Political Observation - Bouteflika's Resignation: Chief of Staff Coup against the Presidency and the Intelligence Apparatus

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation - Bouteflika's Resignation: Chief of Staff Coup against the Presidency and the Intelligence Apparatus

Algeria has entered an important political juncture since 2 April 2019 after the presidency had announced through a communiqué attributed to Abdul Aziz Bouteflika who was quoted as saying: “I am honoured to officially inform you that I have decided to end my tenure as president of the republic.” This statement would not have been issued had it not been for the direct warning of the army's chief of staff to the presidency that article 102 of the constitution should be activated immediately.

The statement by the army staff, issued less than two hours before that of the presidency, read: "We believe that there is no room for more time to be wasted and that the proposed constitutional solution of activating articles 7, 8 and 102 should be implemented immediately, and thus, start down the path that guarantees a framework of constitutional legitimacy to state affairs. Therefore, our decision is clear and irreversible, as we stand with the people until their demands are met in full, undiminished.”

After Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaïd Salah issued a statement on 26 March 2019 demanding the application of Article 102 of the Constitution pertaining to the vacancy of the president’s office, the presidential wing, controlled by Said Bouteflika in coordination with the intelligence wing represented in the person of Mohamed Madien, also known as General Toufik, the ex-director of military intelligence services before its dismantlement, maneuvered to circumvent the orders of the General Staff.

On 30 March 2019, the Chief of Staff issued a statement declaring that "on 30 March 2019, a meeting was held by persons whose identities are known, and will be revealed in due course, for the purposes of launching a vicious smear campaign through various media outlets and social networks against the people’s national army to convince the public opinion that the Algerian people refuse to apply Article 102 of the Constitution. "

Although the chief of staff's statement did not name the members of the "gang" as he himself described it, Echourouk, a TV channel with close ties to the army, said that the meeting included Said Bouteflika, Mohamed Madien (former chief of intelligence) and Othman Tartak, the current head of intelligence, as well as members from the French Intelligence Services. "Ill-intentioned parties are working on a plan with the aim of discrediting the National People's Army and dodging the legitimate demands of the people," the army statement said.

What made the situation even more threatening to Ahmed Gaid Salah was the meeting that took place on the same day between Mohamed Madien (General Toufik) and former President Liamine Zeroual at his residence in the capital. With the power struggle intensifying and becoming known to the public, and fearing it to be misappropriated by Said and Toufik, Zeroual issued a statement on 2 April 2019 detailing his meeting with General Toufik in which he stated "for the sake of transparency and because of our duty to respect the truth, I would like to inform you that I received, on 30 March, retired Lieutant-General Mohammed Madien at his request; he conveyed a proposal that I spearhead a committee that will oversee the transitional period, and assured me that the proposal was made in agreement with Said Bouteflika, adviser to the presidency.”

General Toufik, faced with Liamine Zeroual’s refusal and because of the serious accusations leveled against him by Gaid Salah via the Echorouk channel, was forced to issue a statement on 1 April 2019 defending himself, especially against the charge of conspiring with the French intelligence. General Toufik said in a written statement: "The accusation against my person regarding my meeting with foreign intelligence agents, in order to raise issues directly related to our national sovereignty, is a deliberate attempt at defamation in order to harm my reputation as a well-known personality inside and outside the country, under the pretense of thwarting all foreign interference be it political, cultural or economic. " He went on to say that "under no circumstance will I give up the principle of defending national sovereignty, no matter how serious the political problems the country is going through are, it is the constant rule I respect and follow in all my actions".

It is as if all this maneuvering by the two wings of power (presidency and intelligence) had not incited any reaction from the army’s chief of staff until Said Bouteflika, acting in the name of the president, made a ministerial cabinet reshuffle on 31 March 2019 in which he kept Noureddine Badoui in the prime minister position and got rid of the most hated ministers by the Algerian general public. But he did not stop there, as he issued a statement on 1 April 2019 in which he declared that Abdelaziz Bouteflika will resign from office before 28 April 2019, the official date of the end of his term, the statement also spoke of a "transitional period" that would start upon his resignation. Not only that, but the statement talked of "important decisions" that will be announced at a later date in order to ensure the "continuity of the state."

This in particular, convinced Gaid Saleh that the "gang", namely Said Bouteflika, backed by General Toufik, were maneuvering to topple him by means of an executive order removing him from the post of chief of staff and deputy defense minister. Circulating the news of his firing and replacement by General Said Bay on different social networks increased Gaid Salah’s misgivings, a move that resulted from their failure to recruit Liamine Zeroual into their plan and turn him into a Trojan horse, i.e. a transitional president who will enable them to safely navigate the pressures of both the army and the demonstrators.

The army leadership acted swiftly by ordering an encirclement of the public radio and television headquarters, as well as the house of Said Bouteflika for a brief time, in order to convey the message that any decision to remove him from his position will push the Chief of Staff towards arresting all members of the Bouteflika family. A few days earlier, a number of businessmen with close ties to the presidency, including Ali Haddad and the Kuninav brothers (Redha, Tarek and Abdelkader) and the Tahkout brothers (Muhieddin, Nasser and Bilal) were arrested. A clear signal to Said that if he did not announce the vacancy of the presidency, Gaid Saleh would not hesitate to arrest him and all members of his family, especially after he reneged on their agreement where he announced the resignation of his brother in return for a guarantee of his and his family’s safety, in addition to an honorable exit for his brother Abdelaziz.

2 April 2019 was an important date in Algerian modern history; the power struggle at the highest levels of the Algerian state was largely resolved that day in a public manner, even if it appeared to be done within the confines of the constitution. Bouteflika’s resignation was not only a blow to the presidential wing, after the head of the Republican Guard Ben Ali joined the meeting convened by Gaid Salah at the general staff headquarters which included senior commanders and leaders of the six military areas in addition to the heads of the gendarmerie, ground, air and sea forces, but it was also a crippling blow to the intelligence wing represented in General Toufik, the face of Algeria’s deep state which is an extension of the French influence in the country.

Despite the fact that businessmen such as Yessaad Rebrab (who is loyal to General Toufik and supported by France) have taken to the streets to join the demonstrations and support the popular movement, this does not mean that they are in agreement with the Chief of Staff’s Wing. It just means that they want to ride the wave of demonstrations in the hopes of directing their ship towards the coast of France where General Toufik or his underling General Ali Ghadiri or even Ali bin Flis are waiting in the hopes of becoming president and successor to Bouteflika.

As for the repercussions of the events, the constitution states that the head of the Council of the Nation, Abdelkader Bensalah, will take over as president for a transitional period until the general elections take place. But this seems unlikely, given the widespread public rejection of Bensalah and Badoui’s cabinet, which was appointed by Said Bouteflika. Therefore, Said has no choice but to replace Abdelkader Bensalah, Noureddine Badoui and even the President of the Constitutional Council, Tayeb Belaiz, with popular figures, approved by Gaid Salah.

In case of stalling or failure to find acceptable figures, the other solution is that Gaid Saleh activates Article 7 (the people are the source of power) and 8 (the constituent authority is owned by the people), relying on Article 28, which gives the army the right to take the mantle of the defending power of the nation in order to preserve its independence, sovereignty and national unity.

If the second path were taken, the practical solution would be either to agree on a person that both the public and the opposition parties approve of, or to institute a presidential council. In both cases, the army will be the custodian of this transitional phase until a president is elected by the people, after the creation of a new electoral law and an independent electoral monitoring commission. However, the issue of a constitution rewrite remains the subject of controversy between calls for a revision by a constitutional committee ahead of the elections and demands to form a constituent commission to draft a new constitution that will become a starting point for the presidential and legislative elections.

Despite the new developments and decisions following the demonstrations of Friday 5 April 2019, it is certain that Gaid Saleh (and the entire military establishment behind him) succeeded in positioning the Command Staff at the highest level of the power pyramid within the state after dealing a crippling blow to the presidential wing and after weakening the intelligence wing within the context of a three-sided power struggle that has dominated Algeria's modern history. Finding a successor to Bouteflika depends not only on the internal balance of power in the state apparatus but also on the approval of international powers led by the United States of America, the biggest influencer in the country. 

No one can deny the foreign influence on decisions pertaining to the presidency and the upcoming elections. This was reflected in the visit of a US congress delegation to Algeria on 23 February2019 under the pretense of discussing regional issues. In this meeting, James Inhofe, the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, and Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia discussed issues of security and peace in the region such as the Libyan and the Mali file, in addition to the Western Sahara conflict. The US delegation traveled to the Tindouf camps the next day where he met with Polisario leader Ibrahim Ghali.

General Ali Ghadiri for his part sought America's approval as well, as the French newspaper Le Monde Afrique can attest in an article published on 9 June 2017. The publication spoke of "a meeting between Ghadiri and a former Algerian government official with US intelligence officials at the Washington Embassy in Paris where post-Bouteflika arrangements were discussed.”

Given the importance and gravity of the situation in Algeria, on 2 March 2019, the heads of State of Italy, Spain, France and Germany met to discuss the impact of any political and security developments on Europe. Changes to the situation in Algeria, if they go against the major European countries’ wishes, will directly impact the European colonial security, be it temporary through large waves of immigrants, or strategic, if Muslims take power or just be part of the government.

In summary, the biggest losers in all of these conflicts are the Muslims in Algeria who are still far from imposing their authority in managing the affairs of politics, finance and culture, and in choosing their Islamic Aqeedah as a basis on which a state for all Muslims can be built. Muslims in Algeria should not be fooled by Gaid Saleh’s recent stances, who is being aggrandized by some people while others champion him as the country's savior according to the "Savior theory."

The army’s stance in Algeria, supporting some of the people’s demands against the presidential wing, is merely a "sacrifice" of the head of the regime in order to preserve its basis and its secular essence that has been a lackey to Western powers since 1962. In other words, what has been happening is a means to ensure the continuity of the secular state through deliberate changes in order for the regime to reproduce itself using the "constitutional vacuum” as a scarecrow to frighten the populace.
Therefore, we should not be surprised if some members of the Bouteflika family get arrested, especially Said, who has been the target of many legal actions brought against him by "citizens" to the Public Prosecutor's Office in the capital on charges of forgery and impersonating the head of state by seizing the seal of the republic. Such measures, under increasing public pressure, are only intended to give people the illusion that the army is standing with them. Moreover, they are concessions made by the colonial Kafir’s underlings in order to absorb the anger of the people and divide the ranks of the demonstrators concerning the limits of popular demands that can be achieved.

It is enough to ask oneself, where was Ahmed Gaid Saleh before 22 February 2019, the start date of the popular demonstrations in Algeria?! Hasn’t he aggrandized Abdelaziz Bouteflika and supported his candidacy for a fifth term? Was not Gaid Saleh a protector of the Bouteflika family and all their political, financial, media and intelligence gangs?! Was not Abdelaziz Bouteflika the one who promoted Gaid Saleh to the post of chief of staff and then deputy defense minister, having protected him twice from the efforts of Mohamed al-Ammari (former chief of staff and scion of the French army) to force his retirement when he was commander of the ground forces?!

The simple and easy answer to these questions is enough to make us realize that what happened and what might happen in Algeria is only a repeat performance of what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya where the head of the regime was sacrificed for the survival of the Kafir Western guardianship regime, subjugating Muslims and preventing them from taking back what is theirs and becoming captains of their ships, free to govern themselves with their beliefs and free to control their wealth. Unless we get rid of the colonizer’s underlings' tyranny and uproot its means of controlling our destinies, talk about electing a president, drafting a constitution or forming a parliamentary council is just talk, all hammer and no nails.

The secular kafir will not put an end to his pressure on the masses, pushing them towards acceptance of the status quo, not only through the use of violence and terrorism similar to that of the black decade following the 1992 coup, but also through the means of regional pressure. The criminal Khalifa Hafter’s choice to carry out his attack on Tripoli and attempt to bring it under his control through iron and fire, something that has been given the greenlight by Western powers, is but a prelude in order to put pressure on the Muslims in Algeria and give the army generals a justification as to why they will not be able to meet the demands of the people under the pretext of confronting a foreign aggression or the fear of a new black decade.

29 Rajab 1440h
5 April 2019