Major General Mohamed Kaïdi was replaced on 10 November from his post at the head of the Algerian Defence Ministry’s powerful Département employ et préparation (DEP), a position that effectively made him the most powerful general after Army Chief of Staff General Saïd Chengriha. His position has been taken by General-Major Belkacem Hasnat who has been appointed on an interim basis.  

Kaïdi was the top man under the late General Ahmed Gaïd Salah who was Chengriha’s predecessor. He would have replaced General Athmane Tartag as co-ordinator of the intelligence services except that the treacherous General Bouazza Ouassini, now serving a long prison sentence, stepped in and had Kaïdi dismissed. He was nevertheless reinstated and was appointed as head of the DEP which raised the question of why he was the only one of Salah’s top generals not to have been purged.  

Major General Mohamed Kaïdi

The answer also explains the timing of his dismissal this month. Kaïdi is one of the few Algerian generals who speaks English. More importantly, he has a crucial relationship with France, having served as Algeria’s special military attaché to France and being in the Elysée in January 2013. It was Kaïdi who arranged Algerian overfly rights and other logistical arrangements on behalf of Paris to enable France to launch a military intervention in Mali that year. Starting some 18 months ago — when France began preparing for the possible deployment of Algerian troops to the Sahel to plug the gap that would be left by its own withdrawal — Kaïdi was France’s top man in Algeria in preparing this operation.

His importance caused tension and jealousy with Chengriha, who saw Kaïdi as someone who might replace him. As a source close to power said at the time, ‘It was going to be either Chengriha or Kaïdi.’  Now that the idea of sending Algerian troops to the Sahel has almost certainly been abandoned, Algiers current serious row with Paris has provided Chengriha and President Abdelmajid Tebboune with the opportunity to get rid of France’s favourite general in Algiers. 

Meanwhile further information, and perhaps the key reason for it, has come to light. Kaïdi’s dismissal was announced on 10 November, exactly two weeks after he represented Algeria at the 5+5 Chiefs of Staff Defence meeting, in Nouakchott on 27 October. The 5+5, was created in 2004 and represents the five states of the north shore of the Western Mediterranean (Spain, France, Italy, Malta, and Portugal) and those of the South Shore (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia).

Kaïdi’s address to the meeting may have precipitated his sudden and unexpected fall. He clearly signalled a desire to strengthen Algeria’s military and security arrangements with European and Western powers. He also intimated that Algiers would not trigger any hostile military action against Morocco, insisting on the importance of a ‘good neighbourly foreign policy.’ He was more or less brushing aside the regime’s recent aggressive and warlike language towards Morocco, France and the EU. 

Kaïdi’s intervention gave a radically different point of view from the regime’s current dogma which favours confrontation and permanent hostility with countries like Morocco and, in a much less intense way but equally insidious, France. He highlighted ‘the need to combine and intensify efforts, in a spirit of multilateral safe cooperation, […] the various challenges threatening our geographical space.’ These concepts are diametrically opposed to the discourse of Algeria’s current military and civilian decision-makers who favour a strategy of tension with its geopolitical opponents.

According to sources who witnessed his intervention, Kaïdi gave the impression of being wholly sincere and committed to what he was saying. He expressed a commitment to a new modernist vision that seeks to bring Algeria closer to the West that would enable to allow a new cooperation that offer new opportunities. He was clearly intent in showing foreign partners and neighbours that reformist currents actually exist in the Algerian military establishment.

If this was the real reason for Kaïdi’s dismissal it is sending an even more dangerous signal than most other analysts have been imagining. The idea mooted by Algeria Politics & Security – 12.10.21, that the powers behind the scenes want to take Algeria back to the 1990s, may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

This excerpt is taken from Algeria Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Algeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.


The November 2021 issue of Algeria Focus also includes the following:

Commentary

  • On the brink: Moroccan revenge attack provokes Algeria

Politics

  • Losing friends and global influence 
  • President Tebboune damages Algerian credibility
  • Ministerial dismissals
  • Strike action

Foreign relations

  • Algeria prolongs its conflict with France

Security 

  • Major General Mohamed Kaïdi is replaced
  • Demonstrators face tougher penalties 
  • Trying to destroy the Hirak

Economy & business

  • Obscuring the finance law

Energy

  • Algeria closes gas pipeline to punish Morocco
  • Energy Minister lies about gas exports