People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia.
Area:Total--2,381,740 sq. km. Land--2,381,740 sq. km.; water--0 sq. km. More than 3 times the size of Texas.
Terrain: Mostly high plateau and desert; some mountains; narrow, discontinuous coastal plain. Mountainous areas subject to severe earthquakes; mud slides.
Climate: Arid to semiarid; mild, wet winters with hot, dry summers along coast; drier with cold winters and hot summers on high plateau; sirocco is a hot, dust/sand-laden wind especially common in summer.
Land use: Arable land--3%; permanent crops--0%, permanent pastures--13%; forests and woodland--2%.
Nationality: Noun--Algerian(s); adjective--Algerian.
Population (July 2001 est.): 31,736,053.
Annual growth rate (2001 est.): 1.71%. Birth rate--22.76 births/1,000, population; death rate--5.22 deaths/1,000 population.
Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99%, European less than 1%.
Religions: Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99%, Christian and Jewish 1%.
Languages: Arabic (official), French, Berber dialects.
Education: Literacy (definition--age 15 and over can read and write)--total population, 61.6%; male 73.9%, female 49% (1995 est.) Health (2001 est.): Infant mortality rate--40.56 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth--total population, 69.95 years; male 68.6 years, female 71.34 years.
Work force (2000): 9.1 million. Government--29%; construction and public works--15%; industry--11%; other--20%.
Independence: July 5, 1962 (from France).
Constitution: November 19, 1976, effective November 22, 1976; revised November 3, 1988, February 23, 1989, and November 28, 1996. NOTE: Referendum approving the revisions of November 28, 1996 was signed into law December 7, 1996.
Branches: Legal system based on French and Islamic law; judicial review of legislative acts in ad hoc Constitutional Council composed of various public officials, including several Supreme Court justices; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Administrative divisions: 48 provinces (wilayet; singular, wilaya). Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal.
Flag: Two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and white; a red, five-pointed star within a red crescent centered over the two-color boundary; the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam (the state religion).
National holiday: Revolution Day, November 1, 1954.
GDP (2000; purchasing power parity): $171 billion.
GDP growth rate (2001): 4%.
Per capita GDP (2000; purchasing power parity): $5,500.
Agriculture: Products--wheat, barley, oats, grapes, olives, citrus, fruits; sheep, cattle.
Industry: Types--petroleum, natural gas, light industries, mining, electrical, petrochemical, food processing.
Trade: Exports--$19.6 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.): petroleum, natural gas, and petroleum products 97%. Partners (1999)--Italy 22%, U.S .15%, France 12%, Spain 11%, Brazil 8%, Netherlands 5%. Imports--$9.2 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.): capital goods, food and beverages, consumer goods. Partners (1999)--France 30%, Italy 9%, Germany 7%, Spain 6%, U.S. 5%, Turkey 5%.
Budget (2001 est.): Revenues--$15.8 billion; expenditures--$16 billion, including capital expenditures of $5.3 billion.
Debt (external, 2000 est.): $25 billion.
Economic aid recipient (1999 est.): $100 million.
Fiscal year: Calendar year.
Algeria, the second-largest state in Africa, has a Mediterranean coastline of about 998 kilometers (620 mi.). The Tellian and Saharan Atlas Mountain ranges cross the country from east to west, dividing it into three zones. Between the northern zone, Tellian Atlas, and the Mediterranean is a narrow, fertile coastal plain--the Tell (Arabic for hill)--with a moderate climate year round and rainfall adequate for agriculture. A high plateau region, averaging 914 meters (3,000 ft.) above sea level, with limited rainfall and great rocky plains and desert, lies between the two mountain ranges. It is generally barren except for scattered clumps of trees and intermittent bush and pasture land. The third and largest zone, south of the Saharan Atlas range of mountains, is mostly desert. About 80% of the country is desert, steppes, wasteland, and mountains.
Algeria's weather is irregular from year to year. In the north, the summers are usually hot with little rainfall. Winter rains begin in the north in October. Frost and snow are rare, except on the highest slopes of the Tellian Atlas Mountains. Dust and sandstorms occur most frequently between February and May.
Soil erosion from overgrazing and other poor farming practices; desertification; dumping of raw sewage, petroleum refining wastes, and other industrial effluents is leading to the pollution of rivers and coastal waters; the Mediterranean Sea, in particular, is becoming polluted from oil wastes, soil erosion, and fertilizer runoff; there are inadequate supplies of potable water.
Ninety-one percent of the Algerian population lives along the Mediterranean coast on 12% of the country's total land mass. Forty-five percent of the population are urban, and urbanization continues, despite government efforts to discourage migration to the cities. About 1.5 million nomads and semi-settled bedouin still live in the Saharan area. According to 1986 data, 45% of the population is under age 15.
Nearly all Algerians are Muslim, of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber stock. A mostly foreign Roman Catholic community of about 45,000 exists, as do very small Protestant and Jewish communities. As of January 2002, there were about 600 American citizens in the country, the majority of whom live and work in the oil/gas fields of the south.
Algeria's educational system has grown dramatically since 1962; in the last 12 years, attendance has doubled to more than 5 million students. Education is free and compulsory to age 16. Despite government allocation of substantial educational resources, population pressures and a serious shortage of teachers have severely strained the system, as has terrorism attacks against the educational infrastructure during the 1990s. Modest numbers of Algerian students study abroad, primarily in Europe and Canada. In 2000, the government launched a major review of the country's educational system.
Housing and medicine continue to be pressing problems in Algeria. Failing infrastructure and the continued influx of people from rural to urban areas has overtaxed both systems. According to the UNDP, Algeria has one of the world's highest per housing unit occupancy rates for housing, and government officials have publicly stated that the country has an immediate shortfall of 1.5 million housing units.
Since the 5th century B.C., the indigenous tribes of northern Africa (identified by the Romans as "Berbers") have been pushed back from the coast by successive waves of Phoenician, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Arab, Turkish, and, finally, French invaders. The greatest cultural impact came from the Arab invasions of the 8th and 11th centuries A.D., which brought Islam and the Arabic language. The effects of the most recent (French) occupation--French language and European inspired socialism--are still pervasive.
North African boundaries have shifted during various stages of the conquests. The borders of modern Algeria were created by the French, whose colonization began 1830. To benefit French colonists, most of whom were farmers and businessmen, northern Algeria was eventually organized into overseas departments of France, with representatives in the French National Assembly. France controlled the entire country, but the traditional Muslim population in the rural areas remained separated from the modern economic infrastructure of the European community.
Indigenous Algerians began their revolt on November 1, 1954, to gain rights denied them under French rule. The revolution, launched by a small group of nationalists who called themselves the National Liberation Front (FLN), was a guerrilla war in which both sides used terrorist tactics. Eventually, protracted negotiations led to a cease-fire signed by France and the FLN on March 18, 1962, at Evian, France. The Evian accords also provided for continuing economic, financial, technical, and cultural relations, along with interim administrative arrangements until a referendum on self-determination could be held.
The referendum was held in Algeria on July 1, 1962, and France declared Algeria independent on July 3. On September 8, 1963, a constitution was adopted by referendum, and later that month, Ahmed Ben Bella was formally elected president. On June 19, 1965, President Ben Bella was replaced in a bloodless coup by a Council of the Revolution headed by Minister of Defense Col. Houari Boumediene who was elected president of the republic on December 10, 1976. He died 5 years later.
Following nomination by an FLN Party Congress, Col. Chadli Bendjedid was elected President in 1979 and re-elected in 1984 and 1988. A new constitution was adopted in 1989 that allowed the formation of political associations other than the FLN. It also removed the armed forces, which had run the government since the days of Boumediene, from a designated role in the operation of the government. Among the scores of parties that sprang up under the new constitution, the militant Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was the most successful, winning more than 50% of all votes cast in municipal elections in June 1990 as well as in first stage of national legislative elections held in December 1991.
Faced with the real possibility of a sweeping FIS victory, the government canceled the second stage of elections in January 1992. This action, coupled with political uncertainty and economic turmoil, led to a violent reaction on the part of the Islamists. A campaign of terror in the country, including assassinations, bombings, and massacres, commenced. Charging the FIS with supporting or encouraging such actions, Bendjedid declared a national state of emergency, resigned, and appointed a five-member High Council of State (HCS) to run the government. The HCS officially dissolved and outlawed the FIS in 1992 and began a series of arrests and trials of FIS members that reportedly resulted in over 50,000 members being jailed.
Despite efforts to restore the political process, violence and terrorism characterized the Algeria landscape during the 1990s. In 1994, Lamine Zeroual was appointed Head of State for a 3-year term. During this period, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) launched terrorist campaigns against government figures and institutions to protest the banning of the Islamist parties. A breakaway GIA group--the Salafist Group for Preaching and Call (GSPC)--also undertook terrorist activity in the country. Govenrment officials estimate that more than 100,000 Algerians died during this period.
Zeroual called for presidential elections in 1995, though some parties objected to holding elections that excluded the FIS. Zeroual was elected president with 75% of the vote. By 1997, in an attempt to bring political stability to the nation, the Rassemblement National Democratique (RND) party was formed by a more progressive group of FLN members. Zeroual announced that presidential elections would be held in early 1999, nearly 2 years ahead of the scheduled time.
Algerians went to the polls in April 1999, following a campaign in which seven candidates qualified for election. On the eve of the election, all candidates except Abdelaziz Bouteflika pulled out amid charges of widespread electoral fraud. Bouteflika, the candidate who appeared to enjoy the backing of the military, as well as FLN and RND party regulars, won with an official vote count of 70% of all votes cast. He was inaugurated on April 27, 1999 for a 5-year term.
President Bouteflika's agenda focused initially on restoring security and stability to the country. Following his inauguration, he proposed an official amnesty for those who fought against the government during the 1990s unless they had engaged in "blood crimes," such as rape or murder. This "Civil Concord" policy was widely approved in a nationwide referendum in September 2000. Government officials estimate that 85% of those fighting the regime during the 1990s have accepted the amnesty offer and have been reintegrated into Algerian society. Bouteflika also has launched national commissions to study education and judicial reform, as well as restructuring of the state bureaucracy. His government has set ambitious targets for economic reform and attracting foreign investment.
Three years into Bouteflika's mandate, the security situation in Algeria has improved markedly. However, terrorism has not been totally eliminated, and terrorist incidents still occur, particularly in remote or isolated areas of the country. An estimated 100-120 Algerians are killed monthly, down from a high of 1,200 or more in the mid-1990s. In 2001, Berber activists in the Kabyle region of the country, reacting to the death of a youth in gendarme custody, unleashed a resistance campaign against what they saw as government repression. Strikes and demonstrations in the Kabyle region have become commonplace as a result and some have spread to the capital. Chief among Berber demands is recognition of Amagizh (Berber) as a national language, restitution for death of Kabylies killed or wounded in demonstrations, and some type of autonomy for the region. Representatives of major Kabylie factions are currently in discussions with the government on this matter. In November 2001, devastating floods hit Algeria, killing more than 800 people, mostly in Algiers. The floods caused an estimated $350 million in damages. Algeria is planning for a new round of legislative elections in Spring 2002.
Under the 1976 Constitution (as modified 1979, and amended in 1988, 1989, and 1996) Algeria is a multi-party state. All parties must be approved by the Ministry of the Interior. To date, Algeria has had more than 40 legal political parties. According to the Constitution, no political association may be formed if it is "based on differences in religion, language, race gender or region." The head of state is the President of the republic, who is elected to a 5-year term, renewable once. Algeria has universal suffrage. The President is the head of the Council of Ministers and of the High Security Council. He appoints the Prime Minister who also is the head of government. The Prime Minister appoints the Council of Ministers.
The Algerian parliament is bicameral, consisting of a lower chamber, the National People's Assembly (APN), with 380 members and an upper chamber, the Council of Nation, with 144 members. The APN is elected every 5 years. The next round of legislative elections are scheduled to take place in 2002. Two-thirds of the Council of the Nation are elected by regional and municipal authorities; the rest are appointed by the President. The Council of the Nation serves a 6-year term with one-half of the seats up for election or reappointment every 3 years. Either the President or one of the parliamentary chambers may initiate legislation. Legislation must be brought before both chambers before it becomes law. Sessions of the APN are televised.
Algeria is divided into 48 wilaya (state or province) headed by walis (governors) who report to the Minister of Interior. Each wilaya is further divided into communes. The wilayas and communes are each governed by an elected assembly.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Ouyahia, Ahmed
Min. of Agriculture & Rural Development--Barkat, Said
Min. of Commerce--Boukrouh, Noureddine
Min. of Communication & Culture--Toumi, Khalida
Min. of Energy & Mining--Khelil, Chekib
Min. of Town Planning & Environment--Rahmani, Cherif
Min. of Finance--Benachenhou, Abdelatif
Min. of Fisheries & Sea Resources--Mimoune, Smail
Min. of Foreign Affairs--Belkhadem, Abdelaziz
Min. of Health--Redjimi Mourad
Min. of Higher Education & Scientific Research--Harraoubia, Rachid
Min. of Housing--Hamimid, Mohamed Nadir
Min. of Industry--Djaaboub, El-Hachemi
Min. of Information Technology & Communication--Tou, Amar
Min. of Interior--Zerhouni, Nourredine Yazid
Min. of Justice--Bela�z, Tayeb
Min. of Labor & Social Security--Louh, Tayeb
Min. of Moudjhidine (Veterans)--Abbas, Mohamed Cherif
Min. of National Education--Benbouzid, Boubekeur
Min. of Employment & National Solidarity--Ould Abb�s, Djamal
Min. of Professional Training--Khaldi El Hadi
Min. of Public Works--Ghoul, Amar
Min. in Charge of Relations With the Parliament--Khoudri Mahmoud
Min. of Religious Affairs--Ghlamallah, Bouabdellah
Min. of Small & Medium-Sized Industries--Benbada, Mustapha
Min. of Tourism--Benouar Noureddine
Min. of Transport--Sellal, Abdelmalek
Min. of Water Resources--Douihasni, Mohamed
Min. of Youth & Sports--Ha�chour, Boudjema�
Min. Del. in Charge of African Affairs--Messahel, Abdelkader
Min. Del. in Charge of the Family & Women's Affairs--Djaffar Nouara Sa�dia
Min. Del. in Charge of Financial Reform--Mentouri, Fatiha
Min. Del. in Charge of Local Collectives--Kablia, Daho Ould
Min. Del. in Charge of National & Foreign Identity--Messadi, Sakina
Min. Del. in Charge of Prison Reform--Sallat, Abdelkader
Min. Del. in Charge of Rural Development--Benaissa, Rachid
Min. Del. in Charge of Scientific Research--Bendjaballah, Souad
Speaker of the National People's Assembly (Lower House)--Youn�s, Karim
Speaker of the Council of Nations (Upper House)--Bensalah, Abdelkader
Governor, Central Bank--Lekasassi, Mohamed
Ambassador to the United States--Jazairy, Idriss
Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York--Bali, Abdallah
A decade of terrorist violence in Algiera has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths since 1991. Although the security situation in the country has improved, addressing the underlying issues which brought about the political turmoil of the 1990s remain the government's major task. In keeping with its amended Constitution, the Algerian Government espouses participatory democracy and free-market competition. The government has stated that it will continue to open the political process and encourage the creation of political institutions. More than 40 political parties, representing a wide segment of the population, are currently active in Algerian national politics. Legislative elections are planned for Spring 2002. President Bouteflika has pledged to restructure the state as part of his overall reform efforts. However, no specifics are yet available as to how such reforms would affect political structures and the political process itself.
Algeria has more than 30 daily newspapers published in French and Arabic, with a total publication run of more than 1.5 million copies. Although relatively free to write as they choose, in 2001, the government amended the penal code provisions relating to defamation and slander, a step widely viewed as an effort to rein in the press. Government monopoly of newsprint and advertising is seen as another means to influence the press, although it has permitted newspapers to create their own printing distribution networks.
Population growth and associated problems--unemployment and underemployment, inability of social services to keep pace with rapid urban migration, inadequate industrial management and productivity, a decaying infrastructure--continue to plague Algerian society. Increases in the production and prices of oil and gas over the past decade have led to a budgetary surplus of close to $20 billion. The government began an economic reform program in 1993 which focuses on macroeconomic stability and structural reform. These reforms are aimed at liberalizing the economy, making Algeria competitive in the global market, and meeting the needs of the Algerian people.
The hydrocarbons sector is the backbone of the Algerian economy, accounting for roughly 60% of budget revenues, 30% of GDP, and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the fifth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the second-largest gas exporter; it ranks 14th for oil reserves. Its key oil and gas customers are Italy, Spain, France, and the United States. U.S. companies have played a major role in developing Algeria's oil and gas sector; of the $4 billion in U.S. investment in Algeria, the vast bulk is in the petroleum sector.
Faced with declining oil revenues and high-debt interest payments at the beginning of the decade, Algeria implemented a stringent macroeconomic stabilization program and rescheduled its Paris Club debt in the mid-1990s. The macroeconomic program has been particularly successful, reducing inflation to approximately 1% and narrowing the budget deficit. Algeria's economy has grown at about 4% annually since 1999. The country's foreign debt has fallen from a high of $28 billion in 1999 to its current level of $24 billion. The spike in oil prices in 1999-2000 and the government's tight fiscal policy, as well as a large increase in the trade surplus and the near tripling of foreign exchange reserves has helped the country's finances. However, an ongoing drought, the after effects of the November 10, 2001 floods and an uncertain oil market make prospects for 2002-03 more problematic. The government pledges to continue its efforts to diversify the economy by attracting foreign and domestic investment outside the energy sector. However, it has thus far had little success in reducing high unemployment, officially estimated at 30% and improving living standards.
President Bouteflika has announced sweeping economic reforms, which, if implemented, will significantly restructure the economy. Priority areas are banking reform, improving the investment environment, and reducing government bureaucracy. The government has announced plans to sell off state enterprises: sales of a national cement factory and steel plant have been completed and other industries are up for offer. In 2001, Algeria signed an Association Agreement with the European Union; it has started accession negotiations for entry into the World Trade Organization.
Algeria armed forces, known collectively as the Popular National Army (ANP), total 119,000 members, with some 100,000 reservists. The army is under the control of the president, who also is minister of National Defense. Defense expenditures accounted for some $1.9 billion or 1.5% of GDP. Two years of national military service is compulsory for males.
Algeria is a leading military power in the region and has its force oriented toward its western (Morocco) and eastern (Libya) borders. Its primary military supplier has been the former Soviet Union, which has sold various types of sophisticated equipment under military trade agreements, and China. Algeria has attempted, in recent years, to diversify its sources of military material. Military forces are supplemented by a 45,000-member gendarmerie or rural police force under the control of the president and 30,000-member Suret� National or Metropolitan police force under the Ministry of the Interior.
Algeria has traditionally practiced an activist foreign policy and in the 1960s and 1970s was noted for its support of Third World policies and independence movements. Algerian diplomacy was instrumental in obtaining the release of U.S. hostages from Iran in 1980. Since his inauguration, President Bouteflika worked to restore Algeria's international reputation, traveling extensively throughout the world. In July 2001, he became the first Algerian President to visit the White House in 16 years. He has made official visits to France, South Africa, Italy, Spain, Germany, China, Japan, and Russia, among others, since his inauguration.
Algeria has taken the lead in working on issues related to the African Continent. Host of the OAU Conference in 2000, Algeria also was key in bringing Ethiopia and Eritrea to the peace table in 2000. It has worked closely with its African neighbors to establish the New African Partnership. Algeria has taken a lead in reviving the Union of the Arab Maghreb with its regional neighbors.
Since 1976, Algeria has supported the Polisario, a group claiming to represent the population of Western Sahara. Contending that Sahwari have a right to self determination under the UN Charter, Algeria has provided the Polisario with material, financial, and political support and sanctuary in southwestern Algeria around Tindouf. UN involvement in the Western Sahara includes MINURSO, a peacekeeping force, and UNHCR, for refugee assistance and resettlement. Active diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute under the auspices of the Special Representative of the Secretary General are on-going. Although the land border between Morocco and Algeria was closed in the wake of a terrorist attack, the two have worked at improving relations. Algeria has friendly relations with its other neighbors in the Mahgreb, Tunisia and Libya, and with its Sub-Saharan neighbors, Mali and Niger. It closely monitors developments in the Middle East and has been strong proponent of the rights of the Palestinian people, calling publicly called for an end to violence in the Occupied Territories.
Algeria has diplomatic relations with more than 100 foreign countries, and over 90 countries maintain diplomatic representation in Algiers.
In July 2001, President Bouteflika became the first Algerian President to visit the White House since 1985. This visit, followed by a second meeting in November 2001, is indicative of the growing relationship between the United States and Algeria. The United States and Algeria worked closely on the 2000 peace accords between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the United States consult closely on key international and regional issues. The pace and scope of senior-level visits has accelerated: after a hiatus of more than a decade, three Cabinet-level officials visited Algeria in 2000-01. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, contacts in key areas of mutual concern, including law enforcement and counter-terrorism cooperation, have intensified. Algeria has publicly condemned the terrorist attacks on the United States and has been strongly supportive of the international war against terrorism.
The U.S.-Algerian economic relationship is deepening and broadening. U.S. direct investment in Algeria totals $4.5 billion, most of which in the petroleum sector, which U.S. companies dominate. American companies also are active in the banking and finance, services, pharmaceuticals, medical facilities, telecommunications, aviation, and information technology sectors. An American Chamber of Commerce was established in 2002, consisting of 40 members. Algeria is the United States' fifth-largest market in the Middle East/North African region. Exports to Algeria from the United States rose by more than 150% in 2001. Algeria exports $3 billion of petroleum products and LNG to the United States, primarily to New England.
In July 2001, the United States and Algeria signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement which establishes common principles on which the economic relationship is founded. The Eximbank has an active guarantee program in Algeria; current exposure is more than $1.9 billion, primarily for petroleum projects and aircraft acquisition. Within the framework of the U.S.-North African Economic Partnership (USNAEP), the United States provides about $1.2 million in technical assistance to Algeria. This program supports and encourages Algeria's economic reform program and includes support for privatization, implementation of intellectual property protection, WTO accession negotiations, and improving the investment climate. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided Algeria with a GSM 102 program valued at $50 million for the purchase of U.S. agricultural products.
The United States has a small ($200,000 per year) International Military Education and Training (IMET) Program for training Algerian military personnel in the United States. Contacts between the Algerian and U.S. militaries have accelerated in the past 2 years: Algeria has hosted U.S. Naval ship visits and has begun a series of joint Naval exercises. Staff exchanges between the two sides are frequent ,and Algeria has hosted senior U.S. military officials.
The United States has a modest exchange program in Algeria, which includes Humphrey and Fulbright Educational grants. In 2001, Algeria was the recipient of a grant under a new U.S. program, the Ambassadors' Fund for Cultural Preservation. That fund made a grant of $15,000 for the protection of Roman mosaics at an antiquities site at Cherchell.
The official U.S. presence in Algeria remains limited, due in large part to reductions in staff during the mid-1990s in response to a deteriorating security environment. During the past 2 years, the embassy has moved toward more normal operations and now provides most embassy services to the American and Algerian community.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Janet A. Sanderson
Deputy Chief of Mission--Gregory S. Slotta
Political Officer--Diane Shelby
Economic/Commercial Officer--Marc Tejtel
Foreign Commercial Officer (resident in Rabat)--Kathy Kreiger
Foreign Agriculture Service Officer (resident in Rabat)--Merritt Chesley
Consular Officer--Andrew Mitchell
Administrative Officer--Alberta Mayberry
Public Affairs Officer--Chris Eccel
Defense Attache--Col. Kenneth Jewett
The U.S. embassy is located at 4 Chemin Cheich Bachir Brahimi, Algiers; Tel. 213 (21) 691255; Fax: 213 (21) 693979.