Libération Nationale launched a war for independence which was ruthlessly opposed. As fighting continued over the years the French Government under General de Gaulle was willing to compromise but under pressure from the Algerian French, who were defending the country that their fathers had built, the war continued. By 1961 serious negotiations had begun, leading to Algerian independence in 1962 but by that time more than one million Algerian lives had been lost in the long and bloody struggle.
Independent Algeria opted for a socialist government under a single party, the FLN, led by Ahmed Ben Bella, which nationalized all French property. Locally, reconciliation was impossible. Although the rights of the French settlers were guaranteed, practically all of them left. This sudden departure, coupled with damage caused by seven years of civil war, left the country in disarray. In 1965, Colonel Houari Boumédienne overthrew Ben Bella in a military coup, to be succccdcd after his death in 1978 by Colonel Chadli Bendjedid. The basic policy of socialism, industrialisation and an anti-western foreign policy was continued. Despite this and antipathy to the French, France continued to be Algeria's major trading partner.
Algeria did well as large oil, natural gas and phosphate reserves were discovered in the Sahara. Ambitious plans were made for industrial development and housing projects to accommodate the rapidly increasing population and large agricultural cooperatives were set up to utilize the relatively small area of tillable land. With its sizable export earnings, it could afford large projects and food imports compensated for what the inefficient cooperatives could not produce. When oil prices slumped in 1985-86, plans had to be adjusted and food imports were reduced resulting in increasing unrest among the population culminating in the food riots of September 1988. Other factors behind this large uprising, in which many civilians were killed, were the lack of political and economic freedom under the FLN.
Reforms have been instituted and in recent vears
foreign policy has become more moderate. In 1985 Chadli Bendjedid was the first Algerian president to visit the United States, where he subsequently came under pressure to institute democratic reforms.
In 1992, under international pressure, democratic elections were held. This resulted in an overwhelming victory for the fundamentalist Islamic party, the FIS. Being unwilling to allow an Islamic republic to emerge, the ruling party, with the support of the USA overturned the election results and enforced militarv rule. This has m resulted in a bloody civil war which has cost the lives of over a hundred thousand Algerians, foreigners and several nationalised Catholic priests. It is uncertain who the perpetrators were for most of the massacres, but the victims have usually been villagers not involved in any political issues.
Within the Maghreb, Algerian and Moroccan relations have been strained for many years because of border disputes and because of Algeria's support for the Polisario Front which opposes Moroccan control of the
Western Sahara. Further deterioration of relations resulted from suspicions in Algeria that arms were being smuggled in from Morocco to support the terrorist groups carrying out the massacres. Likewise, the Moroccan Government blamed Algeria for the murder of two Spanish holidaymakers in 1996, which had a serious effect on tourism. The land border with Morocco has been closed for several years. Although very tense, the border with Tunisia is now open. (Summer 2004.)
It must be appreciated that there is a civil war ongoing in Algeria. Entry procedures, always long and tedious, if courteous, must be viewed in this context. Visiting foreigners crcatc a considerable amount of work and tension for the authorities.
It is possible to obtain a visa with difficulty and all nationalities now need one, including French, who were exempt for many years. These have to be obtained in your country of residence. In 2004 for reasons unknown, many visas were refused, even when all conditions for their issue appeared to be in order. Often an address in Algeria, or an invitation is required: something yachtsmen do not find easy to supply. (For further details see Visa section on page 115.) Many formalities seemed designed to discourage visitors.
On entry it is usual, once port formalities have been completed, to be given an armed guard for all trips ashore, including a visit to the local market. This guard usually consists of three uniformed officers all equipped with sub-machine guns. They arc very friendly and polite but never relax. This role seems to be by government order for the safety and protection of foreigners.
As one Colonel said: 'Many Algerians have been killed and it is of no consequence to the outside world. However, if a foreigner is killed or taken hostage, it is an international incident: I lose my job and the world hears about it to the embarrassment of my country.' In the current circumstances, although seemingly excessive, it docs provide security. Yachts will usually be allocated a place right outside the police post in the port and given a 24 hour armed guard. Many ports are now closed to yachts and considered military zones. Going ashore at night is usually prohibited. If no visa has been obtained by the crew, it is likely they will be confined to the port, or even to the yacht during a stay. Any necessary provisions can be ordered and will be brought to the yacht.
Given the above, it seems safe to visit, if tedious and inadvisable. Several French yachts and at least three Canadian yachts visited in the summer of 2004. All experienced long hard searches of the yacht by customs and police, sometimes carried out several times in the same port, with armed guards everywhere.
Entry formalities can take many hours: typically, as in Mostaganem, around five hours. All port officials, often as many as nine officers, board the vessel and each takes a turn filling in a pile of forms and then looking around the yacht, seemingly checking each others1 inspection.
The only reasonable advice currently is to avoid visiting if at all possible.
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