Monday, 24 October 2011

Qadhafi's death: such a waste

The death of Colonel Mu'aamar Qadhafi on the morning of Thursday 20th October - dragged from a culvert drain outside Sirte and seemingly swiftly executed, after NATO apparently attacked the convoy in which he was presumably trying to escape the city - was a sad moment for Algeria's regime. All its time and investment has been for nothing.

All three of its strategies have, one by one, failed. For the first couple of weeks of Libya's rebellion the Algerian regime tried to persuade the West that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi was the solution. But Saif soon revealed his true colours.

It then tried to convince the West that the only solution for Libya was a sort of partition between East and West. But that too, following the regime's failure to capture Misrata and then the eventual fall of Tripoli, came to naught.

It was then left with its final strategy, one in which it is most adept: to create as much trouble and chaos as possible. Where does Algeria's regime go from here – at least as far as its Libyan neighbour is concerned?

The regime knows that it is on the list of the 'Arab Spring'. It also knows that it has now made a strong enemy of both the Libyan people and, most likely, the new Libyan state that will soon come into being. Neither are its friends in the West happy with how it has handled things since the unrest of January gave a foretaste of what might befall the country if it was not prepared to undertake significant and meaningful reforms.

Since then there has been a constant trail of senior Western and Qatari emissaries to Algeria, along with summonses to Washington, first encouraging and more latterly warning the regime that serious reform is necessary if it is to survive. The last of these was the visit this week by William Hague which appropriately came just two days before Qadhafi was killed.

Hague delivered a strong message to the Algerian regime regarding its harbouring of Qadhafi's family. In the wake of repeated calls from the National Transitional Council (NTC) that Algiers should extradite those members of the Qadhafi family that it has been sheltering, Hague told reporters at a press conference, shared with his counterpart Mourad Medelci, that Algeria should cooperate with the new regime in Libya over members of the Qadhafi family who took refuge there. Algeria gave refuge to Qadhafi's sons Mohamed and Hannibal, his (second) wife Safiya and his daughter Aisha, and various grandchildren. Their breach of the UN travel ban was justified by Algeria in that Aisha was pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl on arrival in the country. The veracity of this story is doubted as Aisha claimed that her four-month old baby was killed in a NATO bombing raid in April, meaning that she has now given birth twice in eight months.

Following Hague's very clear message to the Algerians, Libya's NTC reiterated its call for the extradition of Qadhafi's family from Algeria. The call was made by the head of the NTC's executive committee, Mahmoud Jibril, during the televised news conference in Tripoli on Thursday (20th) afternoon at which he confirmed that Qadhafi had been killed earlier that day.

Algeria has so far turned down each call to return the Qadhafi family members, Should it do so again, in the wake of Hague's warning, there may be severe consequences. There have been signs for some time that the West is losing patience with the Algerian regime over its failure to engage in much-needed political reform, and rumours have been circulating for some weeks that the regime is in the proverbial Last Chance Saloon as far as its Western backers are concerned. Should Algeria defy the British Foreign Secretary, it might just be the last straw that tips those backers into pulling the proverbial plug.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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