In this article, Professor Salem Chaker explains how
the prickly question of autonomy for Kabylia in the current political
context can be applied.
Democracy is not a preconstructed entity, a universal
panacea which, automatically, would resolve the contradictions
existing in a society and which, mechanically, would impose its
law from the top and regulate, as if by magic, the problems and
contradictions of that society. It is only a device for the functioning
of society, permitting a peaceful resolution of contradictions
that exist and preexist and should be expressly formulated, carried
out, and organized. As a recent example, let us remember that
democratic France of the Third Republic set up and maintained
the colonial system in Algeria. That democratic France, "homeland
of human rights," has led a secular policy of eradication
of its regional languages and has always refused them any form
of legal recognition.
In fact, these "democratic" critics, are generally
recovered from a centralist and\or Stalinist political culture,
which does not imagine that the society can dominate the State;
belonging to circles that are convinced that with them in power,
democracy and happiness will impose itself quite naturally. One
knows where this leads, everywhere; fundamentally, these positions
are very close relatives of those of the FLN of yesterday and
today: "independence first, the rest will follow"; "Insure
the development of the country first, the rest will come later";
and now, one would like to hoodwink us with: "Democracy first,
the linguistic and identity question later." All is not in
everything, and all the fights for rights, for the rights of minorities,
women, employees, are justifiable and should be able to express
themselves and receive their answer in the here and now. The true
builders of democracy are those that formulate and clarify contradictions
and not those that deny them, minimize them, or put them on the
back-burner, suggesting they wait for "future harmonies."
Similarly, the question of articulation between the autonomy
of Kabylia and the global political system should be neither evaded
nor used as an argument to block the thoughts and debate on the
future of Kabylia itself. I consider, for my part, that it is
not up to to the Kabyles alone to define, nor even to propose,
a global political system for Algeria; it is their thoughts, their
fight for the autonomy of their region that will contribute to
build a new configuration for Algeria, by making the rest of Algeria
aware that other forms of organization and management can be conceived
for the entire country. Although it can be a possible solution,
it does not seem realistic to propose, in the form of a debate,
a federalist system generalized for Algeria: No other region demonstrated,
which such force and constancy, its uniqueness; no other region
has known a mobilization so broad and durable for its right to
exist. And, at the objective level, no other region seems to join
so many historical, sociological, political, and cultural parameters,
based on a strong collective identity. It is not so certain that
the solution of autonomy defended by Kabylia can be automatically
spread to the entire territory; but it seems evident, even if
the forms are not inevitably the same everywhere, that all of
Algeria will gain a very wide decentralization and an intensification
of regional legitimacy.
The territorial seat
The territorial "mangling" of Kabylia is an old tradition,
and, in this regard, independent Algeria has, in accentuating
it, merely brought back again the practice of colonial France.
France, which obviously had, since hte nineteenth century, the
possibility of creating in Kabylia a linguistically homogeneous
administrative and territorial entity, neither did so or even
contemplated it. On the contrary, one preferred to artificially
slice Kabylia in two: Grand Kabylia, connected to Algiers, and
Small Kabylia, integrated into the Department of Constantine,
and, thus, tear apart a region, in which the uprising of 1871
had well-demonstrated the political, human, and cultural unity.
As for independent Algeria, she slices, and slices again, with
constancy, the berberophone zones, particularly Kabylia, presently
split among six artificial wilayas. The objective always remains
the same: prevent the emergence or consolidation of Amazigh geocultural
entities and dilute Tamazight-speakers in non-homogenous territorial
It will be a question of gathering together a geographic
and human group, united by language, culture, a network of solidarities,
and a collective memory: Kabylia--tamurt n Leqbayel--,
which all the administrative manipulations has not managed to
break and dilute, and which lives daily in the consciousness and
culture of her inhabitants.
An autonomous Kabyle region should include all its berberophone
municipalities (i.e., majority berberophones), currently the wilayas
of Bejaia (Bgayet), Tizi Ouzou, Bouira, Bordj Bou Arreridj, Setif,
and Boumerdes, roughly the territory of the former Wilaya III
of the war of liberation. In the bilingual bordering zones, the
local populations should be able to freely determine their union
through local referendums. Boundary changes for the territory
of the current municipalities can also be considered when the
linguistic distribution inside a municipality is clearly geographic.
The prerogatives of the region
If the State is of no use, it is necessary to pass
over it and effectively assume (control) at the regional level.
Knowing the old traditions of Kabyle community organization and
solidarity, which recent events have demonstrated are still much
alive, the subjects that should de raised from a regional or local
decision is extremely broad: all of the sector on education and
culture, the essential part of socioeconomic functions, and likewise,
daily security issues. Privileges of the State should exclusively
deal with questions of external security, foreign affairs, diplomatic
relations, and monetary policies.
In regard to plans for culture, language and education,
the region should benefit from total autonomy because: the right
to one's language and culture is an indefeasible right, recognized
by numerous international legal instruments; and the policy of
arabization is a crime in that it tends to destroy a language,
a culture, a collective memory. It is also an operation of methodical
destruction of the Kabyle elites by integration into the arabo-islamist
ideology and culture.
The Berber language should be recognized as the proper language
of Kabylia because this regional recognition is the only one capable
of insuring the perpetuity of the language in the long duration,
but it does not mean that it is necessary to renounce the national
objective: Tamazight should also be recognized in the Algerian
Constitution as one of the national and official languages of
Algeria, with the right for every citizen to use the Berber language,
in all circumstances of public life, and to receive an education
in this language, including outside berberophone areas.
In regard to the economic and social plan, the fiasco is
such that one negatively perceives what the Kabyles could expect
from the action of a central State, which was incapable to insure,
in forty years, a minimum of economic development in the region.
And each knows that Kabylia survives only through the external
and internal contribution of its emigration and through local
private investment, and not through the generosity of the central
State, and that, globally, the region contributes more to than
it receives from the national budget. As for the manna of hydrocarbons,
the good spirits, frightened by the word 'autonomy,' could exclaim:
"But Kabylia would no longer receive its share!" Do
they really believe for a moment that the region has benefited
from it during the last decades? And then, in a democratic system,
what would forbid the region, even autonomous, to receive its
share of this national wealth, in proportion to the population?
To be able to lead its economic and social policy, the region
will have its proper tax system; the national tax system, the
collection of which will be assured by the region, will be the
object of agreements of State-regional distribution, according
to the principle of fair return in the region, in step with its
As for security and justice issues, why restore them to
the central State when Kabyle youth fall under the bullets of
those who are supposed to protect the population, when the gendarmes
and security services behave and are perceived as troops of occupation,
when the Algerian judicial mechanism has, for a long time, lost
any independence? On this topic, everything is to be reconstructed
on a foundation closer to the citizens and under their strict
control. All dealing with security and daily justice should rise
from the region.
The territorial and administrative organization of the region
will be established by a regional Assembly and not by the State.
The essential territorial and administrative entities of the region
(municipalities and higher levels) will be defined in such a way
as to respect the demographic, historic, geographic, and communicative
realities as much as possible in the traditional functional entities:
villages, clans, confederacies of clans.
In all domains, the action of the region and its institutions
will be guided by two principles:
1. The most permanent and the most direct exercise of popular
legitimacy and control;
2. Allegiance to the memory and culture of the Kabyle people.
Naturally, the existence of institutions insuring the exercise
of regional autonomy is not exclusive of a representation of Kabylia
in the national Parliament. This representation will be made proportionally,
according to the demographic proportion of the region in relation
to the global national population.
Distribution of Privileges
An articulation between the State and the region will be organized
for all matters of national interest, where the action of the
State can implicate the region: large works, regional development,
and the national tax system. In all these sectors, the region
will be the compulsory interlocutor of the State, and no decision
of this latter can implicate the region or can be established
in the territory of the region without the approval of the regional
institutions, notably the regional Assembly. As a consequence,
with the exception of issues of external security, international
agreements and treaties, and the monetary policy, the regional
Assembly can, in all sectors, adjust the national laws.
The regional executive will be the compulsory relay and
interlocutor of the State in relevant matters of exclusive or
shared privileges in order to put in place the decisions of the
State on the territory of the region.
To extol the autonomy of Kabylia is to build the future
of the region on the widest reappropriation of its memory, its
culture, and its independence of action in all which rises from
her immediate sphere. To build the autonomy of Kabylia will be
also to strengthen Algeria, popular and democratic.