By Mouna Sadek
Political analysts, sociologists and historians last week took a critical look at the fifty of years of Algeria’s statehood. What has been achieved since independence and what future awaits Algeria?
These were the two main questions that observers from around the world tackled at a three-day Algiers symposium, which ended on Saturday (July 7th).
Participants in the event, organised by El Watan newspaper, agreed that the country needs to enact reforms to avoid what they termed as a “general collapse”.
Aissa Kadri, a sociologist and professor at Paris 8 University, warned against “violent upheavals” if the Algerian authorities do not take steps to satisfy people’s demands.
“The explosion could erupt in a more unbridled and uncontrollable way than anywhere else in the Arab world, because of the unhealed wounds,” the professor said.
A number of reasons have so far prevented an Algerian revolt, according to Kadri.
The violence of the Black Decade left deep scars in Algerians’ consciousness. Meanwhile, rising oil prices allowed the government to purchase social peace, the analyst added, and explains why the Algerian social movement is lagging behind those in other Arab countries. This movement is immature due to historical, sociological and political reasons, he said.
Kadri expressed concern over the weakening of civil society activities in Algeria, which leaves an open door for corruption and impedes the work of both state and society.
For his part, lawyer Madjid Benchikh criticised what he described as “a façade of democracy”.
Political analyst Mohamed Hachemaoui warned against the “devastating” effects of corruption.
“It increases bureaucratic procedures, distorts the market and rewards incompetence,” he said. “It makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Hence all of our social disparity despite an abundance of resources.”
Even though people might be disappointed by certain aspects of post-independence, the Algerian experience is not one of “failure” or of “disenchantment”, said Tufts University professor and political analyst Hugh Roberts.
“I’ve always seen this event as a big victory for the FLN and the Algerian people in the first place, but also as a huge victory for a democratic principle and a historic victory for a large part of humanity,” the professor said.
“Many impressive achievements were accomplished,” he added. “Despite all the suffering that Algerians went through, they have stayed on the course, and despite everything we might say against it, the state founded by the historic FLN is still there, and that’s very important.”