CW 40/2021: Escalating tensions
Press Review 1 October 2021 to 8 October 2021

Increasing tensions between Algeria and France

In response to critical remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, Algeria recalled its Ambassador Antar Daoud from France last Saturday and on Sunday closed its airspace to French military aircraft. The French jets regularly fly over Algeria to get to the Sahel region in West Africa, where around 5,000 soldiers are stationed to fight terrorism. Algeria’s actions follow, on the one hand, France’s announcement last week that it would drastically reduce the number of visas for citizens from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Paris accuses the three North African countries of not doing enough to take back rejected asylum seekers. On the other hand, at the end of September, during a visit to a working group of French-Algerian descendants of the Harkis who fought on France’s side in the Algerian War, Macron described Algeria as a “politico-military system” that was rewriting history and blamed its domestic political failure on the colonial era and France, although, according to Macron, there had been no Algerian nation before that time and, in addition, with the Ottoman Empire, a colonial power had already been present. Moreover, the Algerian system would be exhausted and had been weakened by the Hirak movement. The pro-democracy protest movement Hirak mobilized hundreds of thousands of demonstrators every week in 2019, forcing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after two decades in power. Many of the country’s old military and political elite managed to stay in office. They enjoy rather little trust within the population, which is why the Hirak movement remains active even after Bouteflikas was dismissed and still attracts a large number of people. Already in May 2020, Algiers had called its ambassador at the time, Salah Lebdioui, back from Paris after a documentary about the Hirak movement had been broadcast in France. As part of the current recall of the ambassador, Algeria accuses France of genocide during its rule over the country, which lasted from 1830 to 1962, and calls for the decolonization of French foreign policy. Various motives are suspected behind Macron’s statements and actions in Algeria as well: On the one hand, France is said to be worried about the increasing intensification of relations between Algeria and Turkey. On the other hand, it is suspected that in view of the French presidential elections in April 2022, Macron wants to stand out against the right-wing extremist publicist Eric Zemmour, who did surprisingly well in the opinion polls in the primary campaign.


Parliamentary elections in Libya postponed

On Tuesday, the Libyan parliamentary speaker Abdallah Blihek announced at a press conference in Tobruk that the parliamentary elections planned for December would not take place until January. At the same time he assured that the presidential elections would take place on December 24th as planned. The reason for the postponement of the parliamentary elections is said to be disagreements over the new electoral law. For weeks, the parliament in eastern Libya and the High Council of State in Tripoli in the west of the country have not been able to agree on an electoral law. Although parliament passed an electoral law on Monday, it did not receive the necessary approval from the Council in Tripoli, which stated that the law had not been drafted in consultation with it as intended. There had already been similar tensions between the two bodies in September, when the High Council of State in Tripoli rejected an electoral law regarding the presidential election. The reason was that the law signed by Parliament head Aguila Saleh could give General Khalifa Haftar, an ally of Saleh, advantages. Haftar’s troops fought the unity government in Tripoli prior to the ceasefire, which was created about a year ago. In the meantime he has announced his ambitions for the election as head of state. After the dispute over the presidential election law, parliament voted for a vote of no confidence in the interim government headed by Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, which has been in place since February. 89 of the 113 MPs present withdrew their confidence in the government, but the government remained in office. All these developments seem to confirm fears, also at the international level, that the political situation in Libya could deteriorate and that the elections, which are considered essential for the Libyan peace process, could not be held at the agreed time. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is organizing a high-level international Libya conference on November 12th, which is intended to help keep the elections on schedule.


In other news

Science has made a historic breakthrough in the fight against malaria. On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the widespread use of the RTS,S vaccine for the first time to protect against the pathogen Malaria tropica. In its vaccination recommendation, the UN agency focused primarily on the children of severely affected regions. Especially on the African continent, which accounts for almost 93 percent of all malaria infections, the tropical disease is still a major reason for the high child mortality rate. Every year around 260,000 children under the age of five fall victim to the disease. The approval was preceded by a pilot program, which has been carried out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since 2019 and has reached 800,000 children.



The German Africa Foundation sends its warmest congratulations: The Swedish Academy in Stockholm announced on Thursday that the most prestigious literary award, the Nobel Prize for Literature, would be given to the Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah this year. Gurnah receives the award for his “uncompromising and compassionate understanding of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the divide between cultures and continents,” said the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Mats Malm, at the announcement.

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