Friday, 21 January 2011
Algeria losing chance for peaceful change - Islamist said
The former anti-Soviet fighter and Algerian Islamist activist told Reuters north African rulers would be increasingly challenged by "reckless" political opportunists unless they gave a signal that peaceful political change was possible.
"Yes I want change, but not chaotic change," he said in an interview in Britain, where he is a political exile.
"The anger of the people of North Africa must be directed for positive change, beyond the unresponsiveness of the regimes and the chaos of political opportunists."
"Sorrow and despair engulf the region, but I don't want to see the North African regimes collapse in chaos. I don't want Afghanistan and Somalia to be repeated in North Africa."
Anas knows from bitter experience the cost of badly-managed political transitions.
As an aide to anti-Soviet guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, Anas fought Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in 1992 he helped topple a Moscow-backed president in Kabul.
YEARS OF BLOODSHED
He recalls the elation of walking into the recently captured offices of deposed President Mohammed Najibullah, his hopes rising that a liberated Afghanistan would finally move towards peace after a decade of Soviet occupation.
Instead, years of factional bloodshed among Afghans ensued.
In 1991, he supported an Islamist bid at the ballot box to end army-based rule in his native Algeria.
An Islamist uprising began in 1992 after the army-backed authorities, fearing an Iranian-style revolution, scrapped an assembly election an Islamist political party was set to win.
Years of violence followed, costing up to 200,000 lives.
Arab rulers often point to Algeria as an example of an Islamist peril to justify draconian security policies and emergency laws that undermine civil liberties and allowed broad powers of search, arrest and imprisonment without trial.
Asked if the West today had anything to fear from Islamists in the event that north African rulers loosened restrictions on political activity, Anas replied that if change came through the constitution, peacefully, Islamists would pose no threat.
"But if the change happens dramatically, no one can guarantee the stability of the future," he said.