Spy chief General M’henna Djebbar is on his way out


Published on Tuesday, 11 July 2023 Back to articles

Major General M’henna Djebbar

Wednesday 5 July was the 61st anniversary of Algeria’s independence. The annual 4 July publication of army promotions and retirements usually provides strong indications as to where the real power within the regime lies. This year’s promotions were almost all from the entourage of Army Chief of Staff, General Saïd Chengriha, including many who are little known to the public or even the foreign diplomatic corps.

Despite this, two names stood out: General M’henna Djebbar by his absence, and the promotion of General Yahia Ali Oulhadj who is the head of the national gendarmerie and Chengriha’s longstanding partner in crime.

Only 18 months ago it was widely though that M’henna Djebbar was on the verge of being appointed to the vacant post of Algeria’s overall spy chief. Despite this not happening it was thought that he would at least be promoted from Major General to General of the Army but that also did not happen.

It is believed that it was blocked by Chengriha who is both jealous and suspicious and because along with most of the country’s other leaders, did not trust M’henna Djebbar. The real explanation, however, is almost certainly because of his succession of failures since his September 2022 appointment as head of the Direction des Documents et de la Sécurité Extérieure (DDSE). He was charged with two essential initial missions: to neutralise the regime’s overseas opponents; and reduce Morocco’s influence in the Sahel and specifically Mali.

One might also add his earlier mission — when he was appointed head of the Direction Générale de la Lutte Contre la Subversion (DGLS) which was secretly established in November 2021 — to weaken, the opposition in Kabylia. He spectacularly failed on all three fronts despite many people believing that he was behind the forest fires that destroyed much of Kabylia and killed some 250 people in the summer of 2021.

Meanwhile the overseas opposition is thriving. Neither of the two main exponents of the truth about the regime — Abdou Semmar in France and the Rachad movement’s Mohamed Zitout in London — have been assassinated. Rachad and its millions of online followers has instead become the most forceful and credible opposition movement.

In Mali and other neighbouring countries, the mission has failed dismally. Despite trying to persuade Mali’s ruling junta to keep its distance from Morocco, it has done the opposite. Rabat has maintained and even increased its rapprochement with Bamako while its economic investments have taken on a scale that is now worrying Algiers. The same is true in both Mauritania and Niger, where M’henna Djebbar’s visits have achieved little. Meanwhile Morocco has retained its diplomatic role in trying to resolve Libya’s political crisis. 

M’henna Djebbar cannot be blamed for all these setbacks. Rachad, for instance, is far too resilient to succumb to assassination threats and dirty. In the Sahel, he has had to operate with one hand tied behind his back because Algeria is distrusted and it is almost a decade since it exercised major leverage and influence in those countries. It is President Abdelmajid Tebboune who must take the blame for the latest setback: Germany has abandoned Algeria and is aligning with Morocco following Tebboune’s flirtations with Russia. According to reliable sources, however, the deciding factor leading to M’henna Djebbar’s demise was the DDSE’s failure to obtain detailed information on the weapons obtained by Morocco from Israeli, the Us and the UAE. 

Like former DRS head, General Mohamed Mediène, he maintained a mythological legend over several decades. But it was built on his ruthless reputation as a torturer and killer in the 1990s and these skills are not suited to the modern-day world of espionage. 

The question now is what will happen to M’henna Djebbar because he is over 75 years old and is due for retirement. We suspect that he will be allowed to remain in post a little longer but with diminished powers. He will gradually be side-lined as was the fate Mediène, who remained in post from 2013 until being dismissed (retired) more than two years later in 2015.

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

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