'One day, you will all be lynched, dead, sick or alive'
The decision by 77-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run again as President of Algeria has attracted the excoriating scorn of journalist Kamel Daoud
"Shame upon you, Bouteflika! You have no shame for our martyrs, for your age, for your own sickness, for what you have done to this country… You have humiliated us… You push us into exile by taking our country from us… What do you want? More money? More gold?.. More praise? More glory? We will give them to you. Just name your price… Why do you want to carry your country into your grave? To bury our nation alive with you?"
This is strong stuff in a country whose dark military rulers prop up their presidents, dead or alive. And in Algeria, journalists have to be careful what they say about the President, even if he is 77-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has decided to run yet again for President after 15 years in power – albeit that his critics suggest he has long ago lost even the power of speech. He didn't – or couldn't – even make a live declaration of his candidacy this week. The Prime Minister, via the state news agency, had to do that for him.
But Kamel Daoud is one of the best-known journalists in Algeria – he writes for the on-line Algerie Focus – and his wonderful crushing of Bouteflika is the talk of his country. Algerians still use beautiful French – even though they sometimes speak it like a machine gun, perhaps because it's the language of their former oppressors, perhaps because there are no "p"s in Arabic – and Daoud's excoriating article is in true Republican tradition. "When the world is desperate for freedom, you reduce us to slavery with your insanity," he writes to Bouteflika. It could be 1789 and the king. And in one sense, it is.
In Algeria, nothing has happened that is remotely interesting since the French retreated in 1962. Its country's oil and gas wealth has increased phenomenally, but its people have lapsed into an industrial and cultural wasteland, its unemployment as shameful as its wealth should be; Algeria should be the glistening Dubai of the Mediterranean rather than a colonial hulk rusting away beneath the nation which sucked – and still sucks – its wealth away.
Bouteflika is a bureaucrat rather than a war hero of the National Liberation Front; his "independence" battle was that of an official on the Moroccan border, not a fighter in the field. When he ended the "Pouvoir"-Islamist war in the late 1990s – in a struggle which cost 250,000 lives – with a dodgy agreement that would allow the security services to get off free of charge after their torture terror, in return for no court cases against gunmen who turned themselves in – everyone believed that was Bouteflika's last remaining historical act.
Alas no. His army mates – and the army runs everything in Algeria (we shall not mention Egypt today) – persuaded him, despite at least one heart attack and months of surgery in France from which he appears never to have recovered, to soldier on (if that's the right word), and so this magnificent country of immense natural and human wealth is to moulder on for the next five years under Bouteflika's rule. His Prime Minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, said the presidential candidate did not need to campaign himself because there were plenty who could do that on his behalf. Cue in M. Daoud again, I suppose, "sans journal".
Over recent weeks, the generals in Algeria – most of whom seem to be grossly overweight – have been bad-mouthing each other, even in the press. Bouteflika's intelligence boss, Mohamed Mediène – who at least fought in the war against France but for whom Bouteflika (always supposing he thinks) has no great love – appears to have lost ground to General Ahmed Salah Gaïd, the army chief of staff who appoints army commands and who can, according to a canny Reuters report, "curtail the role" (ie, lobotomise) the "Department du renseigenment et de la Sécurité" run by Mediène – who, by the way, was trained by the KGB (and is recorded to be a chum of Putin). Note, by the way, the lovely French title of the Algerian version of the KGB.
Poor old Bouteflika, who is presumably kept on ice for other generals to decide on the identity of the next president, must meanwhile be fêted as the man who brought the civil war to an end, a struggle which was provoked by the Algerian army's own decision to suspend a second round of elections after Islamists won the first round (ergo Egypt again, I suppose). El Watan, one of the brightest of Algeria's newspapers, suggested that Bouteflika should win an Oscar for a new movie called "The Fourth Term" (after Gravity). "He dared!" was their headline after the 77-year-old said – if he could say – that he'd stand again.
Bouteflika – if it was indeed he – kept the Arab revolutions at bay by handing out higher salaries to civil servants, and easing Algeria's scandalous housing shortage. Good for him. A people still mourning a quarter of a million victims – some of them murdered by undercover thugs of the government itself – is in no mood for any "Arab Spring", not least when the country which invented the phrase (capital city: Washington) is a partner with Bouteflika's mob in the 'war against terror'.
So let's take a trip back to M. Daoud once more. "You are like all tyrants, Arab or not," he wrote. "One day, you will all be lynched, dead, sick or alive." Bouteflika, he said, would be hanged for the massacre of millions of children still to be born. He would be re-elected, him or his brother, but this would not last. "No infamy lasts forever." Now that's what I call journalism. Vive Le Bouteflika!
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