Lord Richard Risby UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy in Algeria: How Algeria has fought back against Islamist extremism. 24/11/2017.

By Lord Risby: 



“Recently l took part in a moving ceremony to commemorate Operation Torch, adjacent to the beach where the Allied landings took place in Algiers 75 years ago.

Across the Maghreb, the Vichy French initially resisted. The North Africa campaign proved to be a major turning point in the Second Word War. During military operations many young Algerian soldiers lost their lives in North Africa, Italy and elsewhere. One can sympathise with Algerians who believe that their role has never been adequately acknowledged, as it should be.

The Second Word War stimulated the desire for separation from France. This culminated in a truly horrific fight for independence, which raged for eight terrible years from 1954. Algeria, despite being an integral part of France, inherited a 90 per cent rate of illiteracy and collapsed administrative structures.

Less than 30 years later the country suffered an attempted Islamist takeover, accompanied by grotesque and barbarous acts of violence of the sort replicated more recently by Daesh. It was ultimately quelled by the Algerian army, but these events became embedded in the country’s collective memory. Today there resides a deep fear of extremist fanaticism and its manifestations.

In a matter of decades the population has quadrupled, and in common with the Arab world there has been an enormous increase in Algeria’s youth population. However, there has been no Arab Spring, and compared with other countries in the region and elsewhere, the numbers leaving Algeria to help Daesh were minimal.

The reason for this, as expressed in Algeria, is a longstanding and comprehensive national de-radicalisation plan, which has evolved with constitutional and parliamentary oversight.

It is worth highlighting some of its elements. In 2006 a Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation was implemented which sought to divorce those involved in terrorism from further radical fundamentalist activity. It included measures of clemency for terrorists who agreed to move on to normality, with the aim of reintegration, but excluded those who had committed rapes, bombing in public spaces, or assassinations, and with compensation offered to affected families.

Earlier a major attempt had been made to find jobs for former jihadist fighters. Additionally Algeria opened up the political process, except for the radical Islamic Salvation Front.

Algeria is constitutionally Islamic. The government oversees the training of imams and female religious guides who enjoy the same status as imams, but who specialise in community outreach, especially amongst women. Mosques are obliged to be solely focused on religion, and to prevent the spread of religious bigotry and radicalisation”.