Meditation Focus #41
Civil Strife in Algeria
Web posted on June 23, 2001
for the 2 consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, June 24, 2001
What follows is the 41st Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, June 24, 2001.
CIVIL STRIFE IN ALGERIA
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
4. Peace Watch for Macedonia
5. Latest developments related to the ongoing Meditation Focus on the Middle East Crisis
Nearly a decade after stripping Islamists of an electoral victory and plunging the country into civil strife, Algeria's military authorities face a revolt by a Berber minority demanding an end to corruption and repressive rule. The protests, which erupted in April, have turned violent, provoking the destruction of public property and the killing of dozens of protesters. Although Berbers have long posed a challenge to the central authorities, their revolt should be viewed in a broader context. It reflects the widespread frustrations of Algerians who want an end to decades of neglect by successive regimes. The uprising, which in recent days has spread to non-Berber regions, underlines the failure of the policies followed by Algeria's generals, who wield real power in the country behind a civilian facade. Over the past decade, the army has sought to reduce the struggle with Islamist militants to a security issue. It has resisted calls for economic and political reforms and has marginalised political parties. The result is that the popular disillusionment has now exploded into chaos, adding to the tensions of the continuing Islamist insurgency. The Berbers are reluctant to listen to political parties that might channel their anger into more peaceful demonstrations. Bringing Algeria out of the present mess can be accomplished only through a commitment to democratisation and to economic reforms to reduce a level of unemployment that now stands at 30 per cent. Western governments, eager to avoid an Islamist takeover in a country that provides 40 per cent of Europe's natural gas needs, have largely backed the regime in its fight against Islamists and turned a blind eye to massive human rights abuses by security forces. The West's desire for stability in Algeria, however, would be best served by pressing the regime to establish democratic, accountable institutions.
Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to help create in the hearts and minds of everyone involved the uncompromising desire to put an end to all violence and contribute in implementing the changes that will ensure peace and justice for all in Algeria, for the Highest Good of All.
2. MEDITATION TIMES
i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation to the healing of the Earth as a whole. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.
ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.
These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:
Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM
+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.
* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.
You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/full.html to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.
3. MORE INFORMATION ON THIS MEDITATION FOCUS
This section is for those who wish to understand in more details the situation outlined in this Meditation Focus. For those who wish to read on, we would encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. We provide the details below because we recognize that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.
Unrest in Algeria
(June 19, 2001)
For most of the last decade, Algeria has been riven by one of the world's most brutal civil wars. As many as 100,000 people have died in a struggle between the army and Islamist insurgents. Now, although the war is largely isolated in rural regions, the country has been rocked by mounting social unrest that exploded last week in the largest popular demonstrations since 1962.
Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Berbers demonstrated in Algiers to protest a harsh crackdown on earlier demonstrations in their home region of Kabylia, where security forces have shot dead at least 52 people and wounded hundreds more. The Berber protests have sparked more broad-based demonstrations against high unemployment, housing shortages, army corruption and a stagnant economy. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika needs to confront these festering issues and resist the temptation to suppress opposition through violent means.
Mr. Bouteflika was elected two years ago as the hand-picked candidate of Algeria's generals, who have held decisive power since shortly after independence. Algeria's last seriously contested campaign before that was in 1992, when the army blocked a runoff parliamentary vote that an Islamic fundamentalist party seemed certain to win. That triggered the country's murderous civil war.
Mr. Bouteflika pledged to bring about "national reconciliation" by ending the war. He has made substantial progress toward that end but has failed to strengthen civilian institutions that might undermine the shadowy network of generals and businessmen that is still widely believed to control real power. After a decade of war and deepening privation, Algerians have good reason to be impatient for legitimate and accountable government.
Political Crisis Brewing in Algeria
(19 June 2001)
An indefinite ban on demonstrations has been imposed in the Algerian capital Algiers. It came amid widespread rioting and looting following last week's massive rally. Algeria has been in the grip of violent demonstrations since last April, fuelled by widespread discontent among the unemployed youth of the country. And the violence shows no signs of abating.
A major political crisis is brewing in Algeria with no clear solution in sight. The Berber-speaking inhabitants of the Greater and Lesser Kabylia region have traditionally been critical of the central government, which they blame for suppressing their own Berber identity and cultural rights, including the right to speak their own Tamazight language and the right to have their own Tamazight education and media outlets.
One of the striking aspects of the current unrest is that identity issues have been completely relegated to second place. The most important complaint of the overwhelmingly young population is that they are fed up with what they call the hogra, the arrogance of power and sheer disdain of the population displayed by the gendarmerie. These and other agents of the regime, they say, are corrupt, they're intimidating and ransacking the population and showing the ugly face of a regime which is unable or unwilling to provide jobs, housing or a decent education to Algeria's ever growing young population.
Frustration among Youths Widespread unemployment leaves young Algerians no other option than desperately trying to get an exit visa for Europe or entering illegally. Their frustration is now boiling over: they've started attacking government buildings and looting shops at the end of demonstrations which often began peacefully.
Another striking aspect is that the armed Islamic groups, which have kept Algeria in the throes of a bloody civil war since 1992, are also relegated to the background. The fundamentalist attacks continue, but it's the burning social issues put forward by the young that have now taken centre-stage.
Twelve Killed As Algerian Unrest Spreads
(June 19, 2001)
ALGIERS (Reuters) - Anti-government protests in Algeria have left 12 more people dead, including five members of the security forces, as unrest spreads across the country, residents and Algerian newspapers said on Tuesday. Clashes between stone-throwing youths and security forces have erupted almost daily in the last two months, in a direct challenge to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the military establishment backing him.
Largely confined to the Berber-speaking Kabylie area until spreading to Algiers last Thursday, the protests are now rolling across other parts of the country.
Berbers Plan to Defy Algerian Gov't
(Thursday June 21)
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) - Algeria's Berbers plan a protest march next month in a bold new sign of defiance of authorities who banned marches in the capital after a massive demonstration turned violent. The decision was reported by local newspapers and comes amid sporadic clashes between mostly young protesters and police across the Kabyle region, which is home to Algeria's minority Berbers.
Local leaders meeting in the Berber regional capital of Tizi Ouzou decided to ignore the ban because last week's pro-democracy march in Algiers, which drew an estimated 1 million people, was so successful, Le Matin newspaper reported Thursday.
Berber leaders told demonstrators to march peacefully in the scheduled July 5 rally to deny the military-backed government a pretext for cracking down, El Watan newspaper reported. The newspaper reports could not immediately be confirmed with local leaders.
The government earlier this week announced it was indefinitely banning protest marches in the capital after the Berber's June 14 rally turned violent. Riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons to push back demonstrators trying to reach the presidential palace. Four people died and hundreds were injured in the turmoil.
``What happened on Black Thursday in Algiers was nothing but a huge manipulation by the authorities in order to discredit the citizens' movement and turn one part of the population - which had come to march peacefully - against the other,'' El Watan said.
The Berbers, who claim to be the original inhabitants of North Africa, have had tense relations with Algiers for decades as they press their demand for official recognition of the Berber language, Tamazight, and an end to what they say is government discrimination against them.
Revelations Of Torture No Surprise In Algeria
(Jun 18, 2001)
France Faces a Dark Past that Victims Never Forgot
ALGIERS -- France is astir with an aging general's disclosures that he and his men routinely tortured and executed people in Algeria during that country's war for independence four decades ago. But here at the scene of the crime, it's difficult to elicit any response. CLIP
New Street Clashes in Algeria, 20 Wounded (June 21)
Algerian President bans capital protests (June 20, 2001)
Berber protests shake Algeria's military elite - President stalls as riots spread throughout country
Algeria: Country Profile - facts-at-a-glance, a summary of recent history and the country's political parties, and more at: http://news1.thdo.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_13000/13926.stm
Full Coverage on Algeria
4. Peace Watch for Macedonia
Please also keep in mind the current critical situation in Macedonia where an escalating armed conflict could gradually degenerate into a larger and more violent conflict unless strong international as well as local political actions are taken to help mitigate the social and ethnic tensions that are at the origin of this conflict.
You may also review our previous Meditation Focus #35 entitled "Urgent Need for Peace in Macedonia" and archived at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus35.htm
Macedonia Strikes at Rebels As Peace Talks Stall
(Friday June 22)
OUTSIDE ARACINOVO, Macedonia (Reuters) - The Macedonian army blasted a key village held by Albanian guerrillas with helicopter gunships, tanks and mortars on Friday, tearing apart a ragged 11-day truce. Mi-24 helicopters swooped in on Aracinovo, just 10 km (6 miles) from Skopje, firing repeatedly at the village from which the rebels have threatened to shell Macedonia's capital and its airport. The guerrillas appeared to be firing back at the gunships, which returned at around 0630 GMT for a fresh attack.
Talks in Skopje to hammer out a peace deal intended to persuade the rebels to end their four-month-old rebellion are deadlocked despite heavy Western pressure on Albanian politicians to drop demands blamed for blocking the process.
The rebels are unlikely to renew their truce unless politicians strike a deal, raising the risk of a civil war which would be hard to contain within Macedonia's borders.
Macedonia Peace Talks Get Restarted
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Pushed by the European Union's security chief, Macedonia's ethnic Albanians and Slavs restarted stalled talks Thursday that could clear the way for NATO troops to disarm rebels in the Balkan country and prevent a full-scale war.
Despite a week-old cease-fire, detonations and automatic gunfire resounded Thursday on the slopes of Mount Sara above the northwestern city of Tetovo and near Kumanovo, close to the northern border with Kosovo. More than 1,000 people crossed into Kosovo from those areas Thursday, pushing the total of refugees this year to nearly 50,000, said Astrid van Genderen Stort, spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency in Kosovo.
Last Chance in Macedonia
(June 20, 2001)
MACEDONIA'S fractious politicians and the Western diplomats nervously hovering over them are facing what may be that country's last opportunity to head off another full-scale ethnic war in the Balkans. Political parties representing the majority Slav and minority Albanian communities are engaged in intensive negotiations about political reforms to end official discrimination against Albanians. Meanwhile, NATO is nearing a decision on deploying a force to oversee the disarmament of Albanian rebels who launched a guerrilla campaign last February. If a political deal can be struck in the coming days and a NATO force deployed, Macedonia may just avoid the fate of Bosnia and Kosovo, which were devastated by communal warfare that ended only after NATO military campaigns. But success will require concerted engagement by Western governments in the coming weeks and months; that poses a test for the Bush administration.
Macedonia is a pro-Western democracy whose political leaders readily admit they cannot overcome their crisis by themselves. Repeating the mistake of other Balkan regimes, the Slav-dominated Macedonian government tried to wipe out the Albanian insurgent movement with a clumsy military campaign, which only succeeded in strengthening the guerrillas and bringing the Albanian and Slav communities to the brink of a communal war of ethnic cleansing. Now, under heavy pressure from the European Union and United States, a cease-fire prevails and the two major Slav and two Albanian political parties are talking; but the question is whether the Slavs are prepared to take the steps that could fully integrate Albanians into a unitary state, including changes in the Macedonian constitution that would put Albanians on an equal political footing with Slavs. The moderate Albanian leadership also must execute a tricky feat, obtaining enough concessions to satisfy the Albanian population and obligate the militants to disarm, while avoiding demands that would make the reformed state unworkable -- like a communal veto over all major government decisions.
In trying to broker this deal, the Bush administration and European governments are engaged in their own precarious balancing act. Administration officials say they recognize that U.S. engagement is essential to a successful settlement. But in keeping with President Bush's determination to reduce U.S. commitments in the Balkans, American participation has been carefully limited. In place of the high-profile U.S. brokers who were dispatched to Bosnia and Kosovo, a State Department deputy assistant secretary accompanies more senior European Union and NATO envoys to Skopje, the Macedonian capital. And while supportive of a NATO disarmament force, the administration so far has declined to commit any American troops -- though even a single company would help to fill out a NATO contingent that could number 1,000 or fewer. If the arm's-length strategy works, Macedonia could serve as a demonstration of how European governments and troops can take the lead in handling a crisis on the continent. But given the disastrous failure of previous Europeans-first strategies in the Balkans, it represents a real risk. If this peace process breaks down, Macedonia is unlikely to get another chance.
There's fighting in Balkans again, but this time Macedonia's the country sliding towards disaster. Split between a Slavic majority and Albanian minority, it's always had the potential to explode. Ethnic Albanian guerrillas near the border with Kosovo are taking on the Macedonian army and police. They say they want equal rights for Albanians in Macedonia. However, they're battling to control territory, and it looks as if, together with another bunch of Albanian militants established in a southern corner of Serbia, they might have ideas about carving out a "Greater Kosovo" - if not a "Greater Albania". Unrest in Macedonia could quickly become civil war and blow the region apart. Click on the map to see how an insurgent rebel army grew up right under NATO's nose
(Go at the URL above to see the map and find out more)
NATO Plans Macedonian Force to Go In After Accord - NATO says it will send a force of up to 3,000 troops to Macedonia to disarm ethnic Albanian rebels if a political settlement is reached.
Full Coverage on Macedonia
5. Latest developments related to the ongoing Meditation Focus on the Middle East Crisis
Diplomacy in High Gear to Save Mideast Truce
(Friday June 22)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. and European envoys were meeting Israeli leaders Friday as the world community rallied to bolster a fragile Israeli-Palestinian truce and end nearly nine months of bloodshed in which at least 590 have died.
On the diplomatic front, just one week after U.N. chief Kofi Annan visited the region, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and U.S. special envoy William Burns held separate talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. They were both due to meet Palestinian President Yasser Arafat later to discuss the state of the truce, brokered on June 13 by U.S. CIA director George Tenet and still just holding. Solana was also set for talks later Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The United Nations appealed for $77 million in emergency aid to provide food, medicines and work for more than 200,000 Palestinian refugee families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the ground, tensions remained near boiling point after the killings of six Palestinians and four Jewish settlers over the past nine days. Each side accuses the other of massive and systematic breaches of the cease-fire.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), appealing for more cash donations, said: ''The impact of the violence and the Israeli blockade on Palestinian Authority-controlled territory has been especially hard on the refugees.'' Some 100,000 Palestinian jobs in Israel have been lost due to the closure of border crossings with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the UNRWA statement said.
Explosion Wounds Israeli Soldiers
(Friday June 22)
JERUSALEM (AP) - An explosion went off near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip on Friday, seriously wounding two Israeli soldiers. Troops responded with tank and heavy machine-gun fire, injuring three Palestinians. The renewed violence came as senior U.S. and European envoys arrived in the region to try to prevent a shaky 10-day-old cease-fire from collapsing.
The implementation of the truce agreement is already behind schedule, with each side accusing the other of violations. A timetable for an Israeli troop pullback from flashpoints and a detailed Palestinian security plan were to have been agreed on earlier this week, but meetings by security officials have ended inconclusively.
Israeli and Palestinian security commanders met Thursday, but no progress was reported on working out a timetable for carrying out a truce plan negotiated last week by CIA director George Tenet. The Palestinians said Israel should lift travel restrictions and roadblocks and pull out its troops and heavy equipment within two weeks. Israel said that the redeployment would take four weeks, but would not even begin until all Palestinian violence stops.
Israeli Settlers Protest at Killings Since Truce
(Friday June 22)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Dozens of Jewish settlers blocked several key West Bank roads and torched a Palestinian field on Friday in anger at killings which have threatened a delicate U.S.-brokered Middle East cease-fire.
Some 200,000 settlers live among three million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. The settlements are viewed as illegal by the international community. Palestinians view them as an obstacle to building a state and a legitimate target in their uprising.
Powell said on Thursday that he hoped to build on Tenet's truce, improve security coordination and begin implementing the recommendations of a committee led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell which sketch out a plan to return to peacemaking. ``I hope to use those elements to keep the process moving forward. A lot will depend of course on what happens over the next several days,'' Powell said. Each side accuses the other of violating the terms of the cease-fire and a relative decline in hostilities has been marred by shootings and Palestinian mortar bomb fire.
The State of the Army, Part 1
WHO IS RUNNING THE COUNTRY? (May 8, 2001)
"In Israel, every human being is a soldier, and every soldier a human being," went a famous old saying ascribed to David Ben-Gurion, Israels founder and first prime minister. In the pre-sound-bite era, when lengthy and complex slogans were tolerated, this was an effective phrasing to obscure the tension between Israels democratic self-image and its actual militaristic character.
No one uses this slogan anymore. As for its former part, not every Israeli citizen goes to the army nowadays; we shall elaborate on that in Part Two. As for its latter part, watching those human beings carrying out, say, "an engineering task" in Gaza a dirty euphemism for bulldozing miserable slums in Palestinian refugee camps to make room for Israeli settlements raises heavy doubts about their humanity. So it is high time for a few remarks on militarism versus democracy in Israel.
THE GENERALS TAKE OVER POLITICS
To sum up, Israels policy is set by Generals. No military coup will occur in Israel, simply because the Generals already run the country. All Generals, retired and active, share the same ideology, that holds democracy in contempt, supports the occupation, sanctifies the use of force and views any compromise as a sign of weakness. If there is a conflict between retired and active Generals, it is always the more militaristic line that wins. CLIP
The State of the Army, Part Two
A Cease-Fire Which is Not (June 22, 2001)
So how did it go? The Mitchell Report recommended a cease-fire and freeze of all settlements activities. As spin, Sharon announced a "cease-fire" to push aside the issue of settlements. Then we had the Palestinian suicide bomb killing 21 young Israelis in Tel-Aviv, and it was Arafats turn to announce a cease-fire, which precluded the expected large-scale Israeli operation. When applied to Israel, the term "cease-fire" has a uniquely narrow sense compatible, for example, with the use of shells containing dozens of small iron darts killing three Palestinian women (a "mistake"). However, as soon as Arafat used the term "cease-fire," he was put under American, Israeli, European, Egyptian and Jordanian pressure to commit the Palestinian Authority to an extraordinarily broad sense of the term, now formalised in the Tenet Cease-fire Plan. Experts unanimously agree that Arafat is unable to fulfill his Tenet commitments, especially the demand that the Palestinian Authority "move immediately to apprehend, question, and incarcerate terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza and will provide the security committee the names of those arrested as soon as they are apprehended," i.e. serve as Israels devoted cop. Expectedly, the Tenet document does not mention freezing settlements activity; moreover, in spite of Palestinian protest it does suggest enforcing "buffer zones around flash points," which may turn out as the next excuse to expand the settlements and deport neighbouring Palestinians.
The million dollar question about Arafat "unable" or rather "unwilling" to stop the violence? is unthinkable about Israel, since, unlike Arafat, it is in full control of its forces. Therefore, it is now evident that Israel has never been "willing" to respect its Tenet commitments. All national and international television networks covered the agreed-upon retreat of Israeli tanks, but media-critic Aviv Lavie of Haaretz (18.6) published the following revealing evidence, given by an Israeli reservist posted near Nablus: "On Thursday the armoured units in the Nablus area were changed. We arrived in the afternoon and around two, we moved our tanks into position. After we were organised, the unit we replaced pulled out. There were cameramen there. They photographed the tanks moving out of position, but didn't shoot us taking up our positions. It gave the impression that there was a withdrawal, while in fact nothing changed. At seven we heard on the radio news that the IDF had withdrawn tanks in the Nablus area and we all burst out laughing." Note that the Thursday mentioned was June 14, the first day of implementation of Tenets plan, and the pseudo-withdrawal should have been the "demonstrable on-the-ground redeployment [that] will be initiated within the first 48 hours." Israel thus breached the agreement from the outset.
Nachum Barnea, a senior and well-informed political journalist for Israels largest daily Yedioth Achronoth (June 15), concludes convincingly: "For Sharon, at least, it is not a cease-fire but the opposite: the [Tenet] declaration freed Israel from its previous commitment to a unilateral cease-fire. From now on, if there is a terrorist attack, the government will be free to react militarily, and to strike hard. The cease-fire actually prepares the ground for the renewal of fire."
So Israels ruling junta is very likely to go to war with the Palestinians or with some Arab states too but it might go alone. Some reservists may refuse, but most of them will do anything, from physicians and psychiatrists to flights abroad, just to get away. Many of those who go will be ill-motivated and poorly trained. Just like in Lebanon, their lost lives, and the public protest that will follow, may finally show Israel the way out of the Occupied Territories.
Activist accuses Israel of Apartheid (June 21)
Full Coverage on the Middle East
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