Who is Lakhdar Brahimi: the man to lead Algeria’s transition

The 85-year-old tipped to oversee the national conference that will decide the country's future

The former UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has been tipped to oversee Algeria’s political transition. Reuters
The former UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has been tipped to oversee Algeria’s political transition. Reuters

He’s a member of Nelson Mandela’s Elders, was appointed to be UN special envoy to two intractable conflicts and has been an international political heavy-weight for decades, but now Lakhdar Brahimi has been tipped to oversee Algeria’s transition talks.

Ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82, said late on Monday that he would not seek a fifth term in office and would instead delay elections and hold a national conference that will decide the country’s future. Reuters cited a government source as saying they wanted 85-year-old Mr Brahimi to do the job.

The source said that the national conference would hear from representatives of the demonstrators who for two weeks have railed against a shadowy political elite they say is running the country for Mr Bouteflika, who suffered a stroke in 2013. Dubbed “Le Pouvoir”, these unelected advisors have become the focus of the movement for change.

As well as demonstrators, veterans of the 1954-1962 war will take part in the conference. Powerful unions representing the former fighters still hold weight in Algeria, decades after the conflict ended.

Mr Brahami met with Mr Bouteflika after the president’s announcement and then addressed the media. He praised protesters for their responsible action and said it was necessary to “turn this crisis into a constructive process”.

A former foreign minister for Algeria and Arab League official, Mr Brahami has extensive diplomatic experience. Under then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he served as a special envoy to Afghanistan and in 2012 he replaced his former boss as special envoy to Syria.

Four years later, Algeria passed a reformed constitution after a long period of debate in response to the Arab uprising of 2011. It was passed with an overwhelming majority in parliament and went some way to address many fundamental concerns, although there was still criticism of the opaque process in which it was conducted. Now Mr Brahami will likely have another shot at it.

Although he has made no overt comment on his plans for a post-Bouteflika Algeria, after 20 years of rule, people want to see new leadership.

Among the names already being tipped as possible successors is the prominent 65-year-old lawyer and activist Mustafa Bouchachi, who has gained a wide following on Facebook during the last two weeks.

Updated: March 13, 2019 10:33 AM


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