In this interview recorded on 1 April 2019, Jadaliyya co-editor Mouin Rabbani interviews Hugh Roberts, professor of North African and Middle Eastern history at Tufts University, as Algerian mass protests extend into their eighth week. Roberts is a leading commentator and scholar of Algeria. His most recent works include The Battlefield: Algeria 1988-2002, Studies In A Broken Polity (Verso 2003). The interview covers a wide range of issues, including the most recent developments in the protest movement, the context of their emergence and the various actors involved, and a prognosis on where things may be heading.
Below is a rush transcript of the question Rabbani posted to Hugh and their timestamps:
[03:49] Do you see these measures (i.e., the announcement to not seek a fifth term, postponing elections, and forming a new government) as ones that can resolve the crisis or just window dressing to try and get past these protests in order to get back to business as usual?
[06:04] Does that mean that we should see the presidency as something that exists autonomously from the army, or is it better understood as the government being a front for what is essentially a military regime? Can you give us a sense of the relationship between the army and the government?
[08:13] Who does Bouteflika represent? How should we understand the structures of support and elites (if any) that stand behind him and his presidency?
[11:41] What does the arrest of prominent Algerian businessman Ali Haddad while attempting to feel abroad say about the Bouteflika group? And what does it say more broadly about Algeria that he was arrested and prevented from leaving.
[13:50] You referred several times to the popular movement, rather than political opposition. It has struck many people that this seems to be a popular movement without clear political leadership in terms of political parties. Could you speak to that please?
[18:10] Looking forward, what is your prognosis for Algeria in the coming months? And could you address that Kabila factor given your expertise in that segment of the population?
[23:31] Going back to the opposition, you have referred to the Islamists as being relatively marginalized. What of the Socialist Forces Front and the Berber regions? Should we expect to hear from them as the situation develops?
[26:21] Some people are asking whether we are seeing a second wave of Arab uprisings in the region. Do you see any validity of that, or should we try to understand Algeria in its own terms?
[28:07] You seem to minimize the prospect of the current upheaval resulting in a new civil conflict in Algeria. Can I confirm that?