When faced with the choice of serving his country or holding onto his French citizenship, Samir Chaabna chose the latter.
Rabat – Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune rejected on Saturday the appointment of Samir Chaabna as minister delegate to the prime minister responsible for Algerians abroad after the appointee refused to give up his dual French-Algerian nationality.
The journalist-turned-politician is a deputy for France’s Zone-2 Marseille and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the lower house of the Algerian Parliament, known as the People’s National Assembly (APN).
Chaabna was appointed to the minister delegate role on June 23 during Tebboune’s government reshuffle, which saw the restructuring of the ministries of finance, education, agriculture, transport, and energy.
Chaabna’s appointment ceremony at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took place in the presence of several foreign ministry officials, as well as his predecessor, Rachid Beladhine, who expressed his wishes for Chaabna’s success.
During the appointment ceremony, Chaabna thanked Beladhine for the “colossal efforts” he made during his term. “I would like to thank my brother and my colleague, we had several very informative interviews and conversations after which I learned a lot,” he said, according to Algerian state media.
“I commit myself before God and before the Algerian people to be loyal and honest,” Chaabna declared.
His commitment proved meritless, however, as he took office the following day without disclosing his dual nationality, in violation of Algerian law.
According to a law enacted on January 10, 2017, dual citizens must declare and renounce their foreign nationality before they can hold a high-ranking position in the government, such as that of minister or minister delegate.
A June 27 statement from the prime minister’s office says “Chaabna accepted the post without declaring that he holds foreign nationality.” After being asked to comply with the provisions of the 2017 law, he refused to renounce his French citizenship, appearing to regard his foreign residence as more valuable than service to his country of origin.
“Faced with his refusal and by decision of the President of the Republic, Mr. Abdelmadjid Tebboune, his appointment (…) was canceled and therefore Mr. Samir Chaabna is no longer part of the government,” the statement said.
Sources close to the incident have said that “this scandal is not about to be forgotten and it will not be without consequences,” reports Algerian outlet Algerie Patriotique.
“How is it that the Consul General of Algeria in Marseille and the personnel authorized on the spot did not warn the political authorities of this dual nationality of a binational who has been sitting in Parliament for years, in violation of the Constitution … and almost occupied a ministerial portfolio even though he didn’t even have a university degree?” the outlet’s sources asked.
The sources described Chaabna’s role as a “megaphone” for the Algerie1 news outlet — which was “a zealous defender of Bouteflika” — and underlined his friendship with the site’s owner, Redouane Amri.
“Restoring order in the Algeria house and cleaning the Augias stables will not be easy and will take time, as the residues of Bouteflika’s long reign are still at work and are trying to convert quietly,” Algerie Patriotique’s sources lamented.
Of the 40 ministers that make up the newly “reshuffled” cabinet, one-third were active in the Bouteflika regime, despite the new president’s proclaimed commitment to “reform” and an “overhaul” of the ruling political class.
Tebboune has failed to quell the Hirak protests despite changes to domestic, foreign, and economic policy and a draft constitution that recognizes the aspirations for “a new Algeria as expressed peacefully by the popular movement since February 19, 2019.”
“However, the body of the draft delivers none of the systemic change the Hirak had demanded,” said Eric Goldstein, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Division.
This latest scandal further illuminates the remnants of the Bouteflika regime in Tebboune’s “reformed” government while exposing a disregard for the proper vetting of ministerial candidates, allowing Chabbna — whose allegiance appears to lie with Algeria’s former colonizer rather than with the country he is meant to serve — to ascend the ranks of the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.