Clashes between the population in Algeria: awakens hatred between Arabs and Berbers
In recent days, in southern Algeria, there have been clashes between the Berber and Arab communities, which have resulted in the wounding of dozens of Algerians and led to death twenty-two people-but other sources say the death toll is at least twenty-five. This is the most serious budget recorded in the region around Ghardaia, a city in the valley of Mzab, about 600 kilometres south of Algiers, where from 2013 the two communities are competing for land, labour and housing.
Witnesses said the streets were undisputed territory of dozens of insurgents and some corpses were found in private homes, empty because the owners had fled under threat of firearms.
The spiral of violence has made it necessary to send in reinforcements. The response of the Algerian authorities has been entrusted to the interior minister who has called a meeting of extraordinary security to restore order in the region. Among those present at the meeting were also the Prime Minister ‘Abed Malek Sellal, some defence officials and the chief of staff Salah Ahmed Gaid.
The crisis unit set up by the Interior Ministry is trying to take the necessary and urgent to end the wave of violence that has affected some of the towns of the district.
Algerian President announced an emergency plan to end the ethnic clashes. In an official statement, the Presidency said that the project is based on three points that relate to security, justice and development in the region. To implement the provisions of the presidency will be the commander of the military region, General Sherif ‘Abd ar-Rezak that Bouteflika has asked to “supervise the actions of the security services and local authorities to restore order.” The President also ordered the prosecutor of the Ghardaia to arrest all criminals “with diligence and severity.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of mozabite people (Berber ethnic group that inhabits the region of M’zab) protested outside the headquarters of the press in Algiers to denounce the escalation of violence in recent days in the city of Ghardaia. Protesters in particular, accused the authorities of doing nothing to stop the violence.
The bloody events, broke out in the poor desert region of Ghardaia, are only the latest violent episode in an area where there constant in recent years the tension between Arabs and Berbers. Tension, sporadically, gave birth to ethnic violence. The mozabite people are a community that still speak the language Tamazight (Berber), the original language of the Maghreb countries. Are Muslim but they belong to a rite, said Ibadi, who is now a small minority in the Muslim world. The Ibadi are located, as well as in the valley of Mzab, in a few other places. The Sultanate of Oman (with 900,000 inhabitants) is currently the only country where the majority is the confession Ibadism. Then there are other pockets scattered as Zanzibar, the island of Djerba in Tunisia and the Nafusa Mountains and Zuara in Libya.
In addition to mozabite people in the valley of Mzab lives a tribe of Bedouin Arabs, Scianba. A peaceful coexistence that has lasted for centuries due to economic complementarities between the activities of the two communities: Agriculture, crafts and trade for mozabite people, livestock and transport caravan for Scianba.
Complementarity has failed with modernity. Today, on the one hand the hardworking and decent community Mozabite knows neither crises nor unemployment, Scianba suffer from all the ills that beset the South Algerian: rampant unemployment, poverty, drugs, violence, the spread of illegal trafficking and organized crime. In addition to the co-existence between the two communities, the provincial capital, Ghardia, has become a fairly large city where many new residents arrived from other regions of the country.
The violent clashes between the two communities are reported from the first years of independence of the country (60 ‘). Often skirmishes between young people that sometimes lead to fights between a few dozen, rarely hundreds, of people from one side. At the end of which the local and national authorities, with the help of chiefs and wise of the two sides have always been able to restore calm.
From 2013 until today, the Algerian government and the local authorities do not seem able or willing to restore calm. The clashes have become more frequent, involving more people; do more damage both economic and human. And for the first time in the history of these clashes, firearms and organized gangs make their appearance. Appeals circulating on social media bring people even from outside the Valley Mzab to take part in a fight that loses the nickname “mozabite people against Scianba” to take what (the fashion of sectarian clashes that have bloodied the Middle East) “Sunnis against Ibadi “.
According to the official Algerian news agency APS, the scene of clashes have been especially the towns of Berriane and Guerrara, M’Zab Valley in the north of the Sahara, where the violence were carried out by groups of young people with knives, iron bars and firearms. Many also incidents of urban violence, including vandalism and arson of houses, shops, warehouses, cars, street furniture and even palm trees.
At the root of hatred, however, there are economic and social causes (fight for a job, for land and housing, the fight to win the limited resources available in the poor south of the country), rather than cultural and religious.
For mozabite people (the population of Berber origin, as evidenced by the language they speak, the tumzabt) central policies have resulted in a state of growing frustration, in which he also played the perception of being marginalized because of belonging to the current Ibadi.
Done consistently denied from Algiers, but that, in the minds of mozabite people, is at least a contributory cause of what is happening and that should result in cyclical outbreaks of violence, with mutual and fierce manhunt. Adding to the anger of mozabite people there are also demographic policies pursued by the central authorities, despite the opposition of the minority, continue to issue building permits for land around their neighbourhoods, allocating new buildings – often included in the plans of social housing – to Arab families.
Ghardaia, called the pearl of the desert, is an ancient city classified a World Heritage Site. It is the capital of the only region in Algeria, where housing complexes built before the colonial period is normally inhabited the same time and in excellent condition. The city-fortresses Valley Mzab (named region) owe their construction and preservation of the religious minority mozabite people.
In an article in al-Watan, the professor Rosto el-Jazairyya, Berber Mozabite, he denounced the marginalization of their community because of the sectarian politics of the Algerian authorities. Al-Jazairiyya spoke of “a plan to asphyxiate an entire population” and “well-structured attempt to isolate it politically and morally.” Algiers, according to the professor, “is trying to dictate with terror threats and the terms of the submission (community Mozabite).”
This suggests that the recent events are not only a result of ethnic clashes (between Arab tribes once warrior of chaâmbi and minority Mozabite) or religious (Sunni against Ibadi Islamic current which is different from both the Shia and Sunna therefore often disliked by the two majority groups), but there is also the rebellion of a minority that feels close to a pincer policy that pursues with systematic determination, the goal of Arabize Algeria, even with the use of coercion.
President Bouteflika has awareness of the gap between Berbers and Arabs, which is why the program announced three points also included the issue of sustainable economic and social area. However, the reactions to this announcement are not unequivocally positive; a key point appears to be the investment allocated. One objection that we read in the newspaper La Tribune regards the provisions of the Government, which, as every time there is an exacerbation of the conflict in the area, only announces measures to stem the crisis temporarily, without treating the underlying causes of the voltages. The failure – says the newspaper – reflects a wider crisis that lives in Algeria, where “the specificity of a region and its ancestral values” tend to be ignored by the authorities. The Berbers make up 30% of the Algerian population and have long been marginalized by the Arab majority.
In conjunction with the bloody clashes in the region of Ghardaia, the Algerian defence ministry announced proudly that -from the beginning of the year – 102 jihadists were killed, captured or repented. In the note, reported national news agency APS, is also referred to “large quantities of weapons and ammunition – including automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and nearly 1,300 explosive devices – have been seized by security forces between January and June.”
The radical political Islam is still a problem in the country. Jihadist groups have plunged Algeria in the 90s and, although the violence has decreased considerably fundamentalist, terrorist cells are still active in the central and eastern part of the Arab state which are launching occasional attacks on security forces.
The mozabite people (who take their name from the valley of M’zab, 600 km south of Algiers), in Ghardaia, until Independence were the majority, both in numbers and economic. Their presence is strong in Algiers, Oran and Constantine such. Since the end of the French occupation the mozabite people feel at the centre of a policy of encirclement. A process that concerns the mozabite people as well as the Kabyles, also repositories of a culture different from the dominant one and that, often, they have to defend themselves to attack, earning the reputation of the Kabylia region turbulent and still untamed.
The reaction of Algeria is to increase the military presence in the streets. The country was not as militarized even during the black decade of war of the 90s’. “There is a military post at every intersection, as have the freedom to hordes of robbers who come from all parts of the south of the country” – wonder activists mozabite people.