Algeria: Former Islamist fighter announces debut into politics
Madani Mezrag, a former Islamist who fought the Algerian government during the civil war of the past century, an nounced recently that he would set up a political party. The announcement sparked bitter debates and brought back to minds the sad past events in Algeria.
The conflict between the militants and the Algerian state in the 1990s left around 200,000 dead. Algerians fear Mezrag’s entrance into politics may plunge Algeria into chaos like what happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya where confrontations between government and Islamists are recurrent.
People fear that Mezrag, a former leader of an armed wing of the Islamic Salvation Front or FIS, and his planned political party will roll Algeria back to its darkest days. Victims and families that lost relatives in those darkest days have already threatened to protest against the former Islamist’s plan.
Officials also expressed refusal to allow an Islamist to set up a political party.
“We won’t permit any person implicated in the national tragedy to create a political party, and we will apply the law with force,” Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal told parliament earlier this month.
“Some benefited from the national reconciliation, but they don’t want to live up to their obligations.”
However, Mezrag, who had signed a truce with authorities to end the 1990s hostilities, rejected the critics saying that his plans are democratic and he is not planning to take on the government adding that he respects the state.
“We’re not going back to the past. The 1990’s are left in history where they belong, but we learned lessons from that time,” he said in an interview at his home in the outskirts of Algiers. “We want to turn the page, but not tear the page out.”
Mezrag added that his political ambitions are for long term and are only seeking better conditions for Algerians.
“It is not just about achieving power,” Mezrag said. “It’s more about convincing people about your project for society. It’s a long-term project.”