According to Algérie Part and key Facebook pages, Sonatrach’s CEO, Toufik Hakkar, feels that his job is under threat and is doing everything possible to get rid of senior managers who could undermine his position. Given the regularity with which the regime removes Sonatrach CEOs he probably has good reason to feel nervy. He has, after all, already been in office for four months.

Sonatrach’s CEO, Toufik Hakkar, reportedly plans to remove many senior executives

The first victims of his purge are reported to include:

  • Toufik Hamdane, head of Sonatrach’s partnerships division;
  • Faiz Zane, head of engineering and management; 
  • Farid Ghezali, former vice president in charge of strategy who had since become Hakkar’s adviser; and 
  • Mohamed Hadj, human resources manager, who was sacked in early June.

We have no confirmation of these dismissals but, if correct, these are just the start. Apparently around 50 senior Sonatrach officials and senior executives are believed to be in the hot seat and awaiting notification of their dismissal, which, as Algérie Part allege will be done in three stages.

Other names that have been mentioned are said to include:

  • Ali Amar, director of Sonatrach’s judicial affairs department;
  • Noureddine Taam, director of the crude marketing and petroleum product division;
  • Youcef Khanfar, Central Director, Sonatrach News Resources;
  • Abdelghani Bendjebba, president and CEO the major Entreprise Nationale de Génie Civile et Bâtiment (ENGCB) subsidiary; and 
  • Haloua Abdennacer, managing director of the Entreprise nationale des travaux aux puits (ENTP) subsidiary.

The second stage will reportedly see the dismissal of the managing directors of several Sonatrach subsidiaries. Hakkar has reportedly lined up about 50 senior Sonatrach executives and regional directors working at Hassi R’Mel and Hassi Messaoud. . 

It is currently unclear what sort of clan backing Toufik Hakkar has from higher up the regime and who, other than him, is taking such a risk of dangerously destabilising so the entire company. We are hearing conflicting reports. 

Algérie Part, the initial source of these leaks, claims that Energy Minister, Mohamed Arkab, is complicit in encouraging Hakkar to staff the company with his own clan, thereby structuring Sonatrach on the basis of favouritism and personal interests to the detriment of competence and meritocracy. This, however, does not make sense because our sources claim that Farid Ghezali has Arkab’s total support and was one of the candidates for the role  of chairman and CEO when Kamel Eddine Chikhi was suddenly removed in February 2020.

On the other hand, there are those who claim that Hakkar has the support of Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad, who, like Hakkar, comes from Khenchela, and that both men fear the influence wielded by both Hamdane and Zane who are said to be close to the Presidency.

Sonatrach is the mirror image of the Algerian State: an organisation based and run almost wholly through its system of clan interests, patronage and loyalties at the expense of everything else including the welfare of both the Algerian people and the state itself. 

If these reports are true — so far there has been no official confirmation or corroboration — Sonatrach risks deteriorating rapidly into a social crisis, or even some sort of corporate meltdown. If it turns out to be false, the question then becomes: who leaked them and why?

This excerpt is taken from Algeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Algeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.