Algeria's constitution amended to allow intervention in Libya

Algeria's constitution amended to allow intervention in Libya
3 min read
12 November, 2020
Algeria's constitution has long retained that the country must protect its border from foreign attacks but cannot intervene in foreign wars.
Tebboune had launched a referendum last week over constitutional reforms [Getty]

Algeria has ended its decades-long policy of non-intervention outside its borders by changing its constitution to allow for military intervention in neighbouring Libya, ushering in a new age for the North African country.

Since 1962, following the country's independence from France, the constitution stated that the army was to defend Algeria's borders without engaging in military confrontations on another nation's soil.

However, that changed earlier this month following a referendum in which articles 28 and 29 of the constitution were amended to allow cross-border operations.

Under the new constitution, the army can be deployed outside the country’s territory to support international peacekeeping missions.

"It is a pragmatic choice, the region is unstable, and Algeria is surrounded by states, mainly Mali, Niger and Mauritania, that are considered to be fragile states, so Algeria needs to be ready if a conflict erupts in its neighbours," Dalia Ghanem, Algerian resident scholar at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, told VOA.

The referendum, which had a meagre 23 per cent voter turnout has been widely criticised by the Algerian people, who see it as an attempt by the current regime to neutralise the Hirak protest movement.

Experts believe that the change in the army's scope of power paves the way for foreign intervention in the future – especially to Libya, where the country is suffering under intense in-fighting.

In September, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) published its annual Algeria 2020 Crime and Safety Report and warned of terrorism.

"[Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] AQIM, AQIM-allied groups, and ISIS elements, including the Algerian affiliate locally known as Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria (JAK-A, now calling itself ISIS-Algeria), are present. These groups aspire to attack Algerian security services, local government targets, and Western interests," the report said.

It added that there are "immediate cross-border threats" to Algeria, including the presence of 4,000 Libyan extremists near the country's eastern border.

Tentative peace talks

There is hopes that Libya could be on the path to peace. Libyans agreed in UN-led talks on Wednesday a plan to hold elections within 18 months as part of peace talks in neighbouring Tunisia, as diplomatic efforts grow to end a decade of violence in the North African country.

Delegates from across Libya "reached a preliminary roadmap for ending the transitional period and organising free, fair, inclusive and credible presidential and parliamentary elections", interim UN Liby envoy Stephanie Williams told journalists.

The talks in Tunisia aim to create a framework and a temporary government to prepare for elections as well as providing services in a country devastated by years of war, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Williams stressed the need to move quickly to "national elections which must be transparent and based on full respect for freedom of expression and assembly."

The Tunisia dialogue comes alongside military negotiations inside Libya to fill in the details of a landmark October ceasefire deal.

The talks began in October and at the time Tebboune "welcomed Tunisia's organisation of inter-Libyan dialogue under the auspices of the UN".

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