|Background: After a century of rule by France, Algeria became independent in
1962. The surprising first round success of the fundamentalist FIS (Islamic Salvation
Front) party in December 1991 balloting caused the army to intervene, crack down on the
FIS, and postpone the subsequent elections. The FIS response has resulted in a continuous
low-grade civil conflict with the secular state apparatus, which nonetheless has allowed
elections featuring pro-government and moderate religious-based parties. FIS's armed wing,
the Islamic Salvation Army, dissolved itself in January 2000 and many armed insurgents
surrendered under an amnesty program designed to promote national reconciliation.
Nevertheless, some residual fighting continues. Other concerns include large-scale
unemployment and the need to diversify the petroleum-based economy.
Government type: republic
Currency: 1 Algerian dinar (DA) = 100 centimes
Geography of Algeria
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and
People of Algeria
Ninety-one percent of the Algerian population lives along the Mediterranean coast on 12% of the country's total land mass. Forty-five percent of the population are urban, and urbanization continues, despite government efforts to discourage migration to the cities. About 1.5 million nomads and semi-settled bedouin still live in the Saharan area. According to 1986 data, 45% of the population is under age 15.
Nearly all Algerians are Muslim, of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber stock. A mostly foreign Roman Catholic community of about 45,000 exists, as do very small Protestant and Jewish communities. As of January 2002, there were about 600 American citizens in the country, the majority of whom live and work in the oil/gas fields of the south.
Algeria's educational system has grown dramatically since 1962; in the last 12 years, attendance has doubled to more than 5 million students. Education is free and compulsory to age 16. Despite government allocation of substantial educational resources, population pressures and a serious shortage of teachers have severely strained the system, as has terrorism attacks against the educational infrastructure during the 1990s. Modest numbers of Algerian students study abroad, primarily in Europe and Canada. In 2000, the government launched a major review of the country's educational system.
Housing and medicine continue to be pressing problems in Algeria. Failing infrastructure and the continued influx of people from rural to urban areas has overtaxed both systems. According to the UNDP, Algeria has one of the world's highest per housing unit occupancy rates for housing, and government officials have publicly stated that the country has an immediate shortfall of 1.5 million housing units.
Population: 32,531,853 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
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