Libyan leader Gaddafi greets Algeria's President Bouteflika before opening of the African Union summit in Sirte
Libyan leader Gaddafi greets Algeria's President Bouteflika before opening of the African Union summit in Sirte

Although the transitional council headed by Gaddafi's former Justice Minister has in the space of just under four months made a lot of new friends and with the coalition forces now backing it and countries such as China and Russia slowly opening up to it as well, the would be sucessor to Gaddafi has still made quite a few enemies in the African continent itself. While the African Union is becoming more vocal on the need for Gaddafi to step out of power, tensions between several African governments and the rebels indicate that in the case of Gaddafi's departure, the new Libyan regime led by the National Transitional Council will change the geopolitical relationships in the region.

While the Council has accused Kenya, Mali and Chad of sending mercenaries that fight on the Gaddafi camp, they have also directly accused Algeria of providing the leader with military material and troops.

Following the accusations, Libyans rebels reportedly staged protests in March, chanting "O Algeria, your regime is helping to kill your Libyan brothers ", and the protestors also accused Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of helping Gaddafi.

According to Libya's National Transitional Council spokesman Shamseddin Abdulmelah, the "mercenaries caught were not carrying identity cards" but " they said they were Algerian and had an Algerian accent".

However, following the accusations observers pointed out that Gaddafi, with the aim of building a one million African Army, has been recruiting non-Libyans for four decades. Algerians or Africans fighting on the Gaddafi camp would therefore not necessarily represent their countries in an official capacity.

Algeria has vehemently denied the allegations with Algerian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amar Belani saying in a statement in April that, "The motives of those behind those baseless allegations to harm the reputation of Algeria are clearly driven by their desire to push our country to support one side against the other in fratricidal crisis tearing our brotherly country Libya," before adding that Algeria will "relentlessly" continue its calls together with the African Union for "immediate cessation" of hostilities and for an "inclusive dialogue" between the Libyan parties to "agree on terms for ending the crisis".

"The Algerian government, which has always been against the phenomenon of mercenaries in Africa, because of its disastrous consequences on the stability and security of the continent, started at early year 2011 an important work of co-ordination in relevant AU structures for the fight against the phenomenon of mercenaries," the official maintained.

In June, U.S. Africa Command chief Gen. Carter Ham confirmed the Algerian government was not known to have sent mercenaries to fight the rebels in Libya.

"I have seen absolutely no reporting that indicates that Algeria is supporting the movement of fighters to Libya," Ham said during a two-day visit to Algiers on June 1. "To the contrary, Algeria has been supporting, and strongly so, regional security and countering terrorism."

However the accusations have sent Algerias neighbour into hysteria and raised further suspicions against the Bouteflika regime. Following the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, many expected Algerians to also succumb to the revolts and organise mass protests but nothing happened, which proved that the people still support the regime, or at least fail to see what its sudden fall would bring to the country as memories related to the violence of the civil war are still too recent and are likely to represent a powerful deterrent to a full-scale revolt.

Algeria and Libya have had a volatile relationship throughout the years. For many years, the two countries first shared good relations based on their support for the West Saharan Polisario Front, a common anti-colonial rhetoric in addition Algeria supported Libya against Egypt in the border war of 1977, and brokered a peace deal between Libya and Chad in the late 1980s.

However, tensions rose when Algeria alleged that Libya allowed weapons to be shipped through its territory to Islamist forces during the Algerian civil war of the 1990s and relations were further disturbed by the signing of a unity pact between Libya and Algerian rival Morocco in 1984.

However there are different reasons why Algeria did not take an open-Anti-Gaddafi stand.

During a painful civil war in the 1990's, an estimated 27,000 armed guerrillas were active, causing an official death-toll that amounted to 100,000 civilians, insurgents and security forces. As the population is still trying to recover from the disastrous consequences of the war, the government knows that an unstable Libya could turn into a major safe haven and source of weapons for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Algerian media also reported that documents recently found in the Bin Laden residence in Abbottabad emphasised on the "specific attention" al-Qaeda paid to Algeria, which will further aggravate the fear of a comeback of Islamic fundamentalism in the population. While the AQIM threat is not as strong as in the past, it still represents a major security concern for Algeria and a Libyan implosion could certainly provide AQIM with greater opportunities to buy weapons from Libyan arsenals and to expand its activities to new territories. Algerian officials have strongly stressed this point since the very beginning of the conflict. Also according to the El Moudjahid newspaper, these concerns are shared by other regional countries such as Chad, Mali and Niger.

Moreover, Algeria's hostility to NATO action in Libya can also be explained from a post-colonial perspective as the country feared a ground intervention would imply the presence of French troop on its border, which some Algerians could see as a psychological threat since the War of independence is still very much present in the collective psyche.

Finally, as France is strongly backing the new Libyan Transition Council, a victory of the rebel movement could result in a stronger French influence in the region, while a rapprochement of Morocco and Libya could also be on the cards, both cases would represent a total rupture with Gaddafi's previous positions and could bee seen by the government as posing a potential threat.

While it is not certain how Gaddafi is managing to stay in power and where his help is coming from, his fall could affect the region as a whole, as if the country becomes unstable, the rest of the region would instantly suffer the consequences. On the other hand, if the National Transitional Council comes to power, Libya will have a completely new set of foreign policies and allies, which will inevitably change the geopolitical map of both North and Sub-Saharan Africa.