Algeria: Terrorists Take A Time-Out

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February 22, 2011: While the government has promised to end 19 years of martial law ("state of emergency") by the end of the month, police and pro-government thugs continue to block daily pro-reform demonstrations from sustaining themselves in city and town centers. Algeria is somewhat unique in the Arab world in that it is still mobilized to deal with an active Islamic terror group. Thus a lot of Algeria's oil income is going to provide good jobs for large and, so far, reliable and loyal, security forces. But some members of the government are also calling for real democracy, believing that the unrest against authoritarian government will only grow. There is popular unrest more because of unemployment and corruption, but these problems spring from the corruption and mismanagement of a self-appointed ruling class. Algerians, unlike many other Arab countries, are still weary from over a decade of war with Islamic terrorists, and not as willing to endure more such violence. Some of these Islamic radicals are still around, just enough to remind everyone about the bad-old-days.

In neighboring Libya, full scale rebellion appears to be underway. Libya has, since the 1960s, been under a far stricter dictatorship, run with the cooperation of tribal and ethnic group leaders. This form of rule is corrupt and inefficient, causing growing poverty and unemployment, but does take advantage of tribal and ethnic loyalties and local (and paid-off) leadership. As in the rest of the Arab world, it's a generational thing. Libya, like many Arab nations, has a ruling family that has paid attention to taking care of the security forces, so that when force was needed, it would be applied. But there has been growing unrest, and in some large cities, like Benghazi, the government has lost control. Egypt has set up refugee camps on its border with Libya, to deal with 20,000 refugees so far, and more on the way. There appear to be splits in the security forces as well, with a growing number of desertions. Democracy has become a popular new cause among the young, even if they have a job in the security forces. But a civil war may not produce a democracy, just a new group that has enough power to control the population, and oil income. The current government, under the Kaddafi family, has squandered much of that money, and that's a big part of what the current unrest is all about.

Islamic radicals were never able to establish much presence in Libya, but there are still some in Algeria, and they are quiet for now, apparently waiting to see how the revolution will play out.

Meanwhile, to the west, neighboring Morocco is also witnessing a growing number of pro-reform demonstrations and some violence. But no calls to replace the monarchy.

February 19, 2011: Demonstrators assembled in the capital, calling for real democracy, and were attacked by pro-government thugs while police stood by and did nothing. This sort of thing has been going on daily for over a week.

The Libyan government cut  Internet access overnight, but it was back on the 20th. The government also began jamming satellite broadcasts for al Jazeera news.

 

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