In a surprise move on Monday 31st May, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika issued a presidential decree firing the former Sonatrach PDG/CEO, Mohammed Meziane and the company's four former vice-presidents who were already in jail or under house arrest because of the investigation into the suspected embezzlement of millions of dollars.
Bouteflika's move would appear to be pre-empting the legal process. However, we understand from our Algerian sources that this move is not designed, as some commentators have suggested, to speed up the process of rehabilitating Sonatrach and getting the company back to business after the scandal that has paralysed it over the last few months. Instead, we believe that it is part of a much deeper political deal,forced upon Bouteflika, which has resulted in Sonatrach being 'retaken' by Algeria's powerful DRS intelligence services.
In this week's Algeria Politics & Security, which will be published on Friday 4th June, we will explain how the appointments of Youcef Yousfi as the new Energy Minister and Noureddine Cherouati as Sonatrach's new PDG/CEO, along with the 31st May firings of Sonatrach's former top management, are part of the battle that has been fought between the p residency and the DRS since before the beginning of this year.
We will explain how these appointments, along with the dismissal of Energy Minister Chakib Khelil, the demotion of the formerly all-powerful Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni, and other ministerial changes are integral parts of a bitterly contested deal which has now seen Bouteflika losing out and having to return control of Sonatrach to the DRS.
We will also explain how and why this deal and the new management of both the Energy Ministry and Sonatrach, far from promising an 'opening up' and liberalisation of Algeria's hydrocarbons sector, is likely to lead to policies which will be damaging to both Algeria and most foreign interests in the sector.