Algeria: Who’s who in President Abdelmadjid Tebboune inner circle?

By Farid Alilat
Posted on Monday, 14 February 2022 17:00

Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who surrounded himself with people loyal to him from the start, continues to expand his inner circle. We dive into the heart of the el-Mouradia palace.

Less than a year after his return from a long convalescence in Germany, where he was treated for complications related to Covid-19, Abdelmadjid Tebboune is reshuffling his security detail.

Tebboune, who privately admitted that he found the El-Mouradia palace an empty shell after his election in 2019, continues to surround himself with people who have been loyal to him since then. His team has been strengthened by the addition of other staff, particularly in the areas of communications, defence and security affairs.

The fact that Abdelaziz Khellaf has held the post of the presidency’s director of cabinet since April 2020 is a testament to his longevity within the arcane power and his knowledge of the political seraglio. The former ambassador to Tunisia was also minister of trade and finance in the 1980s. This native of El Oued City is familiar with the presidency’s inner workings since he also served as secretary-general between 1991 and 1992.

This was a particularly delicate period, as the country experienced a democratic opening, the rise of Islamists and President Chadli Bendjedid’s resignation. After he retired from politics, Khellaf headed the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) from 1994 to 2006, which allowed him to build up a solid network among political and economic leaders in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Boualem Boualem is one of the key men within the head of state’s entourage. This former magistrate, who is very discreet, serves as an advisor on legal and judicial affairs. However, his influence goes beyond that, as the presidency consults him prior to making all appointments.

Before assuming his role within the El Mouradia palace, Boualem was – for a long time – in charge of the Organe National de Prévention et de Lutte contre les Infractions Liées aux Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication, the telephone tapping service attached to the ministry of defence. In his current position, this former senator from the Rassemblement National pour la Démocratie (RND) was responsible for following up on corruption cases, for which many former ministers and oligarchs have been handed heavy prison sentences.

Adbelhafid Alahoum is unwaveringly loyal to Tebboune and was at his side during the 2019 electoral campaign. He still advises the latter on societal and associative issues.

A member of parliament between 1982 and 1987 and a former tax collector, Allahoum was was responsible for settling the delicate issue of army retirees who were claiming a disability bonus for their service in the fight against terrorism. He was also tasked with conveying the president’s message to civil society. In August 2021, he visited the family of Djamel Bensmail, whose death by lynching – during the 2021 forest fires in Kabylia – had caused a wave of indignation in Algeria.

This journalist has taken the place of a former minister of communication. In September 2021, Samir Aggoune became the presidency’s spokesperson after the post was left vacant by Mohand Saïd Oubelaïd, who suffered a serious stroke from which he is still recovering.

A former teacher at Paris’ Faculté des Sciences de l’Information et de Communication, Aggoune held several media positions before joining the presidency in June 2020 as a mission head. He was director of information at Dzaïr News, the TV channel owned by former businessman Ali Haddad, and an anchor at Echourouk TV and has a reputation for being affable, competent and close to journalists. His professionalism was lauded when Dzaïr News went downhill, following the boss’ imprisonment.

Said is very close to the head of state and remained faithful to him even after his dismissal as prime minister in August 2017. Said has had free rein since the departure of Belaïd Mohand Oussaïd, with whom he did not have a good relationship.

A long-time adviser to the private group Cevital (food industry) and a member of the think tank Care, he has many friends in print and broadcast media.

He is so discreet that there are hardly any photos of him. In March 2021, this former army comptroller general arrived at the presidency as an advisor in charge of defence and security affairs. He replaced Major General Abdelaziz Medjahed, who then became the head of the Institut National des Etudes de Stratégie Globale (Inesg).

A connoisseur of Germany, where he studied, his doctoral thesis in political science examined Algiers’ arms contracts and technology transfer to southern countries. After a brief stint at the ministry of defence’s Direction de la Communication, de l’Information et de l’Orientation (DCIO) between 2004 and 2005, he became the army’s controller general (CGA). In the summer of 2018, he, like many other senior officers, was dismissed by Ahmed Gaïd Salah, then chief of staff and deputy defence minister.In April 2021, this executive who also spent the bulk of his career in intelligence services became ‘chargé des affaires réservées’. In this position, he advises the head of state in matters of defence and diplomacy, two sectors that this former colonel knows inside out.

Mohamed Chafik Mesbah – who has built up an excellent network in military, civilian and political circles – came out of retirement in April 2020 to head the Algerian Agency for International Cooperation, with the rank of minister advisor to the head of state. The agency, which functions as a super-ministerial body, is supposed to compensate for Algeria’s loss of influence in its African home region and beyond.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options