Tebboune returned to Algeria after spending two months in Germany for COVID-19 treatment.
Rabat – Algeria’s long-absent President Abdelmadjid Tebboune returned yesterday from Germany to make his first public appearance in two months. Tebboune’s absence had fueled speculation over his health and sparked comparisons with the absence of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Tebboune briefly addressed the press in a one-minute speech. The speech was clearly an opportunity to show the president was alive after an earlier speech posted on Facebook had done little to assuage rumors. Algerians had not been convinced after Tebboune’s address on December 13, with some expressing doubts on social media that it was truly the president speaking.
Tebboune’s one-minute speech on December 29 attempted to dispel rumors and show that once again the Mouradia presidential palace has an active occupant. “It is difficult to be away from your home country,” Tebboune told the press, adding “especially for those with responsibility.”
Algeria does indeed need leadership that can fulfill its responsibilities. Tebboune’s absence meant the country’s government came to a halt while its powerful president was incapacitated. While Tebboune looked frail and struggled to breathe during his speech, his return will likely be welcomed by many Algerians pining for swift action on several fronts.
“The state and its institutions, headed by the Algerian National Army, are fully mobilized, day and night, to assist the Algerian people,” Tebboune stated with shaky hands and a hoarse voice during his inglorious return to an Algeria in crisis.
Tebboune will have his work cut out for him now that he has returned to Algeria. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the country’s economy hard with little effective response from the government. The approval of vaccines demanded the president’s input which led to a delay even as hospitals filled up with patients and the economy faltered.
Tebboune today will be faced with the news that 3,000 travel agencies have closed their business and 4,506 companies in the construction sector filed for bankruptcy in 2020. The country’s economic malaise has led to the growth of Algeria’s black market, which is estimated to be worth $60 billion.
“More than 4000 construction companies have ceased all activity,” said Aidh Moussa, spokesman for Algeria’s Association for Entrepreneurs (AGEA.) Moussa told Algerian newspaper El Watan today that companies were unable to collect debts and had no new projects while being “deprived” of support from banks.
Amid internal crises, government officials have attempted to highlight foreign threats as the culprit for Algeria’s woes. According to the government, the perceived existence of “foreign plots” means Algerians should stop complaining about living standards and pervasive corruption.
Senior government official Salah Goudjil told Liberte Algerie that “Algerians, unaware of the danger, have the nerve to complicate the task of their vigilant leaders by contesting their roadmap and encumbering them with their unreasonable demands!”
With Tebboune back at the Mouradia presidential palace, Algeria’s government now faces the daunting task of combining economic recovery with an active fight against the spread of the virus. While Tebboune’s brief speech will convince many he is indeed alive, it will take more to convince citizens a similar recovery can occur for the country’s struggling economy.