North Africa

  • Algeria Protests: More of the Same or Real Change?

    The continued protests and potential leadership change in Algeria do not constitute a “big popular revolt against the regime,” according to Karim Mezran, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, but rather “a de facto demand of change of personnel.” Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced on March 11 that he would not be running for a fifth term as president, but also said that elections slated for April will be delayed.

    Bouteflika has ruled the North African country since 1999 and the eighty-two-year-old has had few public appearances since a suffering a stroke in 2013. Frustrations with Bouteflika’s rule and economic conditions have spurred mass demonstrations in Algeria since the end of February.

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  • Are the Mass Protests in Algeria Signs of the Arab Spring 2.0?

    The recent demonstrations in Algeria are the latest indicators of a shifting tide. The majority of the population has become disenchanted with the elite—or the “pouvoir.” In addition to their commitment to old values and unfulfilled promises, they maintain a tight control over the government. Now, younger Algerians are taking to the streets to show their frustration. By doing so, they are breaking the long held regional taboo about debating politics publicly for fear of retribution or getting arrested—and now are going so far as to make demands. “We want [President Abdelaziz] Bouteflika to go, enough, we want change and we want change peacefully,” said Mohamed Aissiou, an avid protestor and engineer.

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  • Algerian Demonstrations: What They Mean for the Future of the Elite and the Country

    Read in Arabic here. Algerian elites are missing a Leopardian moment. Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa’s masterpiece, the Leopard—which has become a staple of political science—, expresses the intrinsic idea that elites must change in order to remain elites. In the book, the old baron reprimanded his nephew because he joined forces that landed under the revolutionary general Garibaldi to overthrow exactly the system that constituted the elite to which they belonged. The answer of the nephew was “if we want that everything remains as is, it is necessary that everything changes.” He had to join the revolutionary forces in a commanding position in order to effect change in the system, but preserve their family’s power in the new elite system.

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  • General Haftar's Offensive in the Fezzan Region and the Italian-French Competition

    Read in Italian here. The military forces under the command of General Khalifa Haftar launched a large-scale attack on the Fezzan region in January, with the aim of taking control of the main areas of local oil production. Officially motivated by the need to strike at terrorist units operating in the region, the mission led by General Haftar has two main objectives. The first consists of securing the local oil installations, thus subtracting a substantial quota of production technically under the control of Tripoli—even if operated by the National Oil Corporation (NOC), which continues to exercise its functions in a paradoxical dual mode at the service of both political entities. The second objective is to extend the territory under the control of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), thereby lessening an opportunity for the Tripoli authorities to maneuver while consolidating the political and military capacity of Benghazi’s forces.

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  • New Technologies for a New Tunisia

    With the new Start-Up Act, passed on April 2, 2018, Tunisia has started to clear the path for innovation that could lead to economic growth. The Act removed several bureaucratic hurdles that innovative projects faced when creating new business structures—vestiges of a system implemented in colonial times. While the French mostly moved right along modernizing their systems, Tunisia remains stuck in a Kafkaesque maze that is present across every single state office and institution. The Start-Up Act aims to alleviate some of these frustrations. It is a positive and hopeful development for young entrepreneurs looking to change the world around them.

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  • The Egyptian Revolution: Eight Years Later

    Eight years ago today, a small group of Egyptians protested against their government. The protest grew, and led to millions of Egyptians coming to the streets across their country, eventually resulting in Hosni Mubarak resigning the presidency. His rule of three decades came to an end, but the revolutionary uprising was eventually subject to a counter-revolutionary wave. The final result of Egypt’s uprising cannot yet be measured, just as any uprising is eventually judged in decades, not years—but it is clear that the international community has moved beyond treating Egypt as a country in the throes of a democratic transition. The question is—how does engagement now compare to the revolutionary period?

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  • Transitional Justice in Tunisia—a Transition to What?

    January 14, the anniversary of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 2011 ouster, is a now a national holiday in Tunisia. It is also a moment to examine how things are going in the country that ignited “the Arab Spring”—the only country whose uprising did not go off the rails.

    This year’s anniversary coincided with a landmark in Tunisia’s transition: its truth commission is completing its four-year mission.  In the next few weeks, the Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC), an independent state body mandated by the 2013 Law on Transitional Justice, will publish its mammoth report on government repression from independence in 1956 to 2013, and recommend institutional reforms to prevent backsliding to dictatorship. The commission has referred cases to “special courts” that the law established to try the accused. It will recommend reparations for the thousands of victims of torture, political imprisonment, and other grave abuses, though the funds to pay for them are not yet in place.

    But the commission’s work, far from being heralded as a milestone to consolidate democracy, has met with ambivalence about how to deal with the traumatic past, leaving in doubt the future of transitional justice.

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  • Exploiting the Achievements of the Libyan Political Agreement

    The conference on Libya held in Palermo, Italy last November saw neither the rising of a new dawn in terms of security and political consensus nor the development of a strong agreement around a well-defined plan. Instead, what emerged was the reiteration by all the Libyan and European delegations of their support for the actions of the United Nations Special Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and a vague definition of a roadmap to a solution to the country’s crisis. In other words, there were minimum results but results nonetheless.

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  • The United States Should Not Get Involved in Libya’s Civil War

    An unmistakable sense of despair and gloom accompanies most news reports and literature on the state of affairs in Libya after 2011. The Arab Spring was meant to usher in a period of unprecedented change after decades of notoriously undemocratic leadership across the Middle East and North Africa. Yet, seven years later, there has been very little positive development in terms of transparency, accountability, and inclusivity in the Arab world. No Arab Spring country, however, has fared worse than Libya, whose revolt, ironically, was more of a NATO-supported war than a genuine home-grown revolution with protracted battles which have essentially torn the oil-rich North African nation to shreds.

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  • Libya, the US, and the Palermo Conference

    Key Libyan and international stakeholders will meet in Palermo, Italy, on November 12 to discuss and, hypothetically, draft a plan to deal with the political crisis in Libya. Main Libyan actors from the east—strongman Khalifa Haftar and president of the House of Representatives (HoR), Ageela Salah—as well as the west—prime minister of the United Nations (UN)-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Serraj, and head of the High State Council, Khalid al-Mishri—are supposed to attend. The heads of state of the United States, France, Germany, and Russia have been invited: none have confirmed their attendance. The United States should send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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