Abdelmadjid Tebboune has been taking the hostile position of Algeria’s regime to heart with regard to the Western Sahara conflict.
Rabat – Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said he refused to accept international loans to help the country tackle its economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming debts affect the sovereignty of countries.
“I personally think that the absence of international debt is a strengthening mechanism amid the COVID-19 crisis,” the president said in an interview yesterday at the presidential palace.
He said Algeria suffered from problems due to international debts in the past and has learned from it. When a country turns to international loans, he continued, it loses its sovereignty.
Tebboune added that several international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), offered to help Algeria tackle its economic crisis and manage the impact of COVID-19.
“I told them we don’t need loans, but, we will let you know in case we need something,” Tebboune told journalists.
He said Algeria is a “free country,” and debts to international actors compromise this freedom. “You will no longer be able to defend causes, like the Palestinian cause and the Western Sahara conflict,” he said.
In doing so, Tebboune reportedly took back control of the Western Sahara file, establishing the Algerian Agency for International Cooperation (AACI) to oversee developments in the conflict.
Since 1975, Algeria has backed the independence claims of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), challenging Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Algeria is determined to continue its political campaign against Rabat, providing arms and funding to the Polisario Front, the breakaway group that runs the Tindouf Camps.
Despite sheltering and arming Polisario, Algeria refuses to be labeled as a party to the Western Sahara conflict.
Morocco has called repeatedly on the Algerian government to shoulder responsibility and engage in the UN-led political process to find a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute.
While Algeria insists it is merely an observer, the UN Security Council Resolutions 2494 (October 2019) and Resolution 2468 (April 2019) reference Algeria five times: Three times in the preamble and twice in operative paragraphs.
The aforementioned resolutions, along with Resolution 2440 of October 2018—which mentioned Algeria three times in its texts—paved the way for the round-table process initiated by former UN Special Envoy Horst Kohler with the participation of Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and the Polisario Front.
The resolutions called on all parties to shoulder responsibility and show readiness to participate in the UN-led political process to find an agreed-upon political solution to the Western Sahara conflict.
Doubling down on oil dependence
Algeria heavily relies on oil production, which is the source of 90% of the country’s export receipts.
Tebboune said his country has sufficient reserves to tackle the economic crisis despite the notable decrease in oil prices. “Even if the price of oil stands at $30, it is still money,” he argued.
The collapse of oil prices has bogged down the country’s economy.
The worsening economic crisis comes on the hills over year-long political protests across the country with millions of Algerian calling for the departure of the ruling elite. The protests have barely subsided after the election of Tebboune last December.
Millions of Algerians expressed frustration after the appointment of Tebboune as president, as one of the priorities of Algeria’s Hirak was keeping all Bouteflika-era officials out of the new government. Tebboune served as the Prime Minister of Algeria for three months until Bouteflika sacked him in August 2017.
Algeria’s state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic put public protests on hold, but lockdown measures have not kept activists from criticizing the Algerian government online.