Are Bouteflika’s Shake-Ups a Sign of Shifting Civil-Military Ties in Algeria?

Are Bouteflika’s Shake-Ups a Sign of Shifting Civil-Military Ties in Algeria?
Algerian soldiers march during a military parade at the Cherchell “Houari Boumediene” in Algiers, July 1, 2018 (AP photo by Anis Belghoul).

Since last June, Algeria’s 81-year-old president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has been dismissing high-profile security officials at an unprecedented rate. A who’s-who of top brass from the police, the gendarmerie and most importantly the army, which has long been the backbone of the Algerian regime, have all been replaced—and all without any public explanation from Bouteflika or his inner circle.

The shake-ups, which seemed to have concluded in late September, ousted around a dozen senior generals and regional army commanders, including the director of defense personnel, the chief of the army’s powerful Central Security Directorate, the commander of the ground forces and the head of the air force. Five of those generals were then jailed in October, apparently on charges of corruption and other wrongdoing. Last week, Bouteflika reportedly released the five generals, according to Reuters.

Among the Algerian public and outside observers, speculation abounds about why Bouteflika made these moves and what they say about the nature of his relationship with the military. Considering the president’s poor health and the uncertainty over his succession, with presidential elections looming in April 2019, there are questions about whether the reshuffles indicate a renegotiation of civil-military relations in Algeria at a time of political and economic trouble, with Bouteflika possibly running for a fifth term next year.

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