Algeria’s converging crises have earned it a “high risk” classification while Morocco remains as safe as Europe.
Rabat – International SOS has labeled Algeria as a “high risk” country for 2021 in its new map detailing 2021’s most dangerous countries. The organization published its “travel risk map” that details security and COVID-19 related risks for people visiting countries around the world.
International SOS bases its assessment on the threats that political violence, social unrest, violent and petty crime, and the local COVID-19 situation pose to visitors.
A “high risk” classification means the country in question faces potentially violent protests, possibly exacerbated by government issues. High risk countries face poor government law enforcement capabilities and pose a significant or incidental risk to international travellers.
Algeria received the “high risk” classification in both the security and COVID-19 assessment, while Morocco retained the same classifications as Europe in both categories, respectively “medium” and “low risk.”
Security concerns in Algeria are hard to deny, with tensions on its Sahel borders, an out-of-control COVID-19 epidemic, a struggling economy, and a troubling indifference displayed by the country’s partly incapacitated leadership.
Potential power struggle
Algeria currently faces a distressing situation regarding its leadership. The country’s top political leader, the nearly all-powerful president, has been absent from the country for over a month. The government’s silence regarding President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is only raising public fears over his health as speculation increases that the president could already be dead.
Army’s Chief of Staff Said Chengriha’s recent behavior has further fueled those rumors. Algeria’s top security official appears to be filling the void that Tebboune has left, and is possibly jockeying to take over if Tebboune does not return in good health.
The army’s top man has appeared on television, often dressed in civilian clothes, which creates the appearance that the military leader is trying to present himself as a possible civilian leader who could replace the potentially incapacitated president.
Security concerns have only increased while Algeria’s top officials are engaged in public relations missions to either reduce fears over Tebboune, or actively position themselves to replace him.
COVID-19 continues to spread across Algeria, despite recording a small decline in transmission in recent weeks. Ventilators and protective equipment for medical staff remain in short supply, which only exacerbates the already deadly nature of the virus.
“90% of our patients evacuated to intensive care died, some of whom had no associated pathology,” Amar Tebaibia, internal medicine chief in an El Biar hospital, told Algerian newspaper El Watan.
While the country struggles to contain the virus and its medical impact, the population struggles economically because of the pandemic’s effects, worsened by devastating wildfires that raged across the country destroying large swaths of endangered forests.
The country has brushed off human rights concerns from its largest trading partner, the EU. The bloc condemned the country for its treatment of journalists and government critics but can do little to force Algeria into action. However, the EU does have the power to limit its trade relationship with Algeria that provides a modest lifeline to the country’s economy.
Furthermore, Algeria has struggled to contain the security situation on its southern borders.
The country’s porous southern borders now face a new threat after Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) announced it had selected Algerian Abu Ubayda Yusuf as its new leader. While observers consider Yusuf to be an inexperienced leader, his knowledge of his native country could spur further security threats in Algeria’s south.
With Algeria’s leadership either disabled by COVID-19 or engaged in a new power struggle over a potentially vacant presidency, the country’s security situation lacks an effective response.
The victims of Algeria’s ineffective and indifferent regime will likely once again be the Algerian people.
Hard working Algerians who depend on tourism or foreign direct investment for jobs will now have to cope with their country being labeled a “high risk” while its leadership focuses on petty internal power struggles instead of addressing citizens’ legitimate concerns.