Algeria And The Gaddafis

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

Marco Werman: As Jon Leyne reported, the Libyans don't want a complete falling out with Algeria over the issue of refuge for Gaddafi's relatives. The two countries are neighbors and they share a colonial past. They also share a recent history of unrest. Mohammad Larbi Zitoute was an Algerian deputy ambassador to Libya in the early 1990s. He's a critic of Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Mr. Zitoute thinks that Bouteflika worries that he'll follow in Gaddafi's footsteps.

Mohammad Larbi Zitoute: These is two dictatorial regimes helping each other. Gaddafi has had the Algerian regime in the 1990s. I remember when I was there we signed many treaties and conventions. Among these was mainly security and exchange of prisoners, exchange of so-called terrorists and effectively Gaddafi sent some hundreds of Algerians most of the time to their deaths, to Algeria in the '90s, and even in the beginning of 2000. The same for Algeria, where they sent probably tens of Libyans to Libya and both of the regimes got rid of their [inaudible 1:05], while in the name of combating terrorism, you know, that in the last 20 years Algeria we have seen more than 200,000 persons killed. The regime is responsible undoubtedly for these killings. And Gaddafi from '94, Gaddafi really played a major role in helping the Algerian generals in hiding the so-called terrorism.

Werman: But hasn't Algeria since the 1990s made a shift toward democracy?

Zitoute: Not at all, this is a facade, democracy is a facade. Democracy by name, but in practice it's a military regime and a handful of generals who decide for absolutely everything in Algeria. What you see as president, prime minister or other ministers, they are just sort of puppets. They do what they are told to do and this is in fact, they want to show the world, they want to show also their friends in the West that effectively they have got sort of democracy there. But in fact, even the Americans, the French, the British, they know that it's a false democracy. And they know American ambassador in Algeria in 2006, 2007, 2008 saying that this is extremely brutal and bloody regime. But in the name of combating terrorism in the last 10 years we were very, very friendly. We even hid one minister from the British government saying that Algeria is a school to learn from it, how to combat terrorism. And imagine if they tried to use the Algerian [inaudible 2:30] here in Britain, how many hundreds of thousands were killed.

Werman: I still don't quite understand, Mr. Zitoute, why Algeria seems to be going against the tide of so many countries around the world and countries in north Africa that are now recognizing the Transitional National Council in Libya.

Zitoute: Because they are absolutely sure that they are next, or not maybe next, but are definitely on the list of the Arab Spring. We know that they are dictators. We know that the Algerian people hate them and they want to get rid of them. They know that Algerians have been rebelling against them for the past 20 years peacefully or even some wrongly by weapons. And we know that this is like sort of the movement of history and we try to stop it. We helped Gaddafi in the last six months by all means, although they are friends with the Americans, and British and French, but tried cyclically to help Gaddafi practically by sending fuel, cars, vehicles, weaponries there, and even some say by sending mercenaries there. The Algerian regime is a question for them, a question of life or death. It's not just a question of helping a good friend, but it's also helping themselves. They want at least to save the family of their great friend who helped them in the second half of the '90s and beginning of these last 10 years.

Werman: The rebels of the Transitional National Council in Libya have demanded extradition of the Gaddafi family from Algeria. Will that happen do you think?

Zitoute: No, it will not. Honestly, personally, I don't want the ladies to be sent back to Libya, but for the sons of Gaddafi they are criminals and they should be sent back.

Werman: Explain why you don't want the women to go back?

Zitoute: As Muslim and as Arab it is very difficult for us to treat women badly. We always try to treat, although this is not always the image which some see for how to treat women, but normally we should treat women, even when they do mistakes, we should treat them with special care.

Werman: And you're concerned that if they are sent back they won't be treated with care?

Zitoute: Not necessarily, but because they ask refuge to go to Algeria we should help them to have refuge there.

Werman: Mohammed Larbi Zitoute was in the early '90s Algeria's deputy ambassador to Libya. Sir, thank you very much, indeed.

Zitoute: Was a pleasure for me, thank you.