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Igbo independence and Biafran identity

In this essay we will take time to clarify some areas that seem to confuse some people in the on-going Biafra separatist movement in Nigeria. Over the years, as will be expected; the move for the independence of Biafra has undergone some transformations

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In this essay we will take time to clarify some areas that seem to confuse some people in the on-going Biafra separatist movement in Nigeria. Over the years, as will be expected; the move for the independence of Biafra has undergone some transformations. These changes seem to have created a sort of mixed messages in the minds of both observers and participants. So, at this point it is really important that we try to clarify some of the seemingly ambiguous aspects of the movement.

It is a fact that for some of the participants, those involved in the struggle, many are finding it difficult to come to terms and accept the obvious realities of these changes when they seem to go against some of their assumed or preconceived notions of what the struggle should be about. This is understandable. But in spite of the genuine appreciation of the position of these colleagues it will be foolish if we should ignore the prevailing obvious new realities and facts as they concern the movement. We can only ask that such individuals will be humble enough to find the sincerity and courage to acknowledge these truths and incontestable facts when they are revealed to them.

Right from the onset we take it for granted that all of us who are involved in this Igbo independence project are concerned with the noble idea and task of establishing a functional and viable society or country. With that in mind we will take it that none of us in this movement is in it for the vain pursuit of an imaginary kingdom based on the fancies of some unrealistic “united states” dreams. Such figments of unreflective imaginations are nothing different from the nightmarish one Nigerian concept, which we are saddled with now. Such unreflective idiocies must be avoided by all means if our aim is to succeed and not just thrive but prosper as a new country.

Igbo is a distinctive language, an ethnic nationality of 50 million, a people with definitive unique identities, a linguistic, cultural and worldview that cannot be confused or mistaken for something else by anyone. This exclusive way of life makes them who they are: Igbo.

In this regard therefore, it is necessary to state plainly that the current non-violent move (starting from the later part of the 1990s to the present, 2018) to separate Biafra from Nigeria, as an independent state is exclusively an Igbo project. It is an effort by the Igbo collective to establish a new country exclusively for and by themselves. And we must quickly add that this desire is just, legitimate and altogether wholesome.

Igbo people in Nigeria have specific autochthonous lands, which they have always occupied from antiquity. In these lands, from primordial time the Igbo have always existed there and passed them on from one generation to the next until this present time. It is the Igbo in these lands so described that want to separate their lands from Nigeria into a new modern country with a sovereign independent status.

It is in this fundamental fact that the key to an unclouded understanding of the scope or dimensions and the identities of the new Biafra and its people lies. This fact clearly defines the contrast that exists between the 1967 Biafran struggle for independence and the current Biafran independence movement. The two may sound alike but there is an unmistakable difference between them. In the 1967 Biafra, the lands and peoples of other ethnic nationalities other than the Igbo were included in the physical geographical map of the Biafran country. Indeed some Igbo lands were excluded in the map of the old Biafra. But in this new Biafra it is only the Igbo ethnic nationality and their lands everywhere that make up the new country. As we go on with this discussion, this position of an Igbo-only Biafra will be further explained.

Relevant changes are often necessitated by prevailing circumstances, new knowledge and newly emerging truths. For the benefit of some of our colleagues in this liberation movement we understand that sometimes it is difficult to embrace necessary changes. Most often it is time that is the primary agent of these changes. In Stephen Hawkins’s A Brief History of Time he talks about how difficult it was for him at the initial stage to convince the scientific world to believe in his Big Bang Theory and how even more difficult it has been for him to dissuade the same group of scientists from believing in many aspects of the same theory.

But the truth is that new knowledge and truths will sometimes emerge to supplant former truths or ideas. It is therefore, not a sign of inferior intelligence or inferior moral standards to review or change one’s positions based on new knowledge and truths. Time and the people themselves must always continually determine and create their own realities based on their prevailing circumstances. And it will always take the painstaking reflective patience of the sincere and honest individual to find enough courage and boldness to accept new truths and new realities as they present themselves.

Alternatively, putting it more bluntly, we must say that it will be a fatal mistake when anyone especially those in the centre of the Biafran movement try to ignore or pretend that nothing changes with the passage of time or that such a fundamental reality on which hinges the total essence of the independence movement will be sorted out later on.

The circumstances that produced the two Biafras are not the same
We need to make it clear that though this generation of Igbo people take a part of their inspiration from the just and courageous actions of their forebears who rightly fought to be free as Biafrans, but the truth is that the Igbo of the on-going Biafra or Igbo independence movement also have their own unique reasons for embarking on this new project of freedom. Therefore this new business of Biafra or Igbo independence movement is exclusively the project of the present generation of Igbo people and will be fought and won on this generation’s terms and conditions. The old truism that says that every new generation must fight their own battles and win or lose their own victories could not be truer elsewhere than in this instance.

Read Also: The voice of the people is NOT the voice of God

Briefly, we must mention here, by way of explaining some of those reasons that differentiate the old Biafra from the new: In the past during the 1966 Pogrom the Igbo were not the exclusive victims of the Nigerian government-sponsored killing of unarmed citizens. The other neighbouring ethnic peoples or most of the other people from what was then known as Eastern Region of Nigeria were also among the casualties in the killings. And mostly it was the Pogrom that led to the declaration of an independent state of Biafra from Nigeria with the geographical map of the old Eastern Region serving as the new country’s physical boundaries in 1967. That country of Biafra existed from mid-1967 to the second week of January 1970.

Another important point to note here is that the old Biafra was declared along the then existing Eastern Region administrative territory as established by the British colonial administrators. The boundaries and identities of the people of this new country of Biafra will be determined by the indigenous people, the Igbo by themselves and for themselves.

Just like the presently contested one Nigeria, the old Eastern Region of Nigeria was an arbitrary creation of a foreign colonial power without any due consultation with the natives or consideration of the differences that existed among the native peoples who would be compelled to deal with the consequences of the actions. As it is in Nigeria, the old Eastern Region was made up of peoples with incongruent and irreconcilable worldviews and national aspirations who were forced by the force of colonialism to mix together their fortunes and destinies in one political and administrative structure without the benefit of a commonality of cultural and historical antecedent or heritage which serves to bind a people together and enable them to live in harmony and a progress-promoting environment.

The new Biafra

Due to the continued mistreatment of the Igbo in Nigeria starting from 1970 when the Biafran-Nigerian War ended; the well-documented and publicised marginalisation, persecution and complete exclusion of the Igbo from Nigerian commonwealth and all the affairs of the Nigerian state, a group of Igbo people (known as Ekwenche Research Organisation in the United States) decided in 1996/1997 to revive the quest for the independence of Igbo people from the Nigerian state.

Over the years this quest has evolved but its core agenda remains the same – the determined separation of the Igbo nation and land from Nigeria.

It is important that no one should miss or mix up this fundamental agenda because that is what gives the movement its nature, structure and dimensions. Except the Igbo, this new Biafra has nothing to do with any other ethnic groups in Nigeria, for obvious reasons.

Generally speaking, though the Igbo are adventurous and outgoing, they are not known to be imperialistic or to covet the fortunes, stations or places of other people. It is this national trait of the Igbo, which informs the continued survival of the Igbo practice and reverence for Ikenga Igbo – a belief in the supreme importance of individuals’ personal achievement. The Igbo thrives better when they have the exclusive control of their own space and destiny.

Just as we the Igbo are not interested in the possession or in the sharing of our neighbours’ good fortunes as a result of common citizenship of the same country, we are not pretending to being the redeemers or saviours of these our neighbours either. The Igbo believe that each of their neighbours is capable in their own rights to save, determine and pilot the ship of their own state and destiny by themselves and for themselves.

In Nigeria the only group of people who is resented, despised, hated, persecuted, and generally considered, as the pariah of the state is the Igbo. Just one recent example will suffice here. On 6 June 2017, a group that goes by the name Northern Youth Coalition held a press conference in Kaduna and issued a three-month quit notice to all Igbo people living in what is traditionally known as the northern region. This area covers about 70 percent of the physical map of what is known as Nigeria.

The quit notice, which was backed by the government and people of the north is quite explicit and specifically issued to the Igbo people. In the document that the group read at the press conference it explained clearly why the quit notice was exclusively for the Igbo and not inclusive of other ethnic members of the Nigerian union.

For the sake of emphasis it needs to be repeated here that over the years that the non-acceptance of Igbo people in Nigeria has remained a consistent systemic and systematic programme of both the government and the private citizens of Nigeria. This programme is not lost on Igbo people therefore, the people have made an immutable resolve to move out from Nigeria and form their own separate sovereign independent state. This resolve is also based on the universally accepted principle of Self Determination as the right of all peoples everywhere.

We need to remind our readers that we believe in the unity of all human peoples everywhere, but we are aware of the fact that not all forms of unity are good for all peoples everywhere. Without looking far to illustrate this point we can only invite our readers to take a quick look at the disastrous unity of one Nigeria. From the Nigerian example it is very clear that the only unity that succeed are those that are based on the understanding that such a people that are being united have a unified sense of purpose, that such a people are united in the common pursuit of unified national aspirations, and yoked together in their common cultural ways and worldviews.

With this conviction that not all forms of unity promote strength, harmony and progress, Igbo people categorically reject any unity that is just for the sake of it. In our opinion, nothing can be weaker than all forms of unity that lack the basic ingredients that foster harmony and progress but instead promote resentment, hatred, death and intolerance.

It is for this reason that we know that any new Biafra that will not take these historical facts and realities into consideration is equally doomed from the start just like the one Nigeria which we are fighting to be extricated from.

At this juncture we need to reassure all Igbo neighbours who are living in the contiguous lands around the Igbo, that we recognise the fact that they too may have their own issues or misgivings about the Nigerian union but we also know that just as it is in the real world, each group has their own unique challenges which is peculiar to them. We also know that just as it is only the one who wears the shoe understands where it pinches, the Igbo do not pretend to know or have the answers to their neighbours’ challenges as it applies to them. As good neighbours, the Igbo are always willing to work in partnership with their neighbours to achieve certain goals such as working jointly together to collectively extricate themselves from Nigeria.

Working together in projects of this nature does not mean that other ethnic nations should subsume their unique national identities in the Igbo identity. Should the need arise where the Igbo neighbours will fight alongside the Igbo to win freedom from Nigeria, it will never result in what some misguided individuals erroneously refer to as the “United States of Biafra.” The present Igbo independence movement is not pursuing any such thing. Despite its faults this present generation of Igbo cherishes with pride their unique Igbo identity which they are prepared to own and preserve while working on continually improving and modernising this their collective heritage to remain relevant and to continuously conform with the universal global standards.

It is in this light that we want to state plainly that this new Igbo-only Biafra will not be a closed society. Although the country will be an exclusive Igbo society and a sovereign country, it will also be an open society that welcomes all-comers from everywhere, without discrimination. For the purpose of emphasis we need to state that this Igbo country will especially be more open and welcoming of those who are mistreated, persecuted or pursued from anywhere. So long as all intending immigrants are willing to come in and be assimilated and ultimately become Igbo by practice and identity, they will always have a home in the Igbo country.

With this understanding it becomes clear that the kind of an Igbo-only state that we are talking about here does not mean a closeted extremist or intolerant state. No, it means a state where an oppressed and persecuted people can be and have their lives and properties and rights protected by a sovereign national power. In this Igbo state all people from anywhere in the world who are escaping oppression, persecution or any such thing can come there and find a home and refuge without discrimination.

In this state – an Igbo state, people of all colours and persuasion can come to this state to dream, achieve and prosper without any hindrances so long as they keep the laws of the land and respect the rights of fellow citizens. It will be a state administered under a continually updated set of predictable rules, regulations, laws and order. It will be far removed from any state where the whims and fancies of one person or a few clique of individuals prevail.

There will never be a reason to exclude anyone who comes into the Igbo state who will be willing to live and abide by the norms of their host society. Igbo ways and ideas are in full conformity with the universal standards and practice and all Igbo everywhere own and identify with them with pride and are ever willing to work hard at the protection, preservation and advancement of this their Igboness as a collective bequeathal to subsequent Igbo generations.

Lastly, we want to reassure all people everywhere that this pursuit to establish a safe haven (a sovereign state) for the Igbo who have always suffered resentment, persecution, discrimination and hatred in the hands of their neighbours is a just and legitimate venture and should be supported by all well-meaning individuals, governments and groups everywhere.

Commentator: Osita Ebiem
He is a social affairs commentator and rights advocate.

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Strictly Personal

Tobi Amusan, Ozuah And Buhari’s N1.14bn Vehicles For Niger by Festus Adebayo

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To understand the profligacy, indiscretion and misplaced priority in the purchase of N1.14bn ($2.7m)-worth 10 luxury vehicles by the MuhammaduBuhari government for neighbouring Niger Republic, ostensibly to shore up that country’s security, at a time when there is excruciating hunger in the land and terrorists are probably a mile away from the Aso Villa seat of government, you have to go way back to the year 1972 or so, to the reply of the late President of Niger Republic, AhmaduDiori, when asked why Niger supported Nigeria as against the secessionist Biafrain the Nigerian Civil War. According to Diori, as quoted by Temitope Ola in ‘Nigeria’s assistance to African states: What are the benefits?’ in International Journal of Development and Sustainability, Niger depended on Nigeria for her economic survival. In his direct words, made in French, Diori had said “when Nigeria sneezes, Niger not only catches cold, it is already on admission in the hospital.”

While government justifies the vehicle purchase as continuation of Nigeria’s national foreign policy, with its central focus on Africa, this has afforded Nigerians the opportunity to dig into the details of the so-called foreign policy. In the process, we found out that, as irresponsibly profligate as that Buhari government’s vehicle purchase is, at this time of national economic pains at home, profligacy and irresponsible spending have, since independence, hallmarked successive Nigerian governments’ national and foreign policies. This recklessness confirms the flipside of that popular aphorism that though Rome was not built in a day, Rome was also not destroyed in a day as well. Not only didn’t the prostrate and lamentable state that Nigeria currently finds herself begin today, Buhari, a known defender of his Fulani ethnicity, at the expense of Nigeria, was led into taking such a reprehensible action based on a Nigerian governmental pedigree of wastage.

According to a January 30, 1970 edition of The New York Times, even after a ruinous, brutal and destructive civil war, Nigeria’s economic structure and promise remained almost unscathed. Put at about $1billion spent on prosecuting the needless civil war, Nigeria must have been one of the few countries in the world which fought an intra-national war for three years without any known record of indebtedness. With an economy managed by Chief ObafemiAwolowo, an astute manager of men and resources, Times reported that Nigeria adopted the “cash and carry” method for her arms and ammunition procurement. More astoundingly, she didn’t have to draw down on her foreign currency reserves which, pre-war, stood at $400 million.

Armed with a hugely humongous oil wealth, a vast population and the mantra that a Nigerian was in five blacks gathered anywhere in the world, as the street lingo says, these soon “entered Nigeria’s head,” and the thought that the country could be an African superpower became a near-national ideological obsession. Between 1967 and 1977, federal government revenue was said to have soared by 2,200 per cent. Nigeria’s economy was so strong that, on January 1, 1973, the country abandoned its pound sterling currency, a colonial relic, and created a Naira currency. Nigeria was managed by an exuberant crop of unaccountable military leaders who had scant leadership and economic training. The height of it was Gowon’s infamous statement abroad in 1973 that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it.  The huge oil wealth was soon quashed on the altar of naivety, arrogance and knavery.

Going on foreign junkets became a pastime of the nouveau riche military elite and a consumerist pattern driven by obsession for foreign goods. This grossly contradicted a budding ideology of a people who professed African superpower. General Gowon, like MuhammaduBuhari, publicly known for his terse thirst for personal corruption, became a breeding pond for blood-of-the-country-sucking sharks dressed in military epaulettes. The governors began a mania of infrastructure driven more by opportunistic crave to collect kickback from contractors than need for development. It became so bad that in 1975, the Gowon government had placed accumulated order for 20 million tonnes of cement, paid for by Nigeria’s buoyant petro-dollars. The cost of the mind-boggling cement orders was put at about $2 billion, an amount which was a quarter of Nigeria’s oil revenue in 1975. This order was at the time more than the cement capacity of Europe and USSR combined. Apapa was thoroughly overwhelmed and shipping lines all over the world scurried to Nigeria to take a bite of the raw, mindless orgy of profligacy. Most of the shipments entered demurrage in what was infamously dubbed the Cement Armada.

The petro-dollar El-Dorado was so hugely provoked that every rural dweller in Nigerian villages wanted to migrate to the city. Prostitution statistics rose tremendously, so did crimes. Girls became willing liaisons to soldiers in whose hands hid the famous dollars from oil exploration and their civil servant accomplices. Between 1970 and 1976, statistics revealed an upsurge in criminal activities due to the craze to take a bite of petro-dollars. An approximate 900-percent increase in incidences of armed robbery was recorded, with 12,153 reported cases in 1970. This figure soared to 105,859 in 1976. Executions of robbers, codified in federal and state laws, went on the upswing. The capital punishment for armed robbery could however not deter the spate of robberies because the petro-dollar gains accruable from the crime outweighed the risk of being caught.

It was easy for the exuberant military leaders, many of them in their 20s and 30s, some of whom were bachelors, like General Jack, the Head of State himself, to extend the spatial control mentality of military psychology into governance. They easily keyed into the African superpower near-national ideological obsession and began to spend like Father Christmas, in the service of a foreign policy they devised, which was woven round Africa as centre-piece. This cost Nigeria heavily.

Thus, in 1972, as reported by Ola, Nigeria signed a pact with Niger Republic to supply her 30,000 kilowatts of electricity, from the Kanji Dam hydroelectricity, even when local electricity needs were not met. Again in 1974, Nigeria donated millions of Naira-worth relief materials to same Niger when it was ravaged by drought. After the widespread Soweto massacre riots of 1976, Nigeria brought into the country hundreds of “Soweto kids” and several other South African Black youths and offered them scholarship to study in Nigerian universities. This continued to the end of apartheid. Nigeria also established a South Africa Relief Fund (SARF) in 1978 where Nigerians poured about $20 million of their hard-earned money into. In June 1976, according to Ola, Gen Obasanjo presented a cheque of $250,000 to the liberation forces of Rhodesia through Mozambiquan Foreign Minister, Joaquim Chissano in Mauritius during the OAU summit. Quoting General Joe Garba, Ola also reported that, on April 25, 1976, Obasanjo handed over to President Samora Machel of the newly independent state of Mozambique the sum of $1.6 million as development assistance.

Nigeria also did this Father Christmas in her negotiation with and sale of a concessionary 90-day crude oil to South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Niger and other Africa countries. Ghana and Togo owed the country over $30million from the exercise. The Big Father Xmas also constructed an expressway from Lagos to the outskirts of Cotonou with several millions of dollars, while spearheading the integration project of a regional gas pipeline for the sub-regional economic development. Nigeria equally established the Technical Aid Programme and created a Trust Fund at AfDB for Africans with a soft loan of $100 million it left in the bank to be lent to Least Developing African Countries.

In 1989, upon the paralysis of Beninoise government by a bludgeoning workers’ strike occasioned by its inability to pay salaries, Nigeria, under Babangida, offset the salaries while also donating 12,000 tonnes of petroleum products to the government. The year before, Babangida’s Nigeria funded the Ibrahim Babangida School of International Studies in Liberia and donated seven Nigerian academics to its institution while Nigeria constructed the Trans-African Highway and bought over Liberia’s debt valued at $30 million.

There have been several arguments from international relations scholars who aver that, not being an island unto herself, Nigeria cannot but assist other nations, especially the ones that surround her. This argument is further bolstered by the fact that Nigeria herself receives huge assistances from developed countries of the world. However, Nigeria’s foreign policy has been left so much to the whims of the executive arm of government which then drives it according to the personal mindset of the head of the arm. It is why a cronyist like Buhari will capitalize on this unwholesome pedigree of Nigerian leadership to fritter money abroad in building a road into his Niger ancestral home, spend billions of Nigerian money on the tiny African country and legitimize it by citing Nigeria’s national foreign policy. President Obasanjo and General Babangida, for instance, squandered Nigeria’s national wealth so unconscionably during their stay in office on what will appear a mythical brotherhood relations policy, without corresponding benefits accruable to the country. Many of those countries on whom Nigeria squandered her national resources that could have been saved to build a today for her children demonize Nigeria and Nigerians today on account of the social and economic calamities that result, partly from such mindless donations and investments in their countries that were made decades ago. Nigerians today face xenophobic attacks from South Africans, for whose today we cleaned our treasury yesterday.

Almost as if it was perforating the thesis I have been sermonizing about since the beginning of this piece, on the scene emerged an alumnus of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, MBBS Class of 1985, Dr Philip Ozuah who donated the sum of $1,000,000 to a hostel building fund project of the college last week. The news nearly blocked the social media airwave. In an earlier discussion of Nigeria’s Father Christmas role in Africa that I had with some persons, I was asked that, put beside Ozuah’s gesture, what difference exists between Nigeria and Dr. Ozuah, both having helped their needy ecosystem?

In some way, you could also throw into this mix Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan, the 25-year old athlete who made history last week by winningthe 100 metres hurdles gold at the World Athletics Championship.

Rather than counterpoise or equalize Nigeria, I think what both Ozuah and Amusan did for Nigeria is what Leo Tolstoy called Loss as the elder brother of Gain. At a time, we thought our Loss was the national morale that had sagged badly in Nigeria, both in individual Nigerians’ willingness to intervene in the affairs of the other person or intervention in matters that affect the collective. Also, at a time that we thought that the name of Nigeria could never inspire anything good in the world, Amusan and Ozuah dismantled this mindset by coming as our Gain. In the words of Bob Marley, in his Trenchtowntrack, Ozuah and Amusan both made Nigeria/Nigerians to find “our (national) bread in desolate places,” among a world that asked, “can anything good come out Of (Nigeria) Trench Town?”

However, Ozuah and Amusan haven’t totally erased the fact that Nigeria is still a desolate place. If you listened to the maiden Channels TV interview granted by Festus Keyamo, National Publicity Secretary of the APC and his haughty pee on the graves of Nigerians who died and are still dying as a result of Buhari’s effeminate fight of terrorists, or his cavalier dismissal as inconsequential and the over-simplification of the almost half a year stay at home by our university children, you cannot but conclude that though brains similar to Keyamo’s, since 1960, have profligately driven Nigeria back, the Amusan and Ozuahs demonstrate that even inside the tunnel, we can have the light shine.

Tobi Amusan, Ozuah and Buhari’sN1.14bn vehicles for Niger

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Algeria Turns 60, Hopefully the Age of Reason by Aziz Boucetta

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In July 1962, after a 132-year-long occupation by France and a fierce 8-year-long national liberation war against the French, Algeria obtained its independence and became a country, a new state on the world stage. It took the name of “The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria,” before letting itself be more or less ruled by the military since then.

The country’s sixty years of existence  have been erratic, alternating between militaristic presidents and recurring periods of power vacuums under the ever-tightening tutelage of the army.

An army with a State

Coup d’Etats, president assassinations; a “Black Decade” with 250,000 deaths; a president who was bedridden following a stroke, “re-elected” in 2014 and hardly a “candidate” in 2019, before a wave of unprecedented protests in the country’s history.

All of this has evidently resulted in an unstructured economy, in which industry is not founded on any strategy or perspective, the public sector is bloated, and which relies almost exclusively on manna from the energy sector.

Hydrocarbons still represent 95% of the country’s exports, and contribute more than 50% of the state budget. As for agriculture, tourism, and many other sectors, they never properly started, and the result is that the Algerian economy remained a cash economy where foreign currency served to buy social peace.

In reality, to borrow Mirabeau’s description of Prussia in the 18th century, “Algeria is an army which possesses a state.” Everything is good, everything is permitted, while nothing is good enough for the Algerian People’s National Army (ANP), whose generals have more or less taken the country’s political power hostage.

The ANP vigorously buys equipment, even if useless, such as the six diesel powered submarines it recently acquired from Russia. The army and its chiefs, in a permanent (mental) state of war, impose this mentality of the besieged on the entire country where their psychotic culture of secrecy leads to the opacity of the Algerian regime.

According to former French ambassador to Algeria Xavier Driencourt, a fine connoisseur of the country’s political mysteries and author of “The Algerian Enigma” (Editions de l’Observatoire, 2022), the Algerian regime lives permanently with two eternal enemies: France and Morocco.

To France, Algeria never forgave the 124 years of colonization and the 8 years of a bloody independence war; and to Morocco, Algeria does not forgive the simple fact that it exists. Algeria’s obsession with these two countries is the source of the siege mentality of the Algerian generals and the presidents they put in place.

Deep-seated Hatred of Morocco

And it is precisely this mentality that leads the Algerian regime to ludicrous, even kafkaesque diplomatic moves (on the Sahara dispute, for  instance), and even sometimes to dangerous acts (the latest attack on Melilla by migrants from Algeria).

Behind the current situation of the country is the coming to power, at the end of 2019, of the Abdelmajid Tebboune-General Said Chengriha duo. Tebboune serves in a figurative role as the Head of State, where he is tightly controlled by General Chengriha, who himself is well-documented to have been responsible for a great many deaths in the country during the “Black Decade.” The duo replaced two much more prestigious figures, who were more aware of emerging international trends and challenges than their successors.

Tebboune and Chengriha are permanently engaged  in unending rounds of upmanship  against Paris and Rabat, and especially Rabat. Accusing Morocco of all Algeria’s ills, rupturing diplomatic relations, and even childish decisions and measures such as refusing to refer to the kingdom by its name, but by the amusing expression “North African country.” The very “North African country” that saw its map retracted and its national anthem butchered during the 2022 Mediterranean Games

In the end, the Algerian people bears the biggest responsibility in the stagnation of a country that could have been great otherwise than by geography.

The reason is that, after initiating a promising Hirak in 2019, the Algerian people has interrupted its movement and seems to have gotten accustomed to the mediocrity of its leaders, who in turn drive the country to its doom — economically, politically, diplomatically, or geopolitically. And the generals of the country’s army maintain their hatred of “Marrok,” a hatred or at least a rejection which, despite denials, is found in a large section of the population.

Meanwhile, despite its problems and vicissitudes, its shortcomings and failures, Morocco is moving forward, ignoring its neighbor’s Moroccan obsession. All of which is really regrettable, because the Maghreb could have existed and been stronger together. And imagine what a changed place the Mediterranean region would have been with this unity!

We must wait then, for wisdom to enter the hearts and spirits of the Algerian leaders. In principle, celebrating the 60th anniversary is celebrating wisdom… let’s hope, but in the meantime, let’s groan!

 

 

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