Consequences of the social crisis for Algeria's stability



The increase of civil unrest incidents reported daily across Algeria has emphasized the scale of the social crisis hitting the energy-export country. Whereas the official unemployment rate is only 10%, unofficial figures quoted by western officials indeed show that up to 50% of the younger population might be either unemployed or underemployed. Moreover, the ministry of Housing acknowledged that around two and a half million people had settled in more than 400,000 shacks built illegally in the outskirts of Algiers, Annaba or Skikda. The situation is further aggravated by the notorious corruption of the Algerian “elite”, which has lost all credibility due to its incapacity to address and fix the population’s problems. It must lastly be mentioned that Algerian dailies are regularly blaming Western companies for their job policy and for their behavior in the oil and gas producing regions, fuelling the anti-Western sentiment.

Residents of countless shanty towns and remote villages have therefore been prompted to express their frustration and wrath against the inability of Algiers’ government to relieve problems like housing, unemployment and lack of basic infrastructures such as roads or power and clean water supply networks. Demonstrations and road blocks are staged almost daily across the country, while local government offices are attacked occasionally in remote towns. Moreover, the lack of social housing units, the harsh relocation policy and the daily destruction of sheds built illegally also provoked numerous outbreaks of violence. The constant use of brutal force by riot police to disperse demonstrations also fuelled a worrisome feeling of humiliation in the population, particularly among young people excluded from the labour market.

Whereas the phenomenon provoked an extremely worrisome social instability, it has also triggered an upsurge of criminality in neighborhoods deserted by security forces. The level of street crime grew constantly in the past years, especially in Algiers and in the wilayas (provinces) located east of the capital. Moreover, those criminal acts are more violent than they were in the previous years, frequently involving the use of cold weapons. Criminal groups also multiplied kidnappings for ransom, mainly in the eastern wilayas of Kabylie, where an increasing number of child abductions have been reported in the past months. Media reported earlier this week that about 10,000 security forces members had been deployed to protect schools and other education facilities to face this problem.

It must lastly be pointed out that the situation also raised the terrorist risk across the country. The social discontent indeed enabled Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to find significant recruiting opportunities, as some desperate people are willing to join the ranks of the terrorist organisation. Several recruiting cells have been dismantled in the past months in Algiers’ slums, whereas security measures have been strengthened in the capital due to the threat of suicide attacks against western interest and symbolic governmental targets. The situation also deteriorated in Kabylie, where popular anger is rising against the authorities’ inefficiency to curb the terrorist threat; prompting military authorities to multiply tough declaration in recent months.

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