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Updated Jul 6, 2020
Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune prays during a ceremony in Algiers on July 5, 2020, to lay to rest the remains of twenty-four resistance fighters returned from Paris after more than a century-and-a-half, on the fifty-eighth anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France. The skulls of the fighters, who were shot and decapitated in the early years of the French occupation, were on display at the Palace of Culture before they were interred in coffins draped with the national flag in El-Alia Cemetery’s Martyrs’ Square. (Via Algerian Presidency Press Office/AFP)
Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune prays during a ceremony in Algiers on July 5, 2020, to lay to rest the remains of twenty-four resistance fighters returned from Paris after more than a century-and-a-half, on the fifty-eighth anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France. The skulls of the fighters, who were shot and decapitated in the early years of the French occupation, were on display at the Palace of Culture before they were interred in coffins draped with the national flag in El-Alia Cemetery’s Martyrs’ Square. (Via Algerian Presidency Press Office/AFP)

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has initiated a program to convince highly educated expatriates to return and put their skills to use in service of the country. This charm offensive aimed at the diaspora makes sense as an effort to bring in not only immediate financial gain but also knowledge and expertise as the country finds itself in a precarious economic situation.

The energy industry is the backbone of the Algerian economy. As a result of falling oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on petroleum and gas exports, the country’ foreign exchange reserves have plummeted to record lows. The president’s charm offensive toward the diaspora makes sense as an effort to bring in not only immediate financial gain but also knowledge and expertise.

To facilitate this program, Tebboune has been pushing hard for constitutional reform. Among several other changes, it would eliminate a provision that in order to hold public office or another high functionary position, a candidate must hold exclusive Algerian citizenship. Given that most Algerians living abroad have dual citizenship, this provision denies expatriates a chance of entering into civic life.

 

A Major Hurdle for the President’s Plan

The Hirak movement in Algeria poses a challenge to Tebboune’s diaspora outreach. The popular movement has been mobilizing Algerians against the regime since February 2019, holding peaceful mass protests across the country every Friday—save for a brief suspension due to COVID-19—to demand, among others, the dissolution of both chambers of parliament and a fundamentally new constitution.

 

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