Algeria: The story behind the foreign minister's dismissal
On the afternoon of 16 March, private and official television channels in Algeria broadcast the breaking news that a cabinet reshuffle was imminent.
At this point, journalists and observers were mainly wondering who would replace Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra. Unlike 10 other fellow ministers who were unseated, his fate had already been sealed for several weeks.
In Algiers, many journalists and diplomats had known for several months that Lamamra, who had held office since June 2021, was due to be replaced. A connoisseur of the workings of the African Union and the United Nations, Lamamra, the top Algerian diplomat for the past three years, was obviously not in favour with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
From his first year in office, 2019, Tebboune had indeed set his sights on appointing another renowned diplomat, Sabri Boukadoum, to be minister of foreign affairs.
But his entourage also viewed Lamamra as fit for the job. A former minister of foreign affairs under the reign of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Lamamra was seen as a charismatic, well-connected diplomat.
After a few months in office, however, dissenting voices emerged. In certain Algiers circles, it was whispered that the foreign minister had "presidential ambitions" dating back to 2019, after the fall of Bouteflika, who was forced to resign by the Hirak popular revolt.
While he wasn't dismissed initially, obstacles were placed in his way.
'Some decisions were made without his knowledge. Worse, government media were also asked not to publicise his activities'
– Diplomatic source
"Some decisions were made without his knowledge. Worse, government media were also asked not to publicise his activities," a diplomatic source told Middle East Eye.
An angry Lamamra "submitted his resignation three times" last year, a former minister who knows him well told MEE. However, he "would never dare to run for president if Mr Tebboune presented himself".
The three resignations were rejected, and Lamamra would reappear after several days, even weeks, during which he slipped away, often touring African or Arab countries.
This game of cat and mouse between the former commissioner for peace and security of the African Union and the Algerian presidential entourage lasted several months. But at the beginning of February, events accelerated.
On 8 February, local and French media reported that the Algerian-French activist and opposition figure Amira Bouraoui had escaped Algeria via Tunisia with the consular assistance of France, after she was sentenced to two years in prison for "offending Islam" and insulting the president.
This caused a new crisis between Paris and Algiers. A press release from the foreign ministry expressed the "anger" of the Algerian authorities, who accused "French state services" of having "exfiltrated" the activist to France.
A few minutes later, it was the Presidency of the Republic that announced the recall of the Algerian ambassador to Paris "for consultation". In insider circles, it was known that the move was made without the consent of the minister of foreign affairs.
'A man of compromise'
The day after the dispute between Algiers and Paris, Algerian media announced that the president had approved a diplomatic reshuffle that affected ambassadors and general consuls in several capitals around the world.
Once again, the presidency sidelined Lamamra. But some media sources had a different version of events.
"Lamamra presented a list of ambassadors and consuls that the presidency refused and replaced it with another," a journalist familiar with the matter told MEE.
Other sources mentioned an additional reason for this rupture: the Algerian president had decided to allocate a budget of $1bn to the Algerian Agency for International Cooperation - attached to the presidency - to finance development projects in certain African countries. Lamamra did not like it and "would have wanted the file to be handled by his department", a journalist told MEE.