It (the commission) will make proposals in compliance with the fundamental values of our society, before submitting them for approval by the parliament or to your vote by referendum," saying these changes would improve democracy promotion and human rights. Algeria lifted its two-decade-long state of emergency in February, [10] which had been imposed due to the impending election of the Islamic Salvation Party.

Human Rights Watch said that ending the state of emergency was a step to implementing changes already in the constitution, but more liberalization was needed. [11]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 CIA (October 2010), "Country profile, Algeria", CIA World Factbook
  2. 2.0 2.1 Anthony Toth (1993), Chapter 1 - Historical Setting, in Helen Chapan Metz, Algeria, a Country Study, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress
  3. Albert Hourani (1991), A History of the Arab Peoples, Harvard University/Warner Books, ISBN 0446393924, p. 39
  4. J.W. Woodmansee, Jr., ed. (1968), Revolutionary Warfare, vol. V: French Counterrevolutionary Struggles: Indochina and Algeria, United States Military Academy, pp. 100-101
  5. Daniel Moran (December 2008), "Two Sides of the Same COIN: Torture and Terror in the Algerian War, 1954-62", Strategic Insights
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Middle East and North Africa 2007, Routledge
  7. The Statesman's Yearbook 2009, Macmillan Publishers
  8. Department of State - country profile, Algeria
  9. Algeria-US Relations, Embassy of Algeria to the United States of America
  10. "Algerian president announces the constitution will be revised", CNN, 16 April 2011
  11. Algeria: Restore Civil Liberties; With State of Emergency Over, Amend Laws to Restore Rights, Human Rights Watch, 6 April 2011