Algeria: Background & Geography

Introduction Algeria
After a century of rule by France, and in the wake of 1948 elections rigged by French colonists to reverse the sweeping victory of a Muslim political party in 1947, Algerians fought through the 1950s to achieve independence in 1962. Algeria's primary political party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), has dominated politics ever since. Many Algerians in the subsequent generation were not satisified, however, and moved to counter the FLN's centrality in Algerian politics. The surprising first round success of the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in the December 1991 balloting spurred the army to intervene and postpone the second round of elections to prevent an extremist-led government from assuming power. The Algerian army began a crack down on the FIS, that resulted in a continuous low-grade civil conflict between Islamic activists and the secular state apparatus. The government later allowed elections featuring pro-government and moderate religiously-based parties, but did not appease the activists who progressively widened their attacks. Operations by the activists and the army resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths during the decade-long conflict. The government gained the uppper hand by the mid-1990s and FIS's armed wing, the Islamic Salvation Army, disbanded in January 2000. Many armed militants of other groups surrendered under an amnesty program designed to promote national reconciliation, but small numbers of armed militants persist in confronting government forces and conducting ambushes and occasional attacks on villages. Issues facing the winner of the April 2004 presidential election include Berber unrest, large-scale unemployment, a shortage of housing, the presence of a group in the southern regions of the country that kidnapped European tourists in 2003, as well as the need to diversify Algeria's petroleum-based economy. Algeria assumed a two-year seat on the UN Security Council in January 2004.
Geography Algeria
Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia
Geographic coordinates:
28 00 N, 3 00 E
Map references:
total: 2,381,740 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 2,381,740 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly less than 3.5 times the size of Texas
Land boundaries:
total: 6,343 km
border countries: Libya 982 km, Mali 1,376 km, Mauritania 463 km, Morocco 1,559 km, Niger 956 km, Tunisia 965 km, Western Sahara 42 km
998 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive fishing zone: 32-52 NM
arid to semiarid; mild, wet winters with hot, dry summers along coast; drier with cold winters and hot summers on high plateau; sirocco is a hot, dust/sand-laden wind especially common in summer
mostly high plateau and desert; some mountains; narrow, discontinuous coastal plain
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Chott Melrhir -40 m
highest point: Tahat 3,003 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead, zinc
Land use:
arable land: 3.21%
permanent crops: 0.21%
other: 96.58% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
5,600 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
mountainous areas subject to severe earthquakes; mudslides and floods in rainy season
Environment - current issues:
soil erosion from overgrazing and other poor farming practices; desertification; dumping of raw sewage, petroleum refining wastes, and other industrial effluents is leading to the pollution of rivers and coastal waters; Mediterranean Sea, in particular, becoming polluted from oil wastes, soil erosion, and fertilizer runoff; inadequate supplies of potable water
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
second-largest country in Africa (after Sudan)

See Also: