Première réaction des media américains sur le travail de Ferhat Mehenni:
January 28, 2010 - 9:54 AM | by: Ben Evansky
They have largely been ignored by the rest of the world, but some analysts say the U.S. might soon need to reach out to a little known indigenous group in Algeria known as the Kabyles, for help in the war against al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists who operate from the North African nation.
The Kabyles are part of the indigenous Berber peoples of North Africa and who in recent years have been pursuing self rule for the territory they call Kabylia within Algeria. A largely secular group of Muslims, the Kabyles support democracy, and like the U.S. they have been targeted by the Islamic terrorists who use Kabylia as a launching pad for their attacks. Their leaders maintain the Algerian government discriminates against them. Population estimates for the Kabyle people range between seven to ten million, with two million of them living mostly in France.
Walid Phares, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, and a Fox News terrorism analyst, says the Kabyles "are mostly secular and believe in democracy, and could become an efficient ally against the Jihadists." He says "al Qaeda and the Salafists have strong bases in Algeria, and the Kabyles resist them fiercely so we have a strategic interest in helping them, but without crumbling our good relations with the Algerian secular Government."
Some experts believe that strategy could be risky. Ronald E. Neumann, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Algeria from 1994-1997 believes that any U.S. intervention in internal Algerian politics would be a mistake. Neumann, who is President of the American Academy of Diplomacy in Washington, tells Fox News that U.S. "support would unquestionably threaten our relationship with Algeria", as the Algerians would view it "as a fundamental threat" to their country.
On its website, the State Department describes the U.S./Algeria relationship as a growing one, especially since 9/11 where "contacts in key areas of mutual concern, including law enforcement and counter-terrorism cooperation, have intensified." The State Department did not respond to questions regarding the U.S.'s position on the Kabyles.
Experts hope the Obama administration can strike a chord between its relations with the Algerian government and the Kabyle people, who have been pressing for some sort of autonomy ever since Algeria gained independence from France in 1962.
Walid Phares, who has also lectured on the Kabyles, says that the administration should not hesitate in supporting the rights of the Kabyles and accept their call for self rule "as a legitimate principle". Phares says "we need to maintain excellent relations with the Algerian Government, which is fighting al Qaeda. We can continue to support Algiers against al Qaeda while we are urging them to talk with the Kabyles, their own citizens: it will be in their own interest to do so."
"We are the only bastion of anti-Islamization on the continent", says Ferhat Mehenni the President of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia (MAK), which is one of the three main Kabyle political parties, from his exile in France. He maintains that they have to contend with kidnappings and killings by Islamic extremists, including the Algerian arm of Al Qaeda, all of whom operate along the mountainous regions where the majority of Kabyles live. Mehenni tells Fox News that only last week a church was burned down by extremists and that he wants to work with the U.S. in efforts against al Qaeda, but will need its support for its peoples own freedom.
In 1992 Algeria was thrown into civil war following the election of an Islamic party. The military annulled the result, which led to a bloody civil war with Islamic terrorists which, according to the U.S. State Department, resulted in 150,000 deaths. In 2006 Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, was formed and has adopted suicide bombings and kidnappings as part of its modus operandi. In 2007 it bombed the UN's offices in Algiers which killed thirty people and the attacks have continued. The State Department continues to warn Americans about traveling to Algeria due to fears of terror attacks.
In what seems to be a sensitive topic, not just to the Obama administration, but also the Algerian government, the Algerian Ambassador to Washington did not respond to several requests that were directed to his office for an interview.
Meanwhile, Ferhat Mehenni is trying to get a meeting with Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, and while the UN Secretary General has met with the likes of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad he wouldn't meet with Mehenni who says he feels "betrayed" by the UN, but hopes a commitment of support from the Obama administration for the Kabyle fight for self rule, will lead to a strong partnership against the Islamic fundamentalists, saying that the Kabyles can be a "rampart" against them, and become a beacon for democracy in the area.
Phares, who describes the Kabyles as the "Indians of North Africa", believes the U.S. must always be "on the side of democratic values and fundamental rights" and that there should "not be any hesitations with regards the principle of supporting the rights of the Kabyles."
As to a change of policy by the administration regarding support of democratic movements in the region, Phares says, "because the administration is relying on the advice of experts representing the interests of the regimes and anti-democratic ideologies such as Jihadism and Pan Arabism, the administration was told and convinced that if the U.S. calls for freedom this would upset the Muslim world. The Administration was fooled because Muslims want freedom too