Professor Lahouari Addi, Ms. Amel Boubekeur, Dr. Sue Onslow (chair)
22 March 2011, 6:30pm, COL.B212
This discussion was particularly topical in view of the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, and the contrasting developments and violence in Libya, and the decision by UNO members to institute a no-fly zone. Pressure for political change in Algeria shares many of the same sources and similarities of grievances elsewhere in Northern Africa and the Middle East region, yet there is very rarely informed discussion or reports in the British media. Professor Lahouari Addi's frank discussion of the contributory role of the particular colonial legacies, post-independence developments and in particular the events and violence of the 1990s which helped to set the position of the army in the Algerian political scene firmly in its broader context. Professor Addi pointed to the tensions within the army hierarchy between the junior officers and senior staff, and differing generational approaches to the army's role in 'managing' change. Specifically, the divergence between repression, and a desire for the institution to present itself as the guardians of democracy along the lines of the Turkish Army. This contrasts markedly with the repressive and insidious role of the Algerian internal security services, which has stifled legitimate discussion and debate, leading to a political vacuum which encourages the use of violence as the only means of exerting pressure for change. In Professor Addi's view, security sector reform is therefore key to any future political transformation of the Algerian state and society.
In contrast to this 'view from the top', Ms Amel Boubekeur presented a detailed picture of the variety and overlapping sources of social discontent and mobilisation. This was a welcome alternative analysis of the complexity of Algerian civil society, and its implications for social mobilisation into a coherent opposition movement to the current regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. In the Question and Answer session, Ms Boubekeur also explained the development and modification of Islamism in political thought and organisation. In her concluding remarks, Dr Onslow pointed out the dynamic and interactive process between elite politics and organisation, and grass roots mobilisation in Algeria.
Professor Lahouari Addi of Science Po, Lyon, is an expert in matters dealing with the role of the military in Algerian politics and debates on transition to democratic rule. His writings have generated considerable discussion and controversy in Algeria. He is also a former visiting professor to Princeton University, USA.
Amel Boubekeur is a research fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. She has been an an associate scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut and the head of the Islam and Europe Programme at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. Her research focuses on Maghreb politics and Islam in Europe.
Dr Sue Onslow is the Head of the LSE IDEAS Africa International Affairs Programme.
LSE IDEAS, COL.B212, Columbia House, London School of Economics. Map.