The replacement comes just hours after the death of the de facto leader of Algeria, Gaid Salah, who died after a heart attack this morning.
Rabat – Abdelmadjid Tebboune, president of Algeria, has announced that the current head of land forces, General Said Chengriha, will now be the acting chief of the Algerian armed forces.
Tebboune announced the replacement hours after the death of army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah from a heart attack on Monday, December 23.
Chengriha, 74, served as the head of land forces, a post that Gaid Salah held before his appointment as the chief of the Algerian army.
With Chengriha’s appointment, Tebboune seeks to preserve Algeria’s positions, promoting people who are loyal to the Algerian agenda on certain regional and internal issues, including Western Sahara.
Chengriha has made statements indicating he considers Morocco an enemy of Algeria.
In 2016, a recording of Chengriha declaring support for Polisario went viral on social media.
“I recall that Algeria is always loyal to its principles to condemn injustice, tyranny, and all sorts of colonizations,” he said.
He added that Algeria “strives to establish security in the region and support the brotherly Sahrawi people and their right to establish their state and live in pride and dignity.”
Moroccans interpreted the statements as against Morocco’s territorial integrity because Morocco considers its sovereignty over the southern provinces in Western Sahara a red line.
A signal of more tension with Rabat
Tebboune’s appointment of Chengriha, less than two weeks into his presidency, is one of his first to indicate that there will be no reconciliation between Rabat and Algiers.
Tebboune won the presidential election with the full support of the army during his presidential campaign.
He also played the Western Sahara conflict as a card to win votes, announcing his support for the Algerian position.
During press conferences, Tebboune also called on Morocco to apologize for accusing Algeria of involvement in the Asni terror attack in Marrakech back in 1994.
Algeria then closed its border with Morocco after Morocco changed its visa policy on Algerian citizens following the attack.
“Algeria did not close the border due to Western Sahara,” Tebboune said during his presidential campaign.
“The border might be open again someday. But apologize,” he demanded.
He claimed that at the time of the border closure, Morocco stranded “at least 350 Algerians.”
Morocco has denied the allegations. Several reports said that Algeria expelled 45,000 Moroccan families after the Green March in 1975.
Some of the families opened up about their experience in the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 in Geneva.
Appointments in line with Algeria’s agenda
Algeria publicly supports the breakaway movement of the Polisario Front and its project for independence in Western Sahara.
The appointment of Chengriha shows that there is little chance of Algeria accepting Morocco’s offer to engage in a frank and serious dialogue to break the political stalemate between the countries.
The initiative first came from King Mohammed VI first in November 2018, and several Moroccan officials repeated the offer, attempting to convince Algeria to engage in the dialogue process.
Algeria, however, did not respond to the call for dialogue, with several officials calling Morocco an “enemy.”