On May 11, The Washington Times published an article written by Mr Keene entitled, "What Algeria can teach about coping with an economic crisis". Having followed the situation in Algeria over a lifetime and particularly closely in the last year, my first reaction was to wonder if the Washington Times had a habit of publishing political satire.
Unfortunately, this was a case of the Algerian government contracting an American lobbyist, Mr David Keene, to use a Washington opinion column to promote their legitimacy during a pandemic. This fraud could have passed through if it were not for the vigilance and conscience of the Algerian people who flooded the internet with mockery and rejection of the Algerian regime's faux pas. To understand Algerian people's frustration behind this article, it is essential to start with background information and the fact that Mr Keene's statement was either taken out of context or blatantly false on all of the following points:
Last week, he slashed the government budget by half to avoid mortgaging the nation's future to other nations. Mr Keene states, "those who do know about Algeria remember the protests last year, but do not know that they were remarkably peaceful and that after each, the protesters themselves cleaned up after themselves to make sure no litter remained." Indeed, this is true, but the protests are not over. The twice-weekly peaceful protests began in February 2019 and drew millions of people to the streets in cities across the country despite the cold and heat. These protests are a movement called Al Hirak to liberate the Algerian people from six decades of authoritarian rule that began just after their independence from France. The protests have only temporarily paused because of COVID-19 restrictions, Algerian people are wise to take precautions for their communities' health and welfare. Unfortunately, that same wisdom is not shared by the brutal regime who has taken advantage during this pandemic to tray to extinguish the flame of the Hirak. Following COVID-19 crisis, the world will be surprised by the second human Tsunami of peaceful protests that flood the streets of Algeria's cities.
Mr Keene writes, "Although critics predicted the nation's delayed presidential election would prove chaotic and resolve little, they were wrong. Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected with 54% of the vote." The majority of Algerians consider this election fraud. Tebboune won 54% of the vote, but less than 10% of the country voted because they did not trust the process. Tebboune was a long-time member of the former regime and did not represent the change that Algerians have been fighting for.
Mr Keene writes, "Last week he [Tebboune] slashed the government budget by half to avoid mortgaging the nation's future to other nations." Slashing the budget did not affect the people at the top; however, it is significantly impacting the country's public services in containing the virus and treating the ill. While the medical community is risking their lives on the frontline, Mr Keene's friends in Algiers are diverting medical supplies received from China to military hospitals for VIP patients.
Mr Keene writes, "President Tebboune is committed to a course that may make Algeria a modern example of how to both weather a crisis and come out of it stronger than when it began." Tebboune's course of action on the ground includes sending security services at night to arrest innocent peaceful activists, without any court orders. At the same time, they gather with their families around iftar (Ramadan dinner before breakfast). This only sets an example to other dictators and corrupt regimes of how to take advantage of a crisis to subdue your opposition further so you can come out stronger.
I do want to thank Mr Keene for unveiling the reality of the regime, which so badly needed his services to convince Algerians of its usefulness. However, I must say I am a bit surprised. As the former President of the NRA, I would image Mr Keene to be a great defender of civil liberties, and yet he chose to support a corrupt regime that suppresses basic individual liberties and freedom of speech.