For a national awakening in Algeria


From now on, we will remain alert and aware.


Kamal Benkoussa
4 February 2013

“A social explosion will come.” “The street is young and the government is deaf and obsolete.” We are experts in the art of making statements.  However, we have yet to convert these into the concrete actions we must take to climb out of the social and economic stagnation that is suffocating us, and a social order that sets us apart from nations that control their own destiny. 

For more than twenty years, we have lived through a multidimensional crisis that clouds our future with uncertainty. Despite an abundance of capital, the twenty-first century for us has been synonymous with unemployment, a high cost of living, social instability and strikes and riots, all against a backdrop of major political crises.  Today our institutions are no longer capable of guaranteeing any social contract. Despite the upheaval in the Arab world, a sign of people’s unstoppable aspiration for freedom, our political system is a prisoner of its reactionary notions of social relationships and continues on its collision course.

It is true that Algerians have not yet taken to the streets to demonstrate against their subjugation and break away from a regime that drags it to the edge of the abyss. The Algerian population is young, with 30% of the population between the ages of 15 and 29. The youth have not lived the ‘dark years’ very well and will end up, sooner or later, rejecting the notion that their future is mortgaged. In the absence of means and a forum for peaceful expression, they will have to use force to demand that which in fact is rightfully theirs.

What both the elite and the government fear is a period of renewed violence as the inevitable outcome of their united failure.  In terms of the government, the more time passes, the more it proves its commitment to maintaining the status quo. As for the elite, in absolving themselves of responsibility and turning their backs on politics they have allowed for the creation of a tragic situation that will spiral out of control, carrying with it the clear risk of plunging the country into chaos.

Do we have a vision of the future?

Like the majority of my fellow countrymen, I am profoundly attached to Islam and its values.  Nevertheless, as the late Mr. Boudiaf used to say, look around at the developed nations, those that produce all the technology and the goods that we love to consume.  The constitutional state, social justice, solidarity, social confidence, the moral collective (namely in the handling of public affairs) and freedom - these are the values and the norms that have ensured the success of a people. These rights and values can only be guaranteed by strong institutions that are legitimate and responsive to their citizens.  They cannot in any way be based on the simple, imagined virtue of the individual.  So let us not be fooled: nobody has a monopoly on virtue, and the problem with Algeria does not in any way lie with the absence of Islam, but with the absence of  institutional legitimacy, leaders who understand their responsibility to the people, and a strong civil society.

They are also the values for which our neighbours have risen up. We are collectively responsible for the situation in which our country finds itself because instead of pursuing our rights, we have left the field open to the tyranny of our leaders. How can they then work for the common interest when we do not make them accountable? Above all, witnessing our indifference toward some of our fellow countrymen, we must recognize that it is the notion of common interest that is absent.

Therefore, now that we have reached the climax of the crisis, we must make the whole nation aware that a great people can govern themselves.  The myth of a saviour is utopian because, as it is written in Surah 13 of the Koran, “In truth, Allah does not change the lot of a people unless they change that which is within them.”  The road will be long and difficult but we must mobilize all  our efforts, all our determination, and all our talent  to build together a modern society respectful of our cultural and religious values. Nevertheless, we must first work our way out of the crisis in which we find ourselves, one that threatens us each day a little more.  But what can we do?

On a political level, we face a dilemma.  To participate in the framework of the current political parties is to endorse a government’s strategy that maintains the status quo by merely renovating and not addressing the foundations of our social order. Not participating is to condemn ourselves to the inevitable use of force.  How do we solve this paradox and break this impasse?   

Restore the political by regaining our citizenship.

The answer can be found in the very causes of our failure referred to above, namely our incapacity for political action. While we all recognize that the situation is critical and that ‘things must change’ we continue, nonetheless, to follow the rules of the game, those of the status quo.  What keeps us trapped is, on the one hand, the fact that we are not always able to identify the ‘things that should change’ and, on the other hand, our absence of trust in each other.  It is this low level of social consciousness that keeps us from examining our problems collectively and blending our individual interests into a superior interest.

What must change?  What must fundamentally change is our relationship with our environment, namely toward our fellow countrymen and our state and its representatives. We must finally recognize that when we disassociate ourselves from a fellow Algerian who is a victim of injustice or deprived of his most elementary rights and fundamental freedoms, we renounce our own rights and freedoms. We must understand that the obligations we have to each other are the ultimate source of our own rights and the only way to end the despotism of the leaders who have victimized us for fifty years.  We must therefore stop being passive and instead work toward change. We must say no to corruption at all levels, no to despotic institutions and administrations, and no to injustice in any form.  We must now organize ourselves and hold these leaders accountable  in their handling of public affairs.  Their decisions have profound consequences on our every day lives and the future of our country, and we cannot continue to ignore them.  If the political parties are not, for now, the appropriate forums to accomplish this, then we must organize ourselves into user associations of consumers, travellers and citizens, to behave as one and communicate our wishes and assert our rights.

Nobody should feel threatened by the turn that our society must make because it is only though dialogue, principally in all circles of society (political, civic and military), that we will be able to find a peaceful solution to the crisis that threatens our future more every day.

Our spring will not be a violent revolution but a national awakening. We proclaim loudly and strongly that we will now remain awake and aware and that together, and with the help of our neighbours and the international community, we will force a break with our tragic past. Peacefully but realistically and, above all, determined, we will take possession of all spaces for public action and  make our institutions and leaders aware of their responsibilities.   In this way, we will make them accountable for their handling of our country’s public affairs, reminding them that Algeria belongs to all Algerians but it is not owned by anyone.

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