Interface Interviews: Mourad Dhina
Algeria Interface, September 19, 2002
Geneva, 19/09/2002 - Mourad Dhina is a prominent member of the FIS. He lives in Switzerland and is one of the main organisers of the FIS Congress held in Europe in August. He talks about the divisions that have undermined the party, outlawed in 1992.
Why did you organise the congress?
The idea goes back five years but Abdelkader Hachani gave it shape in 1999. But his assassination and the "civil harmony" policy complicated matters and widened divisions within the FIS. On one side there was the Rabah Kebir [FIS leader exiled in Germany] wing and on the other side were those that had stayed loyal to the original line and leadership. I belonged to the latter group. In March 2001, [FIS founder member] Abassi Madani, backed by FIS leaders in Algeria and exile, including Ali Djeddi and Kamel Guemazi sent out letters convening the congress. Two working groups were then set up abroad to revise party statutes, rules, political line, its position on a solution to the Algerian crisis and the election of party cadres.
The congress wasn't well attended. What did it achieve?
In terms of our structure, we disbanded all the bodies that spoke on behalf of the FIS. Only the supreme body, the Majliss el Shura (Consultative Council) remains. It will appoint the party's next leader at the end of September, with Abassi and Benhadj staying on as president and vice-president. We don't deny there were major differences within the FIS. We invited everybody, but some couldn't and others wouldn't come. Some, like Kamel Guemazi and Ali Djeddi [two of the original leaders], backed the congress then pulled out at the last moment. Abdelkader Boukhamkham and Abdelkader Omar also did the same. As far as we are concerned, the party's two legitimate leaders supported the congress and party rank-and-file will judge.
Who will stand for president as FIS candidate?
I can't say for the time being. If the person in question is in Algeria, he would have problems. We have decided to make the FIS a de facto figure on the Algerian political scene. We plan to resist the regime peacefully.
How do you explain the about-face of Ali Djeddi and Kamel Guemazi?
They thought the congress would be nothing more than a facelift which would just rubber stamp their authority in party ranks. But the congress went much further and demanded much more rigorous PR and knowledge of Islamic theology, both of which have been calamitous. Ali Djeddi and Kamel Guemazi belong to a generation with a stereotyped vision of politics and the FIS.
Rabah Kebir has called you usurpers.
Abassi Madani will show where the truth lies. In his letter he said the congress had the power to replace him, while other members have refused to give up positions to which they believe they are historically entitled. Rabah Kebir, for example, refuses to recognize any congress that he doesn't convene. Abbassi wrote to Kebir asking him to attend, but Kebir just dismissed the request.
Is Abassi Madani's dream of a "unified and unifying FIS" over?
I don't know, but one thing is certain: our leaders must have rank-and-file support and prove themselves on the ground. Our rules and mechanisms are now clearly set out and the FIS, like any respectable organisation, can hold its members accountable and even dismiss its leaders. All members, including the party president, must abide by the rules.
How do assess the FIS when you look back?
We have yet to take serious stock. But it's obvious that even though the FIS is well rooted in Algerian society, it has suffered from repression and poor organisation. And it's a fact that FIS was infiltrated at top level by Algerian intelligence. Our most serious crises in June 1991 and January 1992 unmasked many spies. Some, like Merani, were appointed ministers in the service of the military junta that took power. Those crises did the FIS a good turn because they helped us see where we'd gone wrong and Abdelkader Hachani started a brilliant rebuilding job.
Do you believe the armed struggle is legitimate?
We condemn all acts of violence against the people and we are compiling a dossier on war criminals. We are also working on identifying and classifying armed groups with a view to building contacts with them so that they abide by the FIS's instructions and lay down their arms when political life is back to normal. Plainly, we don't want anyone with blood on their hands in the FIS. We have no military wing. That's some fantastical idea of Rabah Kebir, who declared himself spokesman for Madani Mazrag [head of the AIS, the now disbanded Islamic Salvation Army]. We have been clear with FIS members. You can choose the armed struggle but not in the name of the FIS.
Interviewed by Tahar Houchi