Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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Algiers, an interesting country on our beautiful continent

I hope I don't offend readers when I claim Africa as my own.  My ancestors came to America in chains, and I do not know what country in Africa my ancestors left from.  I do know that as an African American, I can claim ownership to one of the greatest continents on earth.  We were scientists, builders, mathematicians and linguists.  I feel that my blood is associated with a country that is misunderstood and sometimes maligned.  The 'Dark Continent' as Americans might know it, possesses a fascinating array of history and culture.

The People's Democratic Republic of Algeria presents an interesting subject for an article.  It is a country in the Maghreb section of North Africa.  I had never heard of this geographic term before I started my journey with African Dynamo.  This country is also a semi-presidential republic.  This indicates that the President exists along with a Prime Minister.  This political system is also characteristic of the governments of Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Niger.  Sometimes, the division of power is not quite so clear, and in most cases, the President wields most of the power.  This imbalance has been noted in some very high-profile critiques of African Leadership. Recently, there has been some serious unrest against the upcoming presidential elections in Algeria.  President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been in power since 1999.  He found a legal loophole to get around a two term limit and after decades of stagnant leadership, the people of Algeria are restless.
I would keep an eye on the results.

Based on geographical size, Algeria is the tenth largest country in the world.  It is a member of the African Union, the Arab League and OPEC.  I know about OPEC- I would assume that oil money is the basis for some of the country's wealth.  It is also a member of the Arab Maghreb Union.  The Arab Maghreb Union is currently in a state of turmoil.  In 1989 Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia met to consolidate common interests.  Was this organization based on the best interests of African or Arab interests?  In light of the drive toward a common currency that we've highlighted before, I would like to know the answer to this question.

Carthage, AfricanDynamoThis country has had a major impact on the world in terms of history.  The Association that I most closely identify with is the civilization of Carthage.  I think that Hannibal was one of the greatest military leaders of all time.  Who else could lead a group of warriors over the Alps with elephants in freezing temperatures.  To hold off the Roman empire as it tried to take over Africa was epic.  Carthaginian society disintegrated when the Berbers revolted following Carthage's defeat in the Punic War.  The Punic Wars were fought over the course of 120 years.  Carthage also was based in present day Tunisia.  I can only imagine the strategy and the manpower necessary to fight a war over the course of a century.  World Wars I and II did not last a tenth as long.  The devastation was real though.

It seems as though there has been a mixture of Islamic influence in Algeria for a number of years.  Also, the influence of France has dominated this country for years.  France invaded Algeria in 1830.  This invasion and its aftermath has resulted in considerable bloodshed in this part of Africa.  The French claimed that they were civilizing the continent.  I seem to remember a novel by Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, that related similar struggles in another part of Africa.  French became the dominant language in Algeria during this time.  Also, many European immigrants considered this to be a safe country to travel too.  I wonder if this is why the country is considered more 'Arab' than 'African'?    As I explore Tunisia and Morocco, I will continue to expand my understanding of the 'Arab Spring' and whether it is really a term that bares merit.  


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