Algeria is now facing the very real threat of a rupture within the regime. For months, there has been talk about the in-fighting within the regime and the ‘fracturing of the clans’.
The word ‘clan’ is something of a misnomer. The clans are more about centres or power and influence within the regime, and invariably centre on various powerful individuals or groups of persons, which means that they might be relatively short-lived.
There are at least four, possibly five, clans involved in the current political struggle. One of these centres around the president’s younger brother Saïd Bouteflika and others in the Presidency. It includes many of the country’s oligarchs and is often referred to as the Tlemcen or ‘western’ clan. Its origins go back to the days of the war of independence when many Algerian exiles, such as the Bouteflika family, were living in Oujda and elsewhere in Morocco.
Now the other three clans to be reckoned with are those that centre around:
- General Ahmed Gaïd Salah: Chief of Staff of the Army and deputy minister of defence;
- General Athmane ‘Bachir’ Tartag: head of the Département de Surveillance et de Sécurité (DSS) which comprises about half or less of the former Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS); and
- General Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediène: the former DRS head whose clan would include key people such as Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and retired Major-General Ali Ghediri;
- A fifth clan may be emerging around a number of former generals, especially the those who are disgruntled by Gaïd Salah in the autumn.
Two key figures in this possible implosion are Ghediri and Gaïd Salah who have both dominated the media headlines. Ghediri hit the headlines with his El Watan interview on 25 December which was little more than a call for an army coup d’état.
Ghediri — although not widely known to the Algerian public — was and still is a powerful figure because he was head of the army’s personnel department. He therefore knows and has connections to all of the army’s senior active and retired generals as well as the ‘second tier’ generals and middle-ranking officers. This is perhaps why Gaïd Salah has not yet arrested him.