Documents Unité d'études

An Open Letter to a Brother from the National Popular Army 

The Dawla Madania We Seek 

My Brother from the ANP, 

I have just returned from my 52nd hirak demonstration. This evening I feel like I have been knocking on a deaf’s door for the 52nd time. Therefore, I thought I should write to you this letter about our demands, because, as a military, you are not unrelated to the deafness epidemic seizing those who decide the fate of this country. 

This deafness is not in their ears, it is in their egos and minds. Le Pouvoir listens only to applause, and it is known that the powerful love to feign deafness because it gets the supplicants on their knees before their thrones. Sometimes I feel that slapping them with harsh slogans is the sole way to pierce through their deafness, but at other times, like now, I think it is pointless as they feel the slap without hearing it. 

It is said that tactful words in soft tones help listening, so let me in this letter try to explain to you what the hirak exactly wants and how it affects you. Perhaps through you, and through other officers like you, the demands of the hirak may eventually get heard, understood and acted upon. 

This letter is not easy to write because I do not know what your position is on the need for a profound change in the country. I know that some officers believe that genuine change, freedoms and democratisation are a threat, so perpetuating the current system with targeted repression will see them through the crisis. They have the upper hand at the moment. On the opposite side, there are officers who sympathise with the hirak, believe that democratisation is the only way to re- legitimise the political order, and consider that repressing the hirak will isolate the army in society while invalidating its claim of embodying national unity and interest. In between these opposites lies the « hchicha talba ma’icha » variety of officers rather busy following the path of least resistance, which makes the tortuous course of rivers and the twisted character of men. This differentiation is true for both active and « retired » officers. This letter shall not presume anything about where you stand. 

This note is structured around nine arguments. The first four bear upon issues that are internal to the army, the next four pertain to points external to your institution, while the ninth is a historical argument. Let me return briefly to today’s demonstration before I proceed with the first argument. 

0. Dawla Madania, machi… 

My Brother from the ANP, 

We stood for hours, at today’s demonstration, singing “dawla madania, machi askariya” (civilian state, not a military one), “djoumhouria machi caserna” (republic not a garrison), “mamama al ‘askar mayahkamnache” (we do want the military to rule us), “nkamlouha bissilmiya, nnahou al askar min al mouradia” (we shall maintain nonviolence and kick out the army from the presidency). I am embarrassed to say there was also the usual “les généraux à la poubelle, waldjazair teddy al istiqlal” (generals to the dustbin of history, Algeria shall be independent), about which I will say something later, but let me first focus on Dawla Madania, as it subsumes all the other slogans. 

Tebboune, like his predecessors, is not our president; he is the army’s appointee and servant. A fake dialogue, a bogus electoral commission and widespread electoral fraud, all commissioned by the army’s high command, made him up as head of state. He owes his position to the army, not the people. Dawla Madania (civilian, as opposed to military, state) means it is the civilian president, elected freely and fairly, who should control the army. Not the other way around. 

You may not agree with this. Some of your colleagues believe that sovereignty or the God- given right to rule belongs to the military. Since independence, all presidents have been either military officers or civilians installed through force or electoral fraud by the officers who controlled them. The country has never known free legislative or local elections except those of the democratic interlude between 89 and 91. 

The hirak calls for independence because there is no universal suffrage in this country. Just like women in Europe or the blacks in America, in the 19th century. Even you in the barracks do not have suffrage right since hierarchical orders are given to vote for your chiefs’ candidate, and the results are tampered with anyway. So, in fact, you and me are living in a medieval state in which only two dozen officers have the right to choose who leads this country. As Ferhat Abbas said, « the Middle Age is not dead in Algeria. » 

The civilised world considers universal suffrage as the sole guarantee against despotism. Civilised countries regard their people as the source of sovereignty, and grant every adult the right to vote. Because people are created equal. Because everybody is equally affected by the laws and policies of the state. Because excluding some people from voting means excluding their representation and interests. Because it enhances the prestige of the people in society and political leaders have to listen to them for securing votes. 

Because it imparts political education to the people and keeps their interest strong in how their cities and country are run. 

Sure, our constitution does grant sovereignty to the people, and the right to vote to every adult, but your military superiors trample it. This is why the hirak calls for a Dawla Madania, which means that it is the elected civilian president who should be the actual commander-in-chief of the armed forces. 

1. Is Dawla Madania in your personal interest? 

My Brother from the ANP, 

When the hirak shouts Dawla Madania every Tuesday and Friday, this also means that it is the government, proceeding from free and fair elections, which appoints the defence minister, who must be civilian. The management and administration of the Ministry of Defence should be a mainly civilian professional body in charge of managing the careers of the soldiers and the officers. 

Mind you, this is not against you, but in your self- interest. Why? Under a genuine civilian democratic government, your career and advancement path would be safe, predictable and transparent. We know that as an ANP army officer your career path is insecure, unpredictable, and dark. Evidence? Army chiefs in their seventies and eighties and generals retired in their forties and fifties. Never ending reports and stories about cronyism, corruption, abuse of power, clientelism, purges, unjust dismissals, forced retirements, business or politically motivated shuffling of officers in the ANP. By contrast, a professional, fair and transparent management of careers by expert civilian managers will bring safety and predictability to your career, as well as rationality, the rule of law, service ethic, merit, performance, integrity, fairness, trust and respect in your work environment. A civilian led ministry of defence will transform the army from the feudal or patrimonial corps it has been so far, into a modern, professional, fully institutionalised fighting force. This is not utopia. Hundreds of studies exist on the civilianisation of defence ministries, for example in Argentina, Brazil, or South Korea, which illustrate transitions from military regimes, or in the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic or Bulgaria, which are instances of transitions from communist regimes. Obviously, the civilianisation of these ministries in Western democracies has been widely documented, codified and standardised for decades. 

My Brother from the ANP, 

In the 1990s, Algeria experienced a war against the people led by the « Issaba » system, which confiscated the people’s choice in January 1992, a war that led to almost a quarter of a million victims. Algerians experienced then the horrors of arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, massacres, enforced disappearances, forced displacement, destruction of the social fabric and the collapse of the country’s economy. 

Perhaps, you, or one of your friends or acquaintances in the National People’s Army, participated – out of conviction in the service of the fatherland, or forced by the high command of the army through orders from the hierarchy – to the crimes perpetrated against the Algerians. It may also be that you were scarred by the dirty war that Algeria experienced, or that one of your friends or acquaintances, soldiers or officers in the National People’s Army, suffered from its throes or was one of its victims. 

Know that it is everyone’s duty to deal with the psychological and social effects of the acute crisis and the intense violence that took place in our country. The recovery of Algeria depends on our ability to deal with the legacy of the past. This can only be done through a process of true national reconciliation which has nothing to do with the “Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation” imposed by the “Issaba” in 2005. This sham law forged the facts, criminalised the victim and deprived them of their right to the truth. True national reconciliation must emerge from an inclusive national dialogue on this issue, which includes all stakeholders, in particular the victims and their families, all the armed forces, the judiciary and representatives of civil society, in particular human rights organisations. This dialogue should call on experts in reconciliation processes as well as psychologists and sociologists. 

True national reconciliation rests on four pillars: truth, memory, justice and forgiveness. The victims and their families, as well as all the Algerian people, have the right to know exactly what happened during the bloody decade, and who is responsible for what, be it the armed forces or the armed insurgency. This should be done through expert and independent investigative committees, and official and public apologies should be made. It is the duty of the State and society to preserve the collective memory and to document the tragic events in order to prevent them from happening again in the future. 

True national reconciliation requires respect for the victims’ right to justice, not punitive justice but rather a restorative justice able to rebuild the victims, the tormentors as well as society as a whole. It is a justice governed by the principle of forgiveness, established and encouraged by our religion. Forgiveness as a national policy with regard to everything related to public rights, and forgiveness as a voluntary individual act by the victims and their families, with regard to private rights, once they have access to the truth and are rehabilitated and compensated for the damage they suffered. Justice is duty-bound to prosecute the senior officials who were behind the adventure of the coup and the repression that followed, even symbolically, knowing that most of them have died or are languishing in prison, so they can serve as an example. 

Your participation in the process of true national reconciliation is vital and necessary for its success. So do not refuse, for the love of your homeland and your people, to support such an initiative, which will rid the country of the heavy heritage of the past, consolidate national cohesion and unleash the energies of the people in order to enjoy peace and prosperity. 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Corruption is a scourge that has spread in the Algerian polity; it has worsened over the past two decades and has spread at all levels and systematically under the reign of the « Issaba ». Thus, more than one trillion dollars in hydrocarbon revenues did not revive our collapsed economy. No state institution has been immune to this scourge, including the National People’s Army; indeed, many high-ranking officers have engaged in practices unrelated to their constitutional duties and prerogatives. They embarked on commercial and financial affairs without legal supervision, in various fields of food, medicine and building materials, and entered into suspicious arms purchase transactions. All this has cost the public treasury billions of dollars in the form of illegal commissions deposited in European and Arab foreign banks. 

The phenomenon of corruption has taken root among state institutions to the point that it has become common practice for many officials. It has even become a “culture” and a « national sport » in which rivals in corruption display proudly their exploits in private circles. 

We all want to get Algeria out of the tunnel of an authoritarian regime, which has captured the state and monopolised national wealth, in order to lead it towards the rule of law and good governance. Emerging from this tunnel will only succeed if we join efforts to eliminate the phenomenon of corruption. It will not be possible to eradicate this scourge without pooling everyone’s efforts and launching an inclusive national dialogue that involves state institutions, political forces and representatives of civil society, in particular organisations specialising in the promotion of transparency, in order to formulate an integrated national policy with broad support to fight corruption. 

Any national anti-corruption policy must tackle the corruption cases accumulated over the past two decades. The processing of these cases must move away from the spirit of revenge and focus on the supreme interests of Algeria. One can explore many options, such as giving state officials (civil or military) involved in corruption cases the choice between devoting themselves to public service or else managing their private wealth. In addition, a percentage of ill-gotten gains must be returned to the Treasury in exchange for an amnesty. Such a percentage could be determined provided that the rest of the enrichment is invested in national projects. It is the duty of justice to prosecute the main actors in corruption, even symbolically, knowing that most of them have died or are languishing in prison, so that they can serve as an example. 

You have an important role to play in saving Algeria from the scourge of corruption that eats away at the body of the nation. So be with your people, hand in hand, to cooperate in the fight against this calamity and in building the Algeria of tomorrow, where transparency will reign and where everyone will enjoy peace, dignity and prosperity. 

2. Is Dawla Madania against the interests of the military institution? 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Dawla Madania means that it is the elected civilian government, which decides the budget of the Ministry of Defence, not the generals. A civilian state means that Parliament has the right to hold the Minister of Defence accountable for how the budget is spent, for contracts concluded between the Ministry of Defence and economic, security or military partners, and for military, security, and training policies etc. This is not against the interests of the army as some cynical officers have claimed. Democracies have the most capable armed forces in the world. 

A government budget reflects the values and priorities of a nation and its people. The defence budget should cover the spending for robust equipment, reliable weapon systems and good salaries for defence personnel. It should however be within international norms, neither below them as in countries facing no discernible external threats, nor much above them as in garrison states where the military is over-bloated, and more resourced and organised than the state itself. 

This budgeting should also be guided by a vision to develop gradually autonomous national defence capabilities. Aiming at self-sufficiency must be a bedrock of our arms procurement policy because our history and our region teach us that even our shadow leaves us in the hour of darkness. Furthermore, there are numerous statistical studies which demonstrate beyond any doubt that military dependence (military training abroad, imports of arms and military equipment, foreign military assistance) allows the countries supplying weapons and services to exert an influence on the military hierarchy of the importing countries. This dependence on foreign militaries correlates significantly with an increased propensity to coups and repression. Arms sales and military services (military training and assistance programs) are motivated by both commercial and geopolitical considerations. They facilitate access to, and influence over, the military hierarchies of importing countries, which often become proxies imposing the policies of foreign powers supplying arms and services. 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Our country is so vast that fast mobility is key not just to defending it, but to integrating its regions and people and developing its economy as well. A national aviation industry is necessary and long overdue. Chinese, South Africans, Emiratis, Italians or Turks are no better than us and we can develop capabilities to build UAVs, helicopters, training, reconnaissance or transport planes in the not so distant future. As our aviation industry grows and matures, nothing can stop us from developing combat aircrafts. 

Regarding drones, some media have made hollow nationalist claims to tout an Algerian technological advance, when we know that these are simply slight modifications of Emirati drones themselves copies of Ukrainian KABD systems. A true national aeronautical industry cannot flourish without a legitimate and stable political system, supported by a dynamic economy, where there exists an effective educational system, and strong universities which train highly qualified engineers in electronics, aeronautics, mechanics, fluid dynamics, electrical engineering, IT, and materials sciences. Furthermore, without technological sovereignty in avionics, there is no guarantee that these drones, or our other fighting aircrafts, will do what is expected of them in wartime. 

I am sure you agree that it is not fitting that our country should beg any foreign power for satellite images of its own territory. The development of national space infrastructure, research, activities are also long overdue. Our country can and should build its own satellites, for military or civilian purposes, and we should eventually put them into orbit ourselves. 

We are a major Mediterranean nation with more than one thousand kilometres of coast to defend. We have been purchasing corvettes, frigates, submarines, amphibious assault ships, patrol boats, mine hunters, missile boats and auxiliary boats from Russia, China, Italy and Germany. It is also a great shame that we do not build our own oil or gas tankers and not even our fishing boats. This is a betrayal of our geography, and our history. Up to a few centuries ago we were a major naval force in the Mediterranean, led by some of greatest naval admirals in history. From the 12th century our country had several shipyards building ships and arming them, yet about six decades after independence we do not have even one shipyard to build military or commercial vessels. A naval industry is also long overdue. 

Our country imports tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery, rocket launchers, missiles and small arms for our land forces, and electronic warfare systems, radars, air defence management systems, missile-based air defence systems, anti- aircraft weapons and surface-to-air missiles for defending its airspace. Here too the budgeting should also be guided by a vision to manufacture gradually these defence capabilities in the country so that we can stand on our two feet in the medium to long term. 

World-class military schools and academies, military strategic studies and research centres, and at least one department of war studies in our best university should also be accommodated in a forward-looking budget. 

In short, Dawla Madania does not mean a badly paid and poorly equipped or trained army. On the contrary. But we have to go for what we think we are capable of, not limit ourselves by what we have been doing in the recent past. 

My Brother from the ANP, 

No one can deny that, in the current rotten system, part of the officer corps has been pursing prestige as domination of the political system, prestige as a shadow of power over the civilian elites, making and unmaking presidents, ministers, walis, diplomats, deputies, party leaders, etc. Prestige as a shadow of money often acquired in illegal manners. Greatness is not found in weakening and manipulating civilians, in waging war against one’s society, in eating one’s own children, dispossessing one’s people, crippling one’s country. 

Dawla Madania means that you and your fellow officers shall acquire prestige and greatness from your competence, expertise and skills in developing national defence capabilities, from your contribution to the army’s well-being and growth, and from your sense of responsibility, humility, service, and good character. 

3. Does Dawla Madania threaten the cohesion of the military institution? 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Some of the officers opposed to a genuine democratisation of this political system are known to argue that Dawla Madania may threaten the cohesion of the military institution. This is far from the truth. 

With regard to horizontal fault-lines within the army, the sole risk stems from the feudal behaviour of some officers and not from the people or politicians. “Djeich, chaab, khawa khawa” reflects the unity our people feel towards the army, and Algerians are deeply committed to the unity of the people, territory and army. The only risks in this regard relate to some discontent in the low ranks due to shortcomings in meeting their social rights and to a feudal subculture within the army whereby some officers do not distinguish between the institutional and the private and treat privates and lower ranking colleagues as their servants. 

As regards vertical faultiness within the army, Dawla Madania can only heal them because conflicts, infighting and mistrust in military hierarchies are known to be the products of their factionalism, politicisation and corruption. Professional armies in democratic countries are not politicised and do not split factionally. 

The infighting you saw last December between the late chief of staff and generals from intelligence services to enthrone Tebboune or Mihoubi is reminiscent of the dissension we saw in the 2004 presidential elections. During the 90s, Algerians discovered that the army hierarchy split into two factions, known then as eradicators and conciliators, which cooperated and projected unity when military primacy was threatened but fought each other fiercely when this threat receded and the balance of power between them shifted in favour of one or the other. They fought each other through promotions and demotions, assignments, assassinations, coups and attempted coups, political or media attacks through their civilian proxies, and even through intensifying human rights violations to discredit each other. These factions have been roughly construed as the factional successors of the internal ALN one the one hand and the external ALN and former soldiers in the French army on the other. 

This factionalism went underground in the first two terms of Bouteflika, who used coup-proofing tactics to divide and rule the army, but it re- emerged in different form in the summer 2018 when evidence that some generals were implicated in cocaine trafficking was used to settle scores between officers involved in competing political, business and corruption networks. These factional hostilities reached their apex after the 22 February uprising, which was followed by the dismissal, early retirement, imprisonment or escape abroad of a number of officers. The hierarchy of the ANP projects today the image of an unprofessional leadership riven by factional conflicts, mistrust and dissension arising from intervening in the political realm as well as from partaking in competing political, business and corruption networks. 

Clearly the main threat to military cohesion stems from structural factionalism, politicisation and corruption within the leadership, and not from Dawla Madania. On the contrary, Dawla Madania is about shielding the army from the contingencies of the political process, and in particular from the vices of the current political system which should be radically overhauled. Democratic control of armed forces means stamping out factionalism and politicisation, on the one hand, and professionalising, from the other, in order to make the military strong enough to win wars but unwilling to intervene in internal political affairs, thus strengthening the institutionalisation of healthy civil-military relations in this country. 

4. Dawla Madania and national security 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Some hardline officers have ideological concerns about Dawla Madania. You may or may not share them, but let us evaluate them. Just as the revolutionary principle of the primacy of the political over the military was rejected by some leading officers during the war of liberation, the hirak’s calls today for Dawla Madania seem to have prompted the same response from some hawks in the leadership of the ANP. In between these landmarks, this trend of officers has maintained an entrenched ideological leaning, which professed revolutionary legitimacy as well as developmentalism in the late 60s and 70s to justify its long-term control of the political process, then retreated tactically during the first democratic transition, between 1988 and 1991, but afterwards redeployed again its control of the political process in the name of the counterinsurgency campaign against the terrorism its January 1992 putsch had produced. 

During most of Bouteflika’s four mandates, this trend of officers justified the continued control of the political process, a firm but less ostensible control by military intelligence, on the grounds of maintaining stability and safeguarding national and state security. 

Let us focus on the latter purported security concerns, which seem to be the chief ideological argument the hardline officers hold against accepting the hirak’s demand for a genuine transition to democracy. This argument will be dealt with through 4 points. 

First, militaristic nationalism does not distinguish between national, state and regimes securities, it conflates the three, when in fact they are quite different. The security of the regime is one thing, that of the state is another and that of the nation is something else. 

Regime security is the ability of the ruling elite to secure its power through repression and political manipulation. This, the army certainly provides. However, state security, in the sense of maintaining the integrity and functioning of the institutions and idea of the state, does not exist in our country. A chronic legitimacy crisis, institutional weakness, an inability to enact national policy or perform basic state functions, centralization of political power in small elites who command the machinery of government in their own interests, structural corruption, large national protests, and an ongoing economic crisis are all structural evidence that there is no state security. 

National security in the sense of the security of a whole socio-political entity, a nation with its own way of life and independent self-government does not exist in our country. For instance food security, economic security, health security, political security (enjoyment of civil and political rights, and freedom from political oppression), and environmental security (protection from flash floods, fires, drought, earthquakes and desertification) are manifestly lacking in our country. Human rights and liberties precede the state or the nation. State security does not constitute an end in itself, but is a means by which the person can fully realize himself, a means that contributes to the attainment of the common good of society. However, human security – in the sense of freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom to live a dignified life – is missing in the life of the Algerian citizen. 

Secondly, this contradiction – between regime security on the one hand and state, national, and human security on the other – is known as the insecurity dilemma typical of failing states in the developing world. This insecurity condition means that the more the military apparatus strives to secure the regime, the more the levels of state, national and human security decline. The pursuit of short-term regime security undermines the long-term interest of building-up the state and securing it and achieving national and human security. 

This condition is known to be self-perpetuating because the regime’s efforts to achieve its own security through force produces increasing resistance from society and a weakening of the institutional basis of the state as well as the security of the nation as a whole. This weakening of the state in turn impairs the security of the regime, which resorts to ever more force to secure itself, undermining further the state. A vicious insecurity cycle or vortex ensues, the guardians morph into tormentors, with the instruments of coercion ultimately mutating into a threat against the regime, which may collapse abruptly leading to a situation of anarchy. 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Thirdly, let us briefly revisit Algeria’s insecurity vortex. After the army generals decided to abort Algeria’s first transition to democracy based on “national security” concerns, they used force to destroy and disperse an authorised party and counter-insurgency warfare (arbitrary imprisonment, exile, torture, summary executions, kidnappings and massacres) to crush the violent response to their putsch. The political arm of the army, the DRS (Direction de renseignement et de sécurité, Department of Intelligence and Security), resorted to censorship, monopoly and control of the media, to the co- option of opponents, to subverting, imploding or weakening genuine parties, to setting up fake parties, gerrymandering, candidate disqualification, manipulating the electoral rules, and ballot rigging, and to controlling labour unions, mosques, cultural associations, sport clubs, and other key civil society organisations. This political engineering served to arrange a multi-party democracy facade, useful to get a degree of international legitimacy, while retaining effective control of the political process through the DRS. 

Neither the end of the dirty war of the 90s, nor the 2001 uprising in Kabylia, nor the chronic riots throughout the country, nor the Arab spring prompted the regime to initiate genuine democratic reforms to consolidate the state. Preferring short-term regime security to long- term national and state interest and security, the DRS – still drunk with its short-term “success” – continued with this strategy throughout the Bouteflika years. The oil rent was squandered to plaster some social grievances, buy loyalties, and finance ever-increasing patronage networks. Corruption skyrocketed, under the nose or with the blessing of the DRS, and became the main means of integrating the state. A pyramid of corruption, incompetence and mediocrity ruled the country. As had Plato noted some 2,400 years ago, the meddling of soldiers into what does not concern them “brings the city to ruin.” 

The unexpected national hirak, born on 22 February 2019, led to the fall of Bouteflika and the imprisonment of a faction of the regime. Instead of accepting the hirak’s calls for a genuine democratic transition and Dawla Madania, the dominant faction in the army leadership, trapped in the insecurity dilemma, has gone for the habitual or familiar choice, the failure-addictive choice. Refusing to listen, it has resorted instead to using its political arm, the mukhabarat, to harass and repress moderately the hirak alongside imposing through violence and fraud a fake president whose main mandate will be to oversee the fabrication of new multiparty democracy façade. 

Fourthly, the hirak considers this move as whipping a dead donkey. It refuses to accept it. Ultimately, the army leadership will have to choose between either the security of the regime, requiring a repression wider in scale than that of the 90s, which may prompt a new guerrilla war leading to the collapse and disintegration of the state, or else the demise of this regime and the path to a genuine state consolidation through democracy. They will have to choose between becoming the guardians of the Algerian state and nation or remaining the tormentors of the Algerian people, between security as a means for the consolidation of the Algerian state and the emancipation and progress of its people, and security as an end in itself. 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Einstein said that one cannot resolve a dilemma with the very same mind that made it. In dilemmas, if one does not risk anything one risks even more. Clearly, the definitive long-term solution to the insecurity dilemma is Dawla Madania. 

This means dismantling the political police, all the intelligence and security services that monitor and control civilians – activists, parties, the press, trade unions, judges, clerics, contractors, sportsmen, artists, etc. – and that some of them employ to engineer an artificial political scene that serves the contingent objectives of the prevailing military leadership. 

Intelligence and security services are necessary for the survival of states, but their mandates, their legal foundations, their structures and dimensions, their powers, their controls, their impartiality, and their management of personal data must be rigorously defined, codified and regularly examined so that they are not used against the society they are supposed to serve and protect. Highly secretive, non-transparent coercive entities are useful to regime security but a danger to both state and national security. They should be divested of arbitrary powers and subjected to the rule of law. This means the elected parliament should have the authority to question all leaders of the security and intelligence services about the disbursement of their budget, their activities, and violations of the rights of citizens. It also means that an independent judiciary should have the authority to monitor and imprison any officer and any commander of the security and intelligence services in all matters relating to human rights violations, corruption, mismanagement, etc. Of course, the leaders of the security and intelligence services should be civilians appointed by the elected government. The head of the DCSA (Direction Centrale de Sécurité de l’Armée) should be appointed by the army. 

Lastly, Dawla Madania likewise means that the security doctrines taught in military academies and security and intelligence schools should distinguish between regime, state and national security, and they should not consider the people as a threat to national security as is the case now. This is a doctrine of colonial armies, a doctrine based on internal control. In a civilian state, the army has a mission to focus on external threats. 

5. Dawla Madania and civilian governance 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Having dealt with the four questions internal to the military institution, let me now turn to the first of the four issues external to the military institution: the nature of civilian rule. 

There are officers who may object to civilian governance on the grounds a) that it may fail in running the country, or b) that it may provoke deep divisions or polarisations in the country, or c) that a hegemonic ideological party may rise and seek to capture the state, any scenario of which would threaten the security of the state and compel the army to intervene again in the political process. 

The first objection is no ground for refusing the transition to democracy. Most Algerians concur that the military direct and indirect rule for the past 57 years has been a failure. Refusing a path leading to a hypothetical failure on the ground that is safer to continue with a corroborated failing system is not logical. Algerians aspire to choose the best among them to run their affairs. If the government they choose fails, they will change it for a better one, as is done in tens of advanced and developing democratic countries. 

The second objection is not convincing, in view of all the efforts deployed by the political police and its media auxiliaries in the past year to polarise the hirak and divide it along ethnic lines, on the one hand, and the magnificent national unity with which the people responded to the challenge, on the other. Of course, once a genuine democratic system is set up nothing precludes the emergence of political forces creating deep divisions or polarisations in the country. However, such an eventuality can be easily pre-empted by constitutional means and laws relating to parties, threats to national unity and hate speech, be it racial, regional, religious or ideological. 

The third doubt can also be pre-empted with constitutional safeguards and political means. Constitutions of consolidated democracies do contain explicit procedures to remove an authoritarian ruler or party from power. Apprehensions of this kind can be aired openly in political dialogues and negotiations during the democratic transitions and political mechanisms agreed upon to ensure such a scenario never materialises. 

My Brother from the ANP, 

It is known that there are officers who have unspoken but nonetheless stronger and more visceral objections to civilian rule. From the towers of military culture, they look down on civilian politicians and scoff at the idea that such creatures may exert control over them. The investiture ceremony of Teboune captures well what this kind of officers regard as acceptable politicians: vassals who play-act as masters. So, their thinking goes, “how come these slaves become our equals, or worse, our masters?” Such officers recoil at Dawla Madania because, in their eyes, it would bring a reversal of the current master-slave asymmetric control. 

Militarism’s problem is that it does not just politicise the military, it also militarises politics. In the words of a progressive retired general last year about civilian politicians: “igardfou gaâ” (they all stand to attention). This political class in all its diversity is the mirror image of the military that shaped it: responsible officials without power serving the powerful without responsibilities. There are those who compete in servanthood with each other for military patronage, for getting elected, or their party represented or increasing their share. Some others abet military factionalism, manoeuvring or doing the political bidding of this or that faction against the other, or even offering their services for this or that general in return for a share in the oil rent. There are those who contribute to the democratic façade by playing the role of civilian “experts” scrutinizing defence issues in the national assembly. Their “achievement” so far has been to organise a parliamentary day on « new international terrorism”, examine “amendments to the bill concerning the creation of a participation medal for the National People’s Army”, and hold a study day on « the role of scientific research in the development and modernization of armies » after their visit to the Cherchell academy. 

A huge moral gap separates this pliant political class from the hirak, which regards it as part of the problem. An equally huge culture gap separates it from the control-freak political outlook of such officers. The hirak is not engaged in a slave-master dialectics with the army; it believes in freeing everyone, and in the equality citizens under the rule of law. Dawla Madania is not about civilian hegemony against the military, it is about democratic control of all the government, including the army. 

Dispelling such apprehensions would have been possible if there had not been such a communication chasm between the vociferous hirak calls for demilitarising the state and the quasi-silence in the opposition to articulate and flesh out what they may entail for the military. It is true that only a few figures engage the military about the place of the military in a Dawla Madania, and democratic control of the army. Among these, many are inexperienced in defence and civil-military matters, and their conception of Dawla Madania stops at a military pledge not to intervene again, and appointing civilians to head the ministry of defence and security services. They pay no attention to institutions, laws, rules and parameters to guide the military into proper civil- military relations. 

My Brother from the ANP, 

The army is the sole to blame for this state of affairs. When you use the stick of the DRS to terrorise society and deter politicians from speaking their minds and naming things, and when you use the carrot of the oil rent to corrupt, silence and manipulate some of them to your own designs, you cannot in all honesty blame them for not taking the initiative to learn about defence matters and how to run smoothly civil-military relations in a democracy. 

What we know from the experiences of many South American countries is that democratising, starting from a dictatorship, and setting democratic civil-military relations is a gradual process. Politicians are first and foremost interested in their own survival. When they see the stick of parliament and the judiciary behind them and the carrot of the next election in front of them, they take the initiative to master their brief for consolidating the democratic order. The same can be expected in our country. Once the political police is dismantled, competent politicians and representative parties will emerge. They will quickly learn about defence matters and how to manage healthy civil-military relations, with the army not against it, within a larger democratic state. The freeing of the departments of political sciences in the universities from the control of the moukhabarat and the dedication of some of them to research, comparative studies and the teaching of civil-military relations, military sociology and democratic control of the armed forces will speed this process up. 

6. Dawla Madania and internal security 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Some officers do object to civilian governance because it may open the door to secessionist demands or movements, or else prompt the emergence of an armed insurgency. This, they claim, would imperil the internal security of the state and impel the army to redeploy in the political arena. 

This concern is in principle legitimate, and shared by all Algerians. However, in practice, the argument it entails is not valid. First, a secessionist movement (MAK) has emerged in 2001, under the army-dominated rule of Bouteflika. This movement was not repressed even when it called for violence in June 2018. Likewise, it was the command of the army through its coup that provoked the emergence of an armed insurrection in the 1990s. So if these two actual failings should not delegitimise the army from controlling the political process, why would a hypothetical materialisation of these concerns under a future civilian state delegitimise civilians from ruling? This posture is inconsistent. 

Secondly, since the beginning of the hirak, military intelligence has been shamelessly fanning the fire of racism against Kabyles using all the media platforms they control, including national television, in a hopeless attempt to split the hirak. However, Algerian society has responded robustly to this racist and divisive threat and vigorously defended national unity. 

Thirdly, the hirak has been preaching and practising non-violence. Millions of citizens have been demonstrating for a year without breaking a single window or burning a single tyre or car, regularly cleaning the streets after the demonstration. They have maintained this non- violence despite many episodes of police and gendarmerie brutality, as well as thugs attacks widely believed to have links with the deep state. A new non-violent culture of protest and resistance has emerged in the political culture of our country. The hirak promotes civic values and a non-violent approach to political matters, and if this progress in our national political culture is nurtured and consolidated through the education system, culture and the media, it will produce political stability for generations to come. 

Concerns about hypothetical violent protests in a democratic transition or consolidated democracy seem therefore ill founded. 

Finally, no one can rule out secession and insurgency risks, but these risks are associated with the perpetuation of the current system, a multi-party democratic charade controlled by the military, and not with a civilian state. If the army leadership persists with the current course of favouring regime security over state security and a genuine state-building path, and if it eventually resorts to repressing the hirak to impose its will, these risks will then become tangible. No good can be expected from a demoralised nation and from millions of despairing youth frustrated at the deafness of the authorities and that they have nothing to show for one year of peaceful protests and huge sacrifices. Armed insurgencies and armed secessionism grow in the evil soil of despair, alienation, anger, want, misery and strife. They will probably ensue, eroding further state institutions. This will likely cause rebellions and splits within the army, and perhaps even the collapse of the state, warlordism and anarchy. 

7. Dawla Madania and the economy 

My Brother from the ANP, 

The economy is legitimately a matter of concern to officers opposed to a genuine democratic transition. They are worried that civilian governance may implement economic and social policies, which will threaten social peace and jeopardize the legitimacy of the whole political system. These failures, they say, would compel the army to intervene again in the political arena. 

This concern is not convincing at all. Obviously, the army bears a huge responsibility in the mismanagement of the economy since independence. All the economic models and choices since independence were implemented by or with the blessings of the army. Except for the short democratic transition in the late 80s, military intelligence interfered in the choice of all the people running the economy, finance, energy, industry and commerce of this country. 

Of course, this is no evidence that civilian governance will do better. The economic policies of future civilian governments are not known, but there are indications and ideas circulating in the hirak that substantiate the belief that the economy will be managed better. Getting rid of military interference in economic matters, empowering freely elected and accountable leaders, bringing about the independence of justice, eradicating corruption, curtailing bureaucracy will help in rationalising economic decisions and encouraging business and investments. This will also be good for attracting beneficial foreign investments, because it is known that military regimes deter serious investors and attract mercenary ones. 

A majority of Algerians feel that their dependence on the oil rent has to be gradually terminated. This dependence has made the country very vulnerable to fluctuations in the international system, and has addicted the regime to be unaccountable to the people, to spending without taxing, to buying loyalties and postponing democratisation indefinitely. The patron-client networks financed with the oil rent amount to an anti-democratic political and social class which fears transparency and accountability. This has to end. Algerians are willing to pay taxes if they are genuinely represented. Hydrocarbon income should not be squandered for deferring democratic governance. It should eventually go only to building major infrastructure projects and to a sovereign fund for future generations. 

Algerians do not want their country to be a colonial counter, a dumping bazar of goods imported from Europe and Asian emerging economies. They want to eat the food their produce themselves, wear the clothes they weave and cut themselves, build their own houses, and drink water from the dams they build themselves. Algerians want and can build roads, motorways, railways, airports, cars, lorries, trains and planes. Algerians want to build and staff better hospitals. They want to regreen their vast territory and stop the advance of the desert. There is work in prospect for everyone. 

Socialism and oil-rentierism have produced a society deprived of initiative, of enterprising and of skills to fend for itself. This can only change through education. Depoliticising and reforming the education and university sectors to upgrade their performance is key. Setting up national business and management schools, schools of management for small and medium enterprises in every wilaya, and decent vocational training schools in every commune of the country to give the youth skills and education for life will contribute to boosting the economic development of the country. 

These are only a few ideas which do suggest that it is possible to pull our country away from the mediocre, corrupt and rentierist ways in which our national economy has been managed in the last three decades, under the control and complacent eyes of the military, who ignore that the economy is the engine of national security. 

8. Dawla Madania and external security 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Lastly, there are objections to civilian governance by some officers on the grounds this may endanger the external security of the country. 

Remember I said I would comment on “les généraux à la poubelle, waldjazair teddy al istiqlal”? This is the right place to do so because it expresses the hirak’s belief that it is the leadership of the army that endangers Algeria’s sovereignty. Some generals may be offended because the slogan seems to target indiscriminately all generals, or the rank of general itself, but this would be a superficial understanding of the slogan. The hirak has made analogous indiscriminate slogans targeting magistrates and journalists. While hirakis express their anger at these professional groups for their collective failings or shortcomings, they do not call for doing without them. What is significant in this slogan is the word ‘istiqlal’ (independence), which implicitly associates the leadership of the army with colonialism or neo-colonialism. 

So the hirak’s perception is that the top leadership of the army is the vector through which the nation experiences foreign threats. It is not difficult to see why. As a reminder, one should point out that after the army generals aborted Algeria’s first transition to democracy in January 1992, and plunged the country into a bloody war, they reneged on Algeria’s heritage of independent foreign policy, and bargained the country’s strategic and geopolitical interests in order to gain the protection of France and the US, i.e. as a means of buying the regime’s survival: access to the oil fields, and promises to normalize with the Zionist entity. Military exercises with NATO, some involving Israel, would have been unthinkable to the founders of Algeria’s foreign policy. The Bouteflika’s mandates saw an even more aberrant compromises to bolster the regime’s security at the expense of national security: dissipation of state sovereignty to assist America’s and France’s wars on terror, agreeing to the presence of western intelligence outposts and troops in the country, the « unconditional and limitless » opening of Algerian airspace to the French army. The Arab spring witnessed Algeria’s diplomacy sinking at its lowest, with incompetence and disengagement in Libya for instance, as well as alliances with regional dictatorships designed primarily to prop each other and defeat the democratic aspirations of the peoples in the region. Algeria’s international stature and regional power projection have never been so weak. 

The same reflex of seeking foreign support to reinforce regime security was on show at the start of the 22 February 2019 uprising, which the hirak denounced with the “shame on you for seeking foreign support”. 

On the contrary, Algerians calling for a radical change of the regime have never called for foreign support or intervention. Unlike other experiences in the region, even at the height of the regime’s repression, Algerians in the hirak have been adamant that they reject any interference in Algeria’s internal affairs. This consistent position reflects not just their fierce patriotism but also their collective scepticism towards foreign intervention especially in our region. Algerians in the hirak have maintained a disciplined observance of non-violence to preserve the blood of their brothers, but also to protect their country and army from foreign intervention, because they know that international humanitarian law can be misused by Western powers to achieve hidden geopolitical agendas prohibited by international law. They do not wish to trade dependence on dictatorship with dependence on a foreign « saviour ». They know that freedom and democracy cannot be a gift an outside force parachutes to them, but they are conditions within them. Foreign toppling of a dictator does not liberate a people. It destroys the oppressor but does not free the oppressed. What frees the oppressed internally is the process of their own struggle. 

During the democratic transition and afterwards, any government elected in free and fair elections will reflect the popular will and hence cannot seek to imperil the external security of the country. On the contrary, it will be expected to revive our diplomatic heritage, with an independent, dynamic, and creative diplomacy that defends fiercely our strategic, geopolitical and economic interests as well as the interests of our region and continent. 

9. National Popular Army and history 

My Brother from the ANP, 

Let us now conclude this letter with the ninth and final point about history. Successful officers are eager and observant students of the vast early warning system known as history. 

Algeria is not at its first attempt to establish a democracy. The army overthrew the first government of independent Algeria. Algeria had a democratic transition, between 1989 and 1992, which was a forerunner in the region and in the socialist axis. The army aborted the democratic transition and plunged the country into a bloody war. The hybrid regime the army erected from the ashes of this war submerged the country under a tidal wave of political, financial and moral corruption, mismanagement, megalomaniac abuse of power, and curtailments of freedoms. When the unconstitutional forces hiding behind the mummy sought to use him for a fifth mandate, the country became the laughingstock of the planet, and Algeria erupted in its greatest national intifada since its independence. 

The ongoing hirak, started on 22 February 2019, brought together all generations, social classes, professions, regions, political trends, ideologies, genders and ages together in demanding, peacefully but resolutely, a radical change in the governance of the country, through a democratic transition. However, the army leadership first used the hirak to legitimise its toppling of Bouteflika and his clique, and then, rather than engaging a democratic transition to restore the confiscated sovereignty to the people and build up the state, it has resorted instead to using its mukhabarat arm to harass the hirak alongside imposing, through coercion and fraud, a fake president whose main mandate is to oversee the fabrication of new multiparty democracy façade. Instead of taking in the profound mutations and aspirations of society, instead of seizing this historical moment, to redeem its catastrophic blunder at the last democratic transition, the mainly elderly army leadership has been striving to scupper this new opportunity for transitioning to democratic governance. 

This leadership is also blind to the wider historical movement within which Algeria’s recent history lies. Since the 19th century, the transitions to democracy have taken place in waves around the world, with spurts of progress followed by setbacks, by ebb and flow. Historians and political scientists consider that we are now in the midst of the third wave of democratization, which has affected all continents, to varying degrees. Military and authoritarian regimes are in decline worldwide, including in Africa. We were once a model of decolonisation in Africa. We have become the failed state to avoid. Why are the armies of Senegal, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia forward-looking and our own is stuck in the past – a neo-colonial, colonial or even janissary past? 

Major-general Dwight Eisenhower once said, “neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him”. But the elderly leadership of our army, after a short moment of hesitancy, chose to persist in the same posture, to repeat the same mistake, thus to paddle against the current of history. 

Military psychologist Norman Dixon, in his famous book On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, made thorough analyses about what lies behind so many British military disasters. He discarded the old idea that military incompetence was related to stupidity. What he found was that the military tended to choose people with the same psychological flaws, which included conceited belittling of the enemy, the inability to learn from experience, aversion to new technologies or tactics, and an aversion to reconnaissance and intelligence. He also identified physical bravery with little moral courage, passivity and indecisiveness, and a propensity to blame others. Dixon gave aging officers an advice that is particularly suiting to the elderly leadership of our army. “As you grow older, try not to be afraid of new ideas. New or original ideas can be bad as well as good, but whereas an intelligent man with an open mind can demolish a bad idea by reasoned argument, those who allow their brains to atrophy resort to meaningless catchphrases, to derision and finally to anger in the face of anything new.” 

My Brother from the ANP, 

We know that true soldiers thrive on three virtues: duty, loyalty, and patriotism. Yet the first duty of a soldier is to attend to the safety and interest of his country. A soldier’s ultimate commanding loyalty is to his country not his superiors. Patriotism is not so much protecting the land of our fathers as preserving the land of our children. 

What is happening today offers you a new opportunity to live up to the ambitions of the Algerian people. You should not fear change. Our people want a radical change in the political system, with the army not against it. 

The military heroes remembered by history are those who acted not to oppress their people but to defend them. While ensuring the unity of the army, will you finally agree, without trap and without violence, to let Algeria write a new bright page in its history? 

Will you have the moral courage to trust finally your people and make a step towards the future? 

An Algerian citizen concerned about the security and unity of his country.

Member of Rachad 

Algiers, 20 February 2020