Military Regimes, Political Power and Human Rights Violations in Postcolonial Algeria
Belkamel, Y. (2014). Military Regimes, Political Power and Human Rights Violations in Postcolonial Algeria (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8573
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8573
Following Algeria’s bloody war of independence, a new, revolutionary military establishment gradually formed out of several largely independent revolutionary units, stationed mostly on Algeria’s borders. It soon expanded with the addition of revolutionary fighters from within Algeria, and from French-trained forces, many of whom had fought against the revolutionary forces during the Revolution, and had deserted late in the war from the French military to join the new Algerian military. A particularly powerful group of officers emerged from the latter group, the “French Officers,” who apparently engaged in a long-term and ultimately successful bid for national political power. This thesis, which is concerned with the politics behind the massive human rights violations in Algeria, particularly the periods immediately after Independence, and between 1991 and 2002, the “Algerian Civil War,” seeks to explore a central question: why did the Algerian military turn against its own people? While not denying the role of other groups (e.g., religious groups, ethnic groups) in the violence, the central focus of this thesis is on the distinctive and effective structure and role of the military, which was apparently the dominant political power in Algeria after Independence, and particularly on the role of the French Officers, who appear to have manipulated the presidency through coups d’état and assassinations, in their struggle to achieve political hegemony in Algeria by the 1990s. Central to this was the role played after Independence by Houari Boumédiène in establishing political and military organisations that were particularly susceptible to the growing influence of the French Officers. Central topical foci of the thesis include examinations of the possible effects (on the central question, listed above) of: professionalization of the military; civil-military relations; historical influences; ethnic and religious influences; political parties and party formation; corruption and economic opportunism; international relations and continuing French influence; and the unique role of the French Officers in the national politics of Algeria. Methodologies used in this study included the analysis of elite (non-random) interviews, based upon a questionnaire approved by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee, which the author conducted in Europe and via “Skype” with nearly two dozen prominent Algerian expatriates, for the most part in exile, including former civilian leaders and military officers. Historical analysis was also a central part of the methodology, as well as discourse analysis applied to significant memoirs and newspaper accounts. The thesis concludes that the immediate self-interests of the French Officers had a determinate effect on politics in Algeria, and particularly on the way in which the military turned against its own people after 1991. The continuing support that the French Officers apparently received from France, while not unexpected, is surprising in its extent and continuity, particularly after acts of terrorism thought to be linked to the Algerian government occurred in France. An unexpected finding of this research is the significance of corruption and economic opportunism in the Algerian military regime’s long-term strategy.
University of Waikato
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