Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You mentioned the concept of "rupture without denial". Can you explain us what you mean by that? How can we make a rupture in Algeria today?
Dr. Ali Ghediri: I chose shock terms. The word rupture is in itself polysemic according to whether it applies to physics, sociology or politics. It is a term that has a part of apprehension and, to be much more concrete, I would say that it is a term that contains fear. In everyday life, in general, the rupture is resorted to when there is a blockage that no longer allows any dynamics. This is true in the social field in general and in politics in particular. Because if there is one area where the static posture is potentially dangerous, it is the one of politics. And this is precisely the case in Algeria where the political system in place for decades has shown a certain immobility that gives signs of sterility to such an extent that it has become unable to create the conditions for its own reproduction. A system that stops creating the conditions for sustainability is a system that ends, so it's a system that has dangerous droop for its own survival, that is to say, it is a system that has reached a phase dangerous as for it as for the country. In the context of our own, the term "rupture" underlies a questioning of the political-social balance, as the regimes that have succeeded since the recovery of our independence have configured it. So, to change things, we can not be satisfied with a facelift. For the Algerian case, the rupture is the only remedy to boost a new dynamic in socio-political life in Algeria.
It is a rupture without denial because, as I just said, the term itself contains a potential of renunciation and negation of the past that must be approached with caution. That is why I wanted to make it clear that the rupture I advocate is a break without denying. On what will not do this rupture? It will focus on everything except elements that form the bedrock of our national identity and our history. All the rest will be spread out on the table for the construction of a second Republic, a new Algeria, an Algeria turned towards progress and its future.
With the reign of Bouteflika, was there not a risk that the lobby of dirty money seized completely power as in Russia of Boris Yeltsin?
There was more than a risk. The money lobby really grabbed the political decision. It has been involved in a frank and open manner in political life to the point where some oligarchs have allowed themselves to interfere in the appointment of ministers; it is no secret to anyone. And not only ministers but personalities challenged in the workings of the State. It was not a risk but a fact. You were right to draw a parallel with Yeltsin's Russia. I spent two years there when Yeltsin was president, and there are many similarities between the Russian case and the Algerian case.
The army still remains a key player in Algeria's politics. Does not the fact that the army is unavoidable reflect the failure of the Algerian political system?
Every nation is the product of its history. We can't get rid of the frames of our own story. I would say that it was quite natural, to a certain extent, for the army to be involved in political life. But what it is not is that it has temporarily crossed this threshold and it still remains, 57 years after independence, this force inescapable in the political equation. That's what's abnormal. Until a certain threshold, temporarily, it may have been perhaps permissible because that is our story.
As for the failure of the Algerian political system, I completely agree with you. If the system had set itself the goal of building a sustainable national Algerian state, it would have been much more appropriate for it to put in place conditions to ensure this sustainability. Among the conditions, there is the establishment of legitimate institutions elected by the people in the most absolute transparency and things would have worked better than in the present situation. Second point: we can not claim to build or ensure sustainability for the state if we overlook certain freedoms: individual freedoms, collective freedoms, independence of the three powers, legislative, executive and judicial. So, somewhere, we ignore the right of citizens and if we ignore the freedoms and the law, we can not ensure the sustainability of this system.
How do you analyze this great popular movement that Algeria is experiencing right now and how do you explain the fact that all parties, whether in power or opposition, are outdated and even rejected?
Any popular movement, any mass movement, wherever it may be and whatever it may be, is the result of the sum of socio-political contradictions that did not find a solution when they were at their lowest level. The socio-political contradictions have been exacerbated to the point of reaching a form of resonance and this is what has caused the people to go out to express this exasperation and rejection of the system. As for the second part of the question concerning the rejection of the opposition parties, in the political imaginary of Algerians, the system is both the power in place and the opposition that the power wanted organic and that it has domesticated. It was much more a domesticated opposition, a facade opposition, an opposition that is part of the falsely democratic decorum which the power could use on the international stage to claim a ranking among democratic countries. That does not mean that among the opposition, there are no forces that really want change, but the political power in Algeria, especially since the advent of Bouteflika, has constantly reduced this opposition to a form of formalism in order to consolidate its power rather than making it a force able of ensuring the democratic functioning of the institutions.
You mentioned the need to go to a second Republic. How do you think to reach this goal?
A second Republic is evident from the moment I advocate the rupture. I could not at the same time advocate rupture and continuity because to continue in the way that is the current political system means to consecrate the durability of a system that I denounce. So the second Republic, as I perceive it, is the opening of Algeria to a new form of institutions that the people would have elected in full democracy, it is the establishment of a new Constitution that would devote in the facts - not in the texts only - political practice from the base to the summit, it is new relations between the ordinary citizen and the administration and the power - of which this ordinary citizen is the first emanation because citizenship is supposed to emanate from the people and it should be no longer only supposed but being really the emanation of this people. The rupture will concern the functioning of the institutions, the fight against corruption, the fight against nepotism, the balance of power, the economic and social aspects, and finally everything about society. It is a kind of new social project in total rupture with what we have known for fifty-seven years.
In 2000, the army produced a document that spoke of the need for far-reaching reforms. Do not you think that if this strategic document of the army had been applied and implemented, we would not have to live this serious political crisis today?
In crisis management, if you tackle the root of the problem at the first signs that reveal its existence, you have a much better chance of correcting the trajectory without too much damage. If we had made the changes in 1999, or in 2000, or in 2004, we would obviously not be where we are today. Not only have we not acted to bring about reforms, but we have only been bogged down in counter-reforms. And what was to happen happened. The very essence of the Algerian political system under Bouteflika was the strengthening of his person as a central element of the political system and the domestication of the political class as a whole through annuity. So the goal was not so much the state or the state reform, or societal reform, but it was an objective that was aimed at maintaining power. Bouteflika had a power strategy and not a governance strategy, and the power strategy was to do everything possible to consolidate himself as the holder of this power and to be its exclusive to the point where he has become the central element of power through several revisions of the Constitution. Obviously, if he had carried out the reforms in 2000 or a little later in 2004, or in 2008, we would not be there. What makes the equation much more complex is this time lag that caused the contradictions to be exacerbated to the breaking point and this occurred.
In your opinion, is this document still useful for the next step in Algeria of tomorrow?
No, a facelift can no longer suffice. If we had done things in 2000, the measures advocated could have facilitated things and could have led Algeria to take another path. Today, Algeria needs a rupture. That, I say it and I assume it.
You were and you stay a candidate in the presidential election. What is your project for Algeria?
My project for Algeria is in the title of the political agenda. When I speak of the Second Republic, it is a modern Republic, a Republic open to its children, a truly democratic Republic, a Republic where citizenship is combined with everyday life, where the average citizen is really a citizen, i.e. a socio-political and socio-economic partner... It is that Algeria I dream of, an Algeria where the youth who represents 70% of the population has its place, where the national Diaspora abroad has its place in the politico-economic configuration. It is from this Algeria that my project feeds.
You are both an intellectual and a high-ranking officer in the army. Do you think you can change the system from the inside?
Intellectual and high-ranking army officer are not antinomies (laughs). To be a general in the army, you have to have studied in academies. As far as I'm concerned, I did both military academies and civilian universities therefore the problematic "intellectual/military” does not arise, it is about a chief, a lieder, an Algerian who is committed to change the things in his country. I am a citizen like any other. The only peculiarity I have is that I served for more than forty years in an institution that was not in the service of power but in the service of the nation, I want to make it clear. Now that I have become a civilian again, I have invested myself in politics because I considered that the system that is in place has done too much harm to this country and to this people. And, from the experience I have and from the ideas that I believe to be good for the country, I tell myself that I could change the course of things to the best for this people and for this Republic.
If you are President of the Republic of Algeria, what will be your first project?
The first task - I am not talking about subsidiary things, I am talking about the essential - is to appoint a youth government. The second point is to initiate reflection on the elaboration of a Constitution that will be the foundation of this Republic. Thirdly, to commit all that could help to start the economic apparatus and initiate a structural reform of the national economy. Of course, this can not be done in a day or a month but these are projects that I undertake to launch upon my taking office and there will of course be many other things to do but since you asked me the question about the first project, it will be the first projects that I will launch.
It was noted during the demonstrations that there are attempts to recover different occult groups ranging from FIS elders with their propaganda to organizations such as Otpor or some Muslim Brotherhood activists. Do not you think that these active minorities are dangerous for Algeria?
In any mass movement of this magnitude, whether in Algeria or elsewhere, there are always attempts at recovery and infiltration; it is in the natural order of things. For the Algerian case, you have identified the FIS, the Muslim Brotherhood and Otpor. As for the Islamists, I will answer you as I answered other of your colleagues: the Islamists were militarily and politically defeated in Algeria. We tend to forget it because the events that took place in other countries after the so-called "Arab Spring" have led to ignore what happened in Algeria which had to confront, alone, this violent Islamism. The Algerians got the better of this phenomenon that was indeed beaten and I think that this has been integrated into the Islamist agenda. Today, Islamists, here in Algeria, know that they have a right to exist as citizens only in a democratic framework and that it is the only one to give them a life as citizens among others. Surely there is a small minority of excited and fundamental among them, fundamentalists who would seek to take the lion's share but without much conviction. Moreover, in the streets of Algiers, Oran, Tamanrasset or Annaba, several cases have been reported where as soon as they start chanting their own slogans, they have been taken to task by the population who told them "get out of here, you are not part of this movement". So there is a popular political consciousness that controls the Islamist danger. As things stand at present, it is not only controlled but curbed. This could change if these movements spread over time, there the risk potentially exists. As for Otpor and other movements, this is the same logic, there are forces that do not want Algeria to return to the path of democracy, of modernity, development, the path of growth, the path of socio-political-economic evolution and which would find in these movements a breeding ground that, from their point of view, could enable them to defeat this citizen revolution. Fortunately, with twenty million Algerians who have taken to the streets, the situation seems a little more difficult, but it should be limited in time and go urgently to reforms that would begin with the election of a President of the Republic democratically elected without fraud. This would trigger a dynamic that would immunize Algeria against any form of distortion.
Do you think that Algerian society is immune to these small groups and ideological minorities such as the Islamists?
No. If political intelligence is part of this popular demand for rupture and renewal, if we do so within a reasonable time, I think we could say loud and clear that Algeria is not only immune to these forms of takeover but what is being done in Algeria is not a simple mass movement but a real revolution without bloodshed, a peaceful revolution that could tomorrow rub off on the rest of the world in the Arab-Muslim and African sphere.
I interviewed Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, who was one of the architects of President Reagan's economic policy, and I asked him about the use of the printing press by telling him about the Algerian case. As an economist, he told me in which cases we could use the printing press. The Algerian government has printed $ 34 billion in one year. In your opinion, is not this an economic disaster for Algeria?
Before talking about economic disaster, printing money is in itself an undeclared admission of the failure of Bouteflika's policy. He who has benefited from a favorable situation that no Algerian president has known since independence, he has garnered between 1999 and 2019 more than 1000 billion dollars and we end up in 2019 cranking the crank to print money. If proof was needed to declare that Bouteflika's policy was a disaster for the country, I think we would find no better than that proof. In terms of printing money as an economic phenomenon, as an economic and financial procedure, Algeria is not the first country to use it, everyone does it. Everyone uses it but there are rules that must be followed when using this tool. We can not print the equivalent of $ 55 billion in two years - and that's what was printed - which corresponds to one and a half or even two times the oil revenues of Algeria. If this had been backed up with foreign exchange reserves, things might have been less painful. Anyway, the economic situation of Algeria is not very good and it would be even worse if the citizen movement lasted in time because it is not without uncertainty and uncertainty drives away foreign investors and partners, and tends to push people to use all kinds of schemes for capital flight abroad. So the situation is economically worrying, but if we put in place the necessary political will and intelligence, and shorten the indecisiveness and uncertainty generated by the current situation, with Algeria's potential, I think we can get by economically.
Various speakers I interviewed, ranging from European parliamentarians to intelligence experts, who for some of them had great responsibilities - for example the Obama advisor, Dr. Bruce Riedel - all told me that the Algerian intelligence services, the DRS, were very effective. How do you explain the dismantling of the DRS during the Bouteflika era and why the intelligence services were attached to the presidency and now again come under the control of the army? In your opinion, is it not a serious mistake on the part of Bouteflika to have dismantled the DRS?
As I said earlier, Bouteflika's strategy was a strategy of power, not governance. Bouteflika did everything possible to strengthen his personal power and the system he had put in place. In his defense, he broke the old system and, at his expense, he has not planned anything else to replace it. He has created a void and the void has always been a source of crisis. The crisis we are experiencing comes largely from the fact that Bouteflika broke the system to establish his own power. Among the elements used by Bouteflika to be the master and the sole decision-maker, and to assert his power in an absolute manner, was to bring the security service under the Presidency. It is not so much the connection on a technical level that is problematic, because in many countries the services are attached to the Presidency and not to the Ministry of Defense, but these are the intentions that underlie the decision. As for the effectiveness of the Algerian intelligence services, they are still as effective as ever. And as for the latest measures taken with regard to their establishment in the Ministry of Defense, I think that it is much more practical and technical than anything else, because the President is no longer in place, since the Presidency is no longer seen as an institution as provided by the Constitution, it was quite natural that the services should be returned to the only institution still standing, that is to say the army.
They are particularly effective in the fight against terrorism; this is what my speakers often said to me.
Of course, and they proved it.
How do you explain that the Palestinian flag often appears next to the Algerian flag during the demonstrations in Algeria?
This Palestinian cause, the Algerians pegged it to the body. Let us remember Boumediene's famous sentence: "We are with Palestine, whether she is right or wrong". Why this position? Because among all the Arab countries, it is the Algerian people which have suffered the most from colonialism, and Algerians know what our Palestinian brothers are experiencing. Raising the Palestinian flag is one way of demonstrating their commitment to this cause, which the Algerian people consider to be an Arab cause, a cause for all those who love justice and freedom.
And these flags appear at a time when there is a wave of recognition of Israel's Zionist entity by Arab countries and especially the Gulf countries.
We don't have the same story. The tribute of our independence was one and a half million martyrs. We have two different historical paths, two different ways of seeing independence, two different ways of understanding the relationship between rulers and governed. In fact, it is a gap that separates us from our Arab brothers.
In your opinion, is not what is happening in Libya with Marshal Aftar's offensive dangerous for the Algerian border? Didn't Marshal Aftar take advantage of the situation in Algeria to launch his offensive?
What is happening in Libya is not without causing some apprehension in Algeria because we cannot remain insensitive to a country with which we are linked by historical relations. During the armed revolution, Libya made a major contribution to the Algerian revolution. And beyond what was done during the revolution, there are other much more affective links. Don't forget that King Idris was of Algerian origin. The geographical proximity and extent of the borders, the quality of the relations between the two states since independence, mean that we cannot remain indifferent to what is happening in Libya. What is being done actually of course raise questions and concerns in Algeria, and Algeria will be able to take the necessary measures while remaining faithful to its guiding principle, namely to encourage dialogue between the various partners in Libya and be available to reconcile views while remaining vigilant with respect to boundaries and not allowing any intrusions of any kind and any part whatsoever.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Dr. Ali Ghediri?
Dr. Ali Ghediri is a retired Major General of the ANP (National People's Army) and an Algerian politician candidate for the presidential elections of 4 July 2019.
Born on 6 January 1954 in Ouenza (wilaya of Tebessa), he trained at the Joint Military Academy in Cherchell, Algeria, before continuing his training at the Naval Academy in St Petersburg where he trained in marine mechanical engineering, then at the Moscow Military Academy and then at the Damascus Staff Academy.
Back in Algeria, he served in naval forces until 1983 and then in land forces. He was promoted to Major General in 2010 and was Director of Human Resources at the Department of National Defense until his retirement in 2015.
Dr. Ghediri holds a Master in International Relations and a PhD in Strategic Studies on National Security Policy.
Published in American Herald Tribune April 15, 2019: https://ahtribune.com/interview/3056-ali-ghediri.html
In French in Palestine Solidarité: http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.150419.htm