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Algeria Embarking ‘Clean Hands’ Campaign Against Corruption, Questions Tycoons

Corruption is a major complaint of the masses of protesters who helped drive longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office earlier this month

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algeria, clean hands campaign, corruption
FILE - Protestors carry a large flag and chant slogans during a demonstration against the country's leadership, in Algiers, April 12, 2019. VOA

Algerian authorities are embarking on a “Clean Hands” campaign aimed at rooting out corruption that has been linked to top tycoons and current and former government officials. Corruption is a major complaint of the masses of protesters who helped drive longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office earlier this month. New protests are scheduled for Friday.

Several influential Algerians have been questioned or arrested in recent days. Among them is Issad Rebrab, head of Algeria’s biggest private conglomerate Cevital, who is suspected of possible customs-related violations and other financial wrongdoing, according to prosecutors.

Rebrab, 75, is estimated by Forbes to be Algeria’s richest man and employs 18,000 workers in his agribusiness empire. He tweeted that he went in voluntarily for police questioning. He was questioned for six hours before being taken to the El Harrach prison.

clean hands campaign, corruption
Corruption is a major complaint of the masses of protesters who helped drive longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office earlier this month. VOA

Others targeted include a legislator accused of accepting bribes from a Chinese company. Also detained for questioning this week were three wealthy brothers believed close to Bouteflika’s brother Said, and seven Industry Ministry officials suspected of “non respect of contractual commitments with state enterprises” and influence trading.

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The Kouninef brothers’ lawyers said they are respecting the legal procedures but need time to consult the case files before commenting. The brothers made their fortune in the oil, food and advertising businesses.

The highest court in Algeria announced in a statement Wednesday that it is considering a case against ex-energy minister Chakib Khelil for acts related to “violations of foreign exchange laws and transfers of capital to foreigners.” Khelil is a close friend of Bouteflika and a high school classmate. Other former ministers are also targeted. (VOA)

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Impeachment Process Divides Global Opinion, but Shows Democracy in Action

Trump Impeachment Drama Gets Attention, Mixed Reviews Around World

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Impeachment Process of Donald Trump
President Donald Trump waits outside the Oval Office of the White House before walking with first lady Melania Trump and son Barron Trump on the South Lawn in Washington, before boarding Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Trump is traveling to Florida for a campaign rally and the Thanksgiving holiday. VOA
As the impeachment process against U.S. President Donald Trump unfolds, it’s not only Americans who are following every twist and turn. Millions of people around the world have been following the testimonies on Capitol Hill and are fascinated by the political warfare in Washington. Many observers say it shows American democracy in action.

Trump is accused of threatening to withhold $392 million in military assistance to Ukraine, unless Kyiv launched a public corruption investigation into the family of his political rival, the Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden. Soliciting foreign interference in U.S. democracy is unlawful and Trump strongly denies the allegations.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, Britain is trying to break out of its own political crisis caused by the 2016 vote to leave the European Union. With a general election imminent, many Britons see their own recent political chaos mirrored across the Atlantic, says political scientist Thomas Gift of University College London.

“Both the U.S. and the U.K. [Britain] are rivaling one another for levels of dysfunction in government, or lack of ability to get things done,” Gift said. “Typically, the world, including the U.K., looks to the U.S. as a model of democratic governance and has had, for a long time, institutions of power and leadership that project integrity. And I think watching this, particularly from abroad, I think does to some extent undercut that belief that the U.S. is this kind of moral, ethical and democratic leader.”

Polls suggest less than one in five Britons have a positive opinion of Trump — and that’s echoed in the views of many watching the impeachment process play out.

View of the Arc de Triomphe
General view of the Arc de Triomphe as French President Emmanuel Macron attends a commemoration ceremony for Armistice day, 101 years after the end of the First World War, in Paris, France. VOA

“If it goes through the House, I really hope that the Senate really stand up and do something about it. He shouldn’t be president and he should be impeached,” London resident Dayo Thomas told VOA.

In Paris, there is mixed interest in Washington’s political battles. Jacques Grau, a physician, believes the impeachment process is a good idea. “It allows democracy to function,” he told VOA.

Student Selene Ay says many of her contemporaries are not that interested.

“I know a lot of people followed after [Trump] was elected. But I think it kind of died down, I guess. People don’t care that much.”

There appears to be greater interest in Russia — and seemingly, greater support for Trump. Moscow resident Mikhail says the Americans elected Trump, “but now they want to take the decision back. That is wrong,” he said.

Fellow Moscow resident Dmitri says it is a political struggle. “[Joe] Biden’s team is just looking for compromising information to make Trump step down.”

They may be strategic rivals, but Russia doesn’t necessarily welcome America’s political problems, according to Andrey Kortunov, director of the Russian Council on International Affairs.

Buildings in Cairo, Egypt
A general view of clustered buildings in Cairo, Egypt. VOA

“The only U.S. president who can fix problems with Moscow is a strong U.S. president,” Kortunov told VOA. “So if Trump is under impeachment it definitely weakens his position and it becomes more difficult for him to manage this very complex and very delicate relationship. We need to have predictable partners. Weakness makes leaders unpredictable.”

With 1.3 billion people, India is often called the world’s biggest democracy. In Delhi, there is admiration for principle of impeachment. “It means that it is a very fair, a proper democracy at work,” according to Dipika Nanjappa, who works at a local voluntary organization. Retired government official Ashish Banerjee agrees: “We need to be more accountable. Our leaders need to be more accountable,” he told VOA.

Cairo resident Sameh Ghoneim sees echoes of Egypt’s own leadership in the alleged actions of Donald Trump. “He is only interested in personal gain,” said Ghoneim, who works as a mining engineer outside the capital. “He will look for corruption in others when it helps him.”

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In South Africa’s Johannesburg, opinion on Trump’s fate is again divided. “I think he’s doing just fine, so I don’t see the reason why he should be removed,” said local chef Khanyisile Shongwe. Cleaner Joseph Maisa is no fan of the U.S. president. “He doesn’t bring nice things in America. That is why he should be removed.”

The impeachment process could go on well into 2020, as the U.S. also gears up for the presidential election following what promises to be a bitterly fought campaign. Each twist and turn will be followed closely across the globe. (VOA)