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Algeria: Is the Russia-Turkey rivalry at the heart of the Bouzit affair?

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Friday, 24 September 2021 17:32

Military parade in Algiers, 5 July 2017.

Major General Mohamed Bouzit’s recent arrest seems to suggest that we are witnessing a new internal battle play out within Algeria’s security sector.

Major General Mohamed Bouzit (aka Youcef ), the former head of Algerian foreign intelligence, was appointed in April 2020 and replaced in January 2021. He was placed in detention in the Blida military prison, 60km south of Algiers, following his arrest on 7 September 2021.

Chief of Staff Said Chengriha had ordered the those at the Direction Centrale de la Sécurité de l’Armée (DCSA) to investigate President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s friend.

According to a source close to the case, the head of the Algerian army suspected that the former director-general of Documentation et de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGDSE) had engaged in political and security manipulation activities after being ousted.

The investigators explored several avenues. These included looking into sensitive information that was disseminated to Algerian influencers and activists established abroad, the influence that was exerted on certain political parties and militant organisations and finally, the fact that several senior officers of the services’ appointments were disrupted, due to leaks.

Libyan competence

According to our source, very little damning information has been found about the person concerned. However, the latter did make a mistake that he will pay for with his freedom. It was discovered that he had monopolised a luxury car that Qatar had offered to the foreign secret service for his personal use. The vehicle in question was found at Bouzit’s home.

The affair taints Bouzit’s legacy at the DGDSE, as well as the men he placed within the service. A dozen senior officers were questioned at length about their relationship with their former boss and their activities between April 2020 and January 2021, the period during which the general major was in office.

The Bouzit affair is just another episode in the clan struggle that dominates the Algerian political-military seraglio.

How does one even begin to explain the chequered career of a true “son of the company”, as is customary to call executives who have spent their entire career in intelligence? Bouzit enjoys the reputation of a man of files, as he has a thorough knowledge of Libya and its tribal structure. In fact, he was one of the few Algerian officials that was in contact with all the local chiefs, several of whom he had helped in the past.

This polyglot and cultured man has the reputation of being a fierce negotiator who dared to take personal initiatives. He also has good contacts in Egypt, which made him the ideal person to oversee the Libyan file.

It is precisely due to the following reason that his mandate was shortened, leading to his downfall and disgrace. Bouzit bet on inter-Libyan negotiations while the country was struggling with the civil war, which Marshal Haftar relaunched in April 2019. As such, he is accused of having left the field open for Turkey to extend its field of intervention in Libya by installing several military bases, among other things. Libya sees this approach as an attempt to be complacent towards Ankara.

His exchanges with the Turkish services regarding the Libyan file did not help his case. He is suspected of having misled Algerian diplomacy and favouring Ankara’s Libyan interests.

Factional struggle

The general staff were bothered by the situation, whose proximity to Russia, Turkey’s rival in Libya, is well established. It also cost General Abdelaziz Medjahed, who is President Tebboune’s security advisor and very close to Chengriha, his job in September 2020, as he was removed under pressure from Bouzit.

Therefore, the Bouzit affair is just another episode in the clan struggle that dominates the Algerian political-military seraglio. This muted war is taking place between President Tebboune’s close advisors, Chengriha’s entourage and even generals from Ahmed Gaïd Salah’s former team, who are all prepared to ally themselves with one or another of the factions to avoid joining their comrades in prison.

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