With Regional Security Unraveling, Algeria Re-Engages With Africa

With Regional Security Unraveling, Algeria Re-Engages With Africa
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and Algerian Speaker of the Senate Abdelkader Bensalah, Algiers, Algeria, March 22, 2015 (AP photo by Sidali Djarboub).

In recent years, Algeria has focused more of its foreign policy on its immediate neighborhood, both in North Africa and farther south in the Sahel. Its busy foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra, has been active in mediation efforts in Mali, Libya and Tunisia, earning plaudits from Western partners. Some officials and observers have seized on this foreign policy outreach as a purported “awakening” of Algerian diplomacy in Africa, a revitalization of the country’s historically strong role in continental affairs. Lamamra himself highlighted Algeria’s important regional efforts in an interview in October with the French daily Le Monde. But has Algeria’s Africa policy actually changed that much?

On the one hand, Algerian diplomacy in Africa has certainly become more public and active under Lamamra, who was appointed in September 2013 after a Cabinet shakeup following the return of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from hospitalization in France. Regional specialists like the International Crisis Group’s Hannah Armstrong have noted that the dramatic changes to regional security in the Maghreb and Sahel, stemming from the revolution in Tunisia and the NATO-led intervention in Libya, pushed Algeria to assume a more active regional role.

In response to those shifts, Algeria also increased bilateral and regional security partnerships with its neighbors. But there are still clear limits to Algeria’s actions abroad, as Algiers likely will not change its long-standing constitutional restrictions on foreign intervention.

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