Crisis in Algeria’s relations with UAE 


Published on Tuesday, 19 December 2023 Back to articles

Louisa Hanoune accuses UAE of trying to destabilise Algeria

The past week has been dominated by the developing foreign relations and potential security crises stemming from the fighting in Mali’s northern Kidal region. Despite this, Algeria has been silent on the developing refugee problem and how it might exacerbate an already sensitive security situation in its own southern regions. 

However, an extraordinary and wholly unanticipated series of events in northern Mali — triggered by a rare speech by the Malian jihadist leader Iyad ag Ghali — has also elevated Algeria’s already bad relations with the UAE to a dangerous level. 

Algiers already believes that around US$300 million has been hidden in Emirati banks and financial institutions by members of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s family, and associated ministers and oligarchs. The restitution of these funds is a principal demand by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s government which claims to have evidence that the funds were actually bribes paid by Emirati investors over 15 years in return for economic or political advantages. Algiers has repeatedly sent requests for Emirati assistance in identifying where the funds are being held. The Emiratis have reportedly never responded favourably and Algiers suspects that the Bouteflika family and associates were also discreetly offered a comfortable safe haven in the UAE in 2019. 

It is now evident that Abu Dhabi is no longer prepared to tolerate Algiers aggressive disinformation against the UAE. It was suspected for some time but was confirmed publicly this week that it has compiled a blacklist of Algerian individuals — journalists, politicians, civil servants, and former ministers — who have lobbied against the UAE and are now banned from entering the country. Much to Algiers’ anger, this has prevented several prominent individuals from participating in international activities hosted in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

For convoluted reasons explained in detail in the latest issue of our Sahara Focus sister publication, Abu Dhabi has publicly said that Iyad’s jihadist force in Mali should be attacking Algeria. Tebboune was apoplectic and immediately called in Louisa Hanoune — the Trotskyist long-time leader of the Parti Travailliste and also a loyal nationalist — for a three hour meeting on 11 December. He authorised her to hold a press conference at which she was instructed to accuse the UAE of attempting to destabilise Algeria. 

Unsurprisingly this has led to an escalation  in the diplomatic row. Now, realising that it has perhaps overstepped the mark, Algiers has discretely approached Kuwait in the hope that it might act as a willing intermediary to help patch up relations with Abu Dhabi. 

Meanwhile, Algiers has shown no softening in its hostility to Morocco and was the only Arab country not to attend the Conference of Arab Police and Security Leaders in Tangier.

Algiers is also angered by Nigeria’s apparent favouring of the offshore Nigeria Morocco Gas Pipeline (NMGP) project — which will now have financial backing from the UAE — over the Algerian favoured and financed onshore Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP) and has asked South Africa to intervene on its behalf in Abuja.

It is, however, not all bad news because relations with Spain are on the mend. After appointing an ambassador to Madrid, Air Algérie is recommencing flights to Spain with an expanded service to Barcelona. The influential Conseil du Renouveau Economique Algérien (CREA) has also extended a warm reception to Spain’s Ambassador Fernando Moran Calvo-Sotelo and given assurances to help Spanish businesses re-establish themselves in Algeria.

On the political front, looking ahead to the 2024 presidential election and domestic politics, the main opposition to a second term for President Tebboune is likely to come from the ‘old DRS’ of General Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediène. He is still determined to avenge his ousting by the late Army Chief of Staff, General Ahmed Gaïd Salah after the latter discovered his role in the terrorist attack on the Tiguentourine gas processing plant at In Amenas in 2013. He is therefore targeting the family, friends, and associates — including President Tebboune — of Gaïd Salah and former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. 

This excerpt is taken from our Algeria Politics & Security weekly intelligence report. Click here to receive a free sample copy. Contact for subscription details.

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