History of Algeria
Much of the history of Algeria has taken place on the fertile coastal plain of North Africa, which is often called the Maghreb (or Maghreb). North Africa served as a transit region for people moving towards Europe or the Middle East, thus, the region's inhabitants have been influenced by populations from other areas, including the Carthaginians, Romans, and Vandals. The region was conquered by the Muslims in the early 8th century AD, but broke off from the Umayyad Caliphate after the Berber Revolt of 740. During the Ottoman period, Algeria became an important state in the Mediterranean sea which led to many naval conflicts. The last significant events in the country's recent history have been the Algerian War and Algerian Civil War.
|History of Algeria|
Evidence of the early human occupation of Algeria is demonstrated by the discovery of 1.8 million year old Oldowan stone tools found at Ain Hanech in 1992. In 1954 fossilised Homo erectus bones were discovered by C. Arambourg at Ternefine that are 700,000 years old. Neolithic civilization (marked by animal domestication and subsistence agriculture) developed in the Saharan and Mediterranean Maghrib between 6000 and 2000 BC. This type of economy, richly depicted in the Tassili n'Ajjer cave paintings in southeastern Algeria, predominated in the Maghrib until the classical period.
Phoenician traders arrived on the North African coast around 900 BC and established Carthage (in present-day Tunisia) around 800 BC. During the classical period, Berber civilization was already at a stage in which agriculture, manufacturing, trade, and political organization supported several states. Trade links between Carthage and the Berbers in the interior grew, but territorial expansion also resulted in the enslavement or military recruitment of some Berbers and in the extraction of tribute from others.
The Carthaginian state declined because of successive defeats by the Romans in the Punic Wars, and in 146 BC, the city of Carthage was destroyed. As Carthaginian power waned, the influence of Berber leaders in the hinterland grew.
Madghacen was a king of independent kingdoms of the Numidians, between 12 and 3 BC.
Christianity arrived in the 2nd century. By the end of the 4th century, the settled areas had become Christianized, and some Berber tribes had converted en masse.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Algeria came under the control of the Vandal Kingdom. Later, the Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire) conquered Algeria from the Vandals, incorporating it into the Praetorian prefecture of Africa and later the Exarchate of Africa.
From the 8th century Umayyad conquest of North Africa led by Musa bin Nusayr, Arab colonization started. The 11th century invasion of migrants from the Arabian peninsula brought oriental tribal customs. The introduction of Islam and Arabic had a profound impact on North Africa. The new religion and language introduced changes in social and economic relations, and established links with the Arab world through acculturation and assimilation.
According to historians of the Middle Ages, the Berbers are divided into two branches, both are from their ancestor Mazigh. The two branches Botr and Barnès are divided into tribes, and each Maghreb region is made up of several tribes. The large Berber tribes or peoples are Sanhaja, Houara, Zenata, Masmuda, Kutama, Awarba, Barghawata ... etc. Each tribe is divided into sub tribes. All these tribes have independence and territorial decisions.
Several Berber dynasties emerged during the Middle Ages: - In North Africa, Sudan, in Andalusia, Italy, in Mali, Niger, Senegal and Egypt. Ibn Khaldoun made a table of Berber dynasties: Zirid, Banu Ifran, Maghrawa, Almoravid, Hammadid, Almohad Caliphate, Marinid, Zayyanid, Wattasid, Meknes, Hafsid dynasty, Fatimids.
The invasion of the Banu Hilal Arab tribes in the 11th century, sacked Kairouan, and the area under Zirid control was reduced to the coastal region, and the Arab conquests fragmented into petty Bedouin emirates.
Medieval Muslim Algeria
The second Arab military expeditions into the Maghreb, between 642 and 669, resulted in the spread of Islam. The Umayyads (a Muslim dynasty based in Damascus from 661 to 750) recognised that the strategic necessity of dominating the Mediterranean dictated a concerted military effort on the North African front. By 711 Umayyad forces helped by Berber converts to Islam had conquered all of North Africa. In 750 the Abbasids succeeded the Umayyads as Muslim rulers and moved the caliphate to Baghdad. Under the Abbasids, Berber Kharijites Sufri Banu Ifran were opposed to Umayyad and Abbasids. After, the Rustumids (761–909) actually ruled most of the central Maghrib from Tahirt, southwest of Algiers. The imams gained a reputation for honesty, piety, and justice, and the court of Tahirt was noted for its support of scholarship. The Rustumid imams failed, however, to organise a reliable standing army, which opened the way for Tahirt's demise under the assault of the Fatimid dynasty.
The Fatimids left the rule of most of Algeria to the Zirids and Hammadid (972–1148), a Berber dynasty that centered significant local power in Algeria for the first time, but who were still at war with Banu Ifran (kingdom of Tlemcen) and Maghraoua (942-1068). This period was marked by constant conflict, political instability, and economic decline. Following a large incursion of Arab Bedouin from Egypt beginning in the first half of the 11th century, the use of Arabic spread to the countryside, and sedentary Berbers were gradually Arabised.
The Almoravid ("those who have made a religious retreat") movement developed early in the 11th century among the Sanhaja Berbers of southern Morocco. The movement's initial impetus was religious, an attempt by a tribal leader to impose moral discipline and strict adherence to Islamic principles on followers. But the Almoravid movement shifted to engaging in military conquest after 1054. By 1106, the Almoravids had conquered the Maghreb as far east as Algiers and Morocco, and Spain up to the Ebro River.
Like the Almoravids, the Almohads ("unitarians") found their inspiration in Islamic reform. The Almohads took control of Morocco by 1146, captured Algiers around 1151, and by 1160 had completed the conquest of the central Maghrib. The zenith of Almohad power occurred between 1163 and 1199. For the first time, the Maghrib was united under a local regime, but the continuing wars in Spain overtaxed the resources of the Almohads, and in the Maghrib their position was compromised by factional strife and a renewal of tribal warfare.
In the central Maghrib, the Abdalwadid founded a dynasty that ruled the Kingdom of Tlemcen in Algeria. For more than 300 years, until the region came under Ottoman suzerainty in the 16th century, the Zayanids kept a tenuous hold in the central Maghrib. Many coastal cities asserted their autonomy as municipal republics governed by merchant oligarchies, tribal chieftains from the surrounding countryside, or the privateers who operated out of their ports. Nonetheless, Tlemcen, the "pearl of the Maghrib," prospered as a commercial center.
Examples of some Algerian Berber dynasties/empires:
Ifranid Dynasty and Sulaymanid
Zayyanid Kingdom of Tlemcen
Kingdom of Beni Abbas
Kingdom of Kuku
Christian reconquest of Spain
The final triumph of the 700-year Christian reconquest of Spain was marked by the fall of Granada in 1492. Christian Spain imposed its influence on the Maghrib coast by constructing fortified outposts and collecting tribute. But Spain never sought to extend its North African conquests much beyond a few modest enclaves. Privateering was an age-old practice in the Mediterranean, and North African rulers engaged in it increasingly in the late 16th and early 17th centuries because it was so lucrative. Until the 17th century the Barbary pirates used galleys, but a Dutch renegade of the name of Zymen Danseker taught them the advantage of using sailing ships.
Algeria became the privateering city-state par excellence, and two privateer brothers were instrumental in extending Ottoman influence in Algeria. At about the time Spain was establishing its presidios in the Maghrib, the Muslim privateer brothers Aruj and Khair ad Din—the latter known to Europeans as Barbarossa, or Red Beard—were operating successfully off Tunisia. In 1516 Aruj moved his base of operations to Algiers but was killed in 1518. Khair ad Din succeeded him as military commander of Algiers, and the Ottoman sultan gave him the title of beylerbey (provincial governor).
The Spanish expansionist policy in North Africa began with the Catholic Monarchs and the regent Cisneros, once the Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula was finished. That way, several towns and outposts in the Algerian coast were conquered and occupied: Mers El Kébir (1505), Oran (1509), Algiers (1510) and Bugia (1510). The Spanish conquest of Oran was won with much bloodshed: 4,000 Algerians were massacred, and up to 8,000 were taken prisoner. For about 200 years, Oran's inhabitants were virtually held captive in their fortress walls, ravaged by famine and plague; Spanish soldiers, too, were irregularly fed and paid.
The Spaniards left Algiers in 1529, Bujia in 1554, Mers El Kébir and Oran in 1708. The Spanish returned in 1732 when the armada of the Duke of Montemar was victorious in the Battle of Aïn-el-Turk and retook Oran and Mers El Kébir; the Spanish massacred many Muslim soldiers. In 1751, a Spanish adventurer, named John Gascon, obtained permission, and vessels and fireworks, to go against Algiers, and set fire, at night, to the Algerian fleet. The plan, however, miscarried. In 1775, Charles III of Spain sent a large force to attack Algiers, under the command of Alejandro O'Reilly (who had led Spanish forces in crushing French rebellion in Louisiana), resulting in a disastrous defeat. The Algerians suffered 5,000 casualties. The Spanish navy bombarded Algiers in 1784; over 20,000 cannonballs were fired, much of the city and its fortifications were destroyed and most of the Algerian fleet was sunk.
Under Khair ad Din's regency, Algiers became the center of Ottoman authority in the Maghrib. For 300 years, Algeria was a Vassal state of the Ottoman Empire under a regency that had Algiers as its capital (see Dey). Subsequently, with the institution of a regular Ottoman administration, governors with the title of pasha ruled. Turkish was the official language. In 1671 a new leader took power, adopting the title of dey. In 1710 the dey persuaded the sultan to recognize him and his successors as regent, replacing the pasha in that role.
Although Algiers remained a part of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman government ceased to have effective influence there. European maritime powers paid the tribute demanded by the rulers of the privateering states of North Africa (Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and Morocco) to prevent attacks on their shipping. The Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century diverted the attention of the maritime powers from suppressing piracy. But when peace was restored to Europe in 1815, Algiers found itself at war with Spain, the Netherlands, Prussia, Denmark, Russia, and Naples. Algeria and surrounding areas, collectively known as the Barbary States, were responsible for piracy in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the enslaving of Christians, actions which brought them into the First and Second Barbary War with the United States of America.
19th century colonialism
|French conquest of Algeria|
Arabs and Berbers
|Casualties and losses|
3,336 killed in action|
92,329 dead from disease
North African boundaries have shifted during various stages of the conquests. The borders of modern Algeria were expanded by the French, whose colonization began in 1830 (French invasion began on July 5). To benefit French colonists (many of whom were not in fact of French origin but Italian, Maltese, and Spanish) and nearly the entirety of whom lived in urban areas, northern Algeria was eventually organized into overseas departments of France, with representatives in the French National Assembly. France controlled the entire country, but the traditional Muslim population in the rural areas remained separated from the modern economic infrastructure of the European community.
As a result of what the French considered an insult to the French consul in Algiers by the Day in 1827, France blockaded Algiers for three years. In 1830, France invaded and occupied the coastal areas of Algeria, citing a diplomatic incident as casus belli. Hussein Dey went into exile. French colonization then gradually penetrated southwards, and came to have a profound impact on the area and its populations. The European conquest, initially accepted in the Algiers region, was soon met by a rebellion, led by Abdel Kadir, which took roughly a decade for the French troops to put down after the "pacification campaign", in which the French used chemical weapons, mass executions of civilians and prisoners, concentration camps and many other atrocities. By 1848 nearly all of northern Algeria was under French control, and the new government of the French Second Republic declared the occupied lands an integral part of France. Three "civil territories"—Algiers, Oran, and Constantine—were organized as French départements (local administrative units) under a civilian government.
In addition to enduring the affront of being ruled by a foreign, non-Muslim power, many Algerians lost their lands to the new government or to colonists. Traditional leaders were eliminated, coopted, or made irrelevant, and the traditional educational system was largely dismantled; social structures were stressed to the breaking point. From 1856, native Muslims and Jews were viewed as French subjects not citizens.
However, in 1865, Napoleon III allowed them to apply for full French citizenship, a measure that few took, since it involved renouncing the right to be governed by sharia law in personal matters, and was considered a kind of apostasy; in 1870, the Crémieux Decree made French citizenship automatic for Jewish natives, a move which largely angered many Muslims, which resulted in the Jews being seen as the accomplices of the colonial power by anti-colonial Algerians. Nonetheless, this period saw progress in health, some infrastructures, and the overall expansion of the economy of Algeria, as well as the formation of new social classes, which, after exposure to ideas of equality and political liberty, would help propel the country to independence.
During the colonization France focused on eradicating the local culture by destroying hundreds years old palaces and important buildings. It is estimated that around half of Algiers, a city founded in the 10th century, was destroyed. Many segragatory laws were levied against the Algerians and their culture.
Rise of Algerian nationalism and French resistance
A new generation of Islamic leadership emerged in Algeria at the time of World War I and grew to maturity during the 1920s and 1930s. Various groups were formed in opposition to French rule, most notable the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the National Algerian Movement.
Colons (colonists), or, more popularly, pieds noirs (literally, black feet) dominated the government and controlled the bulk of Algeria's wealth. Throughout the colonial era, they continued to block or delay all attempts to implement even the most modest reforms. But from 1933 to 1936, mounting social, political, and economic crises in Algeria induced the indigenous population to engage in numerous acts of political protest. The government responded with more restrictive laws governing public order and security. Algerian Muslims rallied to the French side at the start of World War II as they had done in World War I. But the colons were generally sympathetic to the collaborationist Vichy regime established following France's defeat by Nazi Germany. After the fall of the Vichy regime in Algeria (November 11, 1942) as a result of Operation Torch, the Free French commander in chief in North Africa slowly rescinded repressive Vichy laws, despite opposition by colon extremists.
In March 1943, Muslim leader Ferhat Abbas presented the French administration with the Manifesto of the Algerian People, signed by 56 Algerian nationalist and international leaders. The manifesto demanded an Algerian constitution that would guarantee immediate and effective political participation and legal equality for Muslims. Instead, the French administration in 1944 instituted a reform package, based on the 1936 Viollette Plan, that granted full French citizenship only to certain categories of "meritorious" Algerian Muslims, who numbered about 60,000. In April 1945 the French had arrested the Algerian nationalist leader Messali Hadj. On May 1 the followers of his Parti du Peuple Algérien (PPA) participated in demonstrations which were violently put down by the police. Several Algerians were killed. The tensions between the Muslim and colon communities exploded on May 8, 1945, V-E Day, causing the Sétif and Guelma massacre. When a Muslim march was met with violence, marchers rampaged. The army and police responded by conducting a prolonged and systematic ratissage (literally, raking over) of suspected centers of dissidence. According to official French figures, 1,500 Muslims died as a result of these countermeasures. Other estimates vary from 6,000 to as high as 45,000 killed. Many nationalists drew the conclusion that independence could not be won by peaceful means, and so started organizing for violent rebellion.
In August 1947, the French National Assembly approved the government-proposed Organic Statute of Algeria. This law called for the creation of an Algerian Assembly with one house representing Europeans and "meritorious" Muslims and the other representing the remaining 8 million or more Muslims. Muslim and colon deputies alike abstained or voted against the statute but for diametrically opposed reasons: the Muslims because it fell short of their expectations and the colons because it went too far.
Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962)
The Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962), brutal and long, was the most recent major turning point in the country's history. Although often fratricidal, it ultimately united Algerians and seared the value of independence and the philosophy of anticolonialism into the national consciousness.
In the early morning hours of November 1, 1954, the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale—FLN) launched attacks throughout Algeria in the opening salvo of a war of independence. An important watershed in this war was the massacre of civilians by the FLN near the town of Philippeville in August 1955. The government claimed it killed 1,273 guerrillas in retaliation; according to the FLN, 12,000 Muslims perished in an orgy of bloodletting by the armed forces and police, as well as colon gangs. After Philippeville, all-out war began in Algeria. The FLN fought largely using guerrilla tactics whilst the French counter-insurgency tactics often included severe reprisals and repression.
Eventually, protracted negotiations led to a cease-fire signed by France and the FLN on March 18, 1962, at Evian, France. The Evian accords also provided for continuing economic, financial, technical, and cultural relations, along with interim administrative arrangements until a referendum on self-determination could be held. The Evian accords guaranteed the religious and property rights of French settlers, but the perception that they would not be respected led to the exodus of one million pieds-noirs and harkis.
Abusive tactics of the French Army remains a controversial subject in France to this day. Deliberate illegal methods were used, such as beatings, mutilations, hanging by the feet or hands, torture by electroshock, waterboarding, sleep deprivation and sexual assaults, among others. French war crimes against Algerian civilians were also committed, including indiscriminate shootings of civilians, rape, imprisonment without food in small cells, throwing prisoners out of helicopters to their death or into the sea with concrete on their feet, and burying people alive.
The FLN also committed many atrocities, both against French pieds-noirs and against fellow Algerians whom they deemed as supporting the French. These crimes included killing unarmed men, women and children, rape and disembowelment or decapitation of women and murdering children by slitting their throats or banging their heads against walls.
Between 350,000 and 1 million Algerians are estimated to have died during the war, and more than 2 million, out of a total Muslim population of 9 or 10 million, were made into refugees or forcibly relocated into government-controlled camps. Much of the countryside and agriculture was devastated, along with the modern economy, which had been dominated by urban European settlers (the pied-noirs). French sources estimated that at least 70,000 Muslim civilians were killed or abducted and presumed killed, by the FLN during the Algerian War. Nearly one million people of mostly French, Spanish and Italian descent left the country at independence due to the privileges that they lost as settlers and their unwillingness to be on equal footing with indigenous Algerians along with them left most Algerians of Jewish descent and those Muslim Algerians who had supported a French Algeria (harkis). 30–150,000 pro-French Muslims were also killed in Algeria by FLN in post-war reprisals.
Ben Bella presidency (1962–65)
The Algerian independence referendum was held in French Algeria on 1 July 1962, passing with 99.72% of the vote. As a result, France declared Algeria independent on 3 July. On 8 September 1963, the first Algerian constitution was adopted by nationwide referendum under close supervision by the National Liberation Front (FLN). Later that month, Ahmed Ben Bella was formally elected the first president of Algeria for a five-year term after receiving support from the FLN and the military, led by Colonel Houari Boumédiène.
However, the war for independence and its aftermath had severely disrupted Algeria's society and economy. In addition to the destruction of much of Algeria's infrastructure, an exodus of the upper-class French and European colons from Algeria deprived the country of most of its managers, civil servants, engineers, teachers, physicians, and skilled workers. The homeless and displaced numbered in the hundreds of thousands, many suffering from illness, and some 70 percent of the workforce was unemployed. The months immediately following independence witnessed the pell-mell rush of Algerians and government officials to claim the property and jobs left behind by the European colons. For example in the 1963 March Decrees, President Ben Bella declared all agricultural, industrial, and commercial properties previously owned and operated by Europeans vacant, thereby legalizing confiscation by the state.
The military played an important role in Ben Bella's administration. Since the president recognized the role that the military played in bringing him to power, he appointed senior military officers as ministers and other important positions within the new state, including naming Colonel Boumédiène as defence minister. These military officials played a core role into implementing the country's security and foreign policy.
Under the new constitution, Ben Bella's presidency combined the functions of chief of state and head of government with those of supreme commander of the armed forces. He formed his government without needing legislative approval and was responsible for the definition and direction of its policies. There was no effective institutional check on the president's powers. As a result, opposition leader Hocine Aït-Ahmed quit the National Assembly in 1963 to protest the increasingly dictatorial tendencies of the regime and formed a clandestine resistance movement, the Socialist Forces Front (Front des Forces Socialistes—FFS), dedicated to overthrowing the Ben Bella regime by force.
Late summer 1963 saw sporadic incidents attributed to the FFS, but more serious fighting broke out a year later, and the army moved quickly and in force to crush a rebellion. Minister of Defense Boumédiène had no qualms about sending the army to put down regional uprisings because he felt they posed a threat to the state. However, President Ben Bella attempted to co-opt allies from among these regional leaders in order to undermine the ability of military commanders to influence foreign and security policy. Tensions consequently built between Boumédiène and Ben Bella, and in 1965 the military removed Ben Bella in a coup d'état, replacing him with Boumédiène as head of state.
The 1965 coup and the Boumédienne military regime
On 19 June 1965, Houari Boumédiène deposed Ahmed Ben Bella in a military coup d'état that was both swift and bloodless. Ben Bella "disappeared", and would not be seen again until he was released from house arrest in 1980 by Boumédiène's successor, Colonel Chadli Bendjedid. Boumédiène immediately dissolved the National Assembly and suspended the 1963 constitution. Political power resided in the Nation Council of the Algerian Revolution (Conseil National de la Révolution Algérienne—CNRA), a predominantly military body intended to foster cooperation among various factions in the army and the party.
Houari Boumédiène's position as head of government and of state was initially insecure, partly because of his lack of a significant power base outside of the armed forces. He relied strongly on a network of former associates known as the Oujda group, named after Boumédiène's posting as National Liberation Army (Armée de Libération Nationale—ALN) leader in the Moroccan border town of Oujda during the war years, but he could not fully dominate his fractious regime. This situation may have accounted for his deference to collegial rule.
Over Boumédiène's 11-year reign as Chairman of the CNRA, the council introduced two formal mechanisms: the People's Municipal Assembly (Assemblée Populaires Communales) and the People's Provincial Assembly (Assemblée Populaires de Wilaya) for popular participation in politics. Under Boumédiène's rule, leftist and socialist concepts were merged with Islam.
Boumédiène also used Islam to opportunistically consolidate his power. On one hand, he made token concessions and cosmetic changes to the government to appear more Islamic, such as putting Islamist Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi in charge of national education in 1965 and adopting policies criminalizing gambling, establishing Friday as the national holiday, and dropping plans to introduce birth control to paint an Islamic image of the new government. But on the other hand, Boumédiène's government also progressively repressed Islamic groups, such as by ordering the dissolution of Al Qiyam.
Following attempted coups—most notably that of chief-of-staff Col. Tahar Zbiri in December 1967—and a failed assassination attempt on 25 April, 1968, Boumédiène consolidated power and forced military and political factions to submit. He took a systematic, authoritarian approach to state building, arguing that Algeria needed stability and an economic base before building any political institutions.
Eleven years after Boumédiène took power, after much public debate, a long-promised new constitution was promulgated in November 1976. The constitution restored the National Assembly and gave it legislative, consent, and oversight functions. Boumédiène was later elected president with 95 percent of the cast votes.
Bendjedid rule (1978–92), the 1992 Coup d'État and the rise of the civil war
Boumédiène's death on 27 December, 1978 set off a struggle within the FLN to choose a successor. A deadlock occurred between two candidates was broken when Colonel Chadli Bendjedid, a moderate who had collaborated with Boumédiène in deposing Ahmed Ben Bella, was sworn in on February 9, 1979. He was re-elected in 1984 and 1988. After the violent 1988 October Riots, a new constitution was adopted in 1989 that eradicated the Algerian one-party state by allowing the formation of political associations in addition to the FLN. It also removed the armed forces, which had run the government since the days of Boumédiène, from a role in the operation of the government.
Among the scores of parties that sprang up under the new constitution, the militant Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut—FIS) was the most successful, winning a majority of votes in the June 1990 municipal elections, as well as the first stage of the December national legislative elections.
The surprising first round of success for the fundamentalist FIS party in the December 1991 balloting caused the army to discuss options to intervene in the election. Officers feared that an Islamist government would interfere with their positions and core interests in economic, national security, and foreign policy, since the FIS has promised to make a fundamental re-haul of the social, political, and economic structure to achieve a radical Islamist agenda. Senior military figures, such as Defence Minister Khaled Nezzar, Chief of the General Staff Abdelmalek Guenaizia, and other leaders of the navy, Gendarmerie, and security services, all agreed that the FIS should be stopped from gaining power at the polling box. They also agreed that Bendjedid would need to be removed from office due to his determination to uphold the country's new constitution by continuing with the second round of ballots.
On 11 January 1992, Bendjedid announced his resignation on national television, saying it was necessary to "protect the unity of the people and the security of the country". Later that same day, the High Council of State (Haut Comité d'Etat—HCE), which was composed of five people (including Khaled Nezzar, Tedjini Haddam, Ali Kafi, Mohamed Boudiaf and Ali Haroun), was appointed to carry out the duties of the president.
The new government, led by Sid Ahmed Ghozali, banned all political activity at mosques and began stopping people from attending prayers at popular mosques. The FIS was legally dissolved by Interior Minister Larbi Belkheir on 9 February for attempting "insurrections against the state". A state of emergency was also declared and extraordinary powers, such as curtailing the right to associate, were granted to the regime.
Between January and March, a growing number of FIS militants were arrested by the military, including Abdelkader Hachani and his successors, Othman Aissani and Rabah Kebir. Following the announcement to dissolve the FIS and implement a state of emergency on 9 February, the Algerian security forces used their new emergency powers to conduct large scale arrests of FIS members and housed them in 5 "detention centers" in the Sahara. Between 5,000 (official number) and 30,000 (FIS number) people were detained.
This crackdown led to a fundamental Islamic insurgency, resulting in the continuous and brutal 10 year-long Algerian Civil War. During the civil war, the secular state apparatus nonetheless allowed elections featuring pro-government and moderate religious-based parties. The civil war lasted from 1991 to 2002.
Civil War and Bouteflika (1992–2019)
After Chadli Bendjedid resigned from the presidency in the military coup of 1992, a series of figureheads were selected by the military to assume the presidency, as officers were reluctant to assume public political power even though they had manifested control over the government. Additionally, the military's senior leaders felt a need to give a civilian face to the new political regime they had hastily constructed in the aftermath of Benjedid's ousting and the termination of elections, preferring a friendlier non-military face to front the regime.
The first such head of state was Mohamed Boudiaf, who was appointed president of the High Council of State (HCE) in February 1992 after a 27-year exile in Morocco. However, Boudiaf quickly came to odds with the military when attempts by Boudiaf to appoint his own staff or form a political party were viewed with suspicion by officers. Boudiaf also launched political initiatives, such as a rigorous anti-corruption campaign in April 1992 and the sacking of Khaled Nezzar from his post as Defence Minister, which were seen by the military as an attempt to remove their influence in the government. The former of these initiatives was especially hazardous to the many senior military officials who had benefited massively and illegally from the political system for years. In the end, Boudiaf was assassinated in June 1992 by one of his bodyguards with Islamist sympathies.
Ali Kafi briefly assumed the HCE presidency after Boudiaf's death, before Liamine Zéroual was appointed as a long-term replacement in 1994. However, Zéroual only remained in office for four years before he announced his retirement, as he quickly became embroiled in a clan warfare within the upper classes of the military and fell out with groups of the more senior generals. After this Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Boumédiène's foreign minister, succeeded as the president.
As the Algerian civil war wound to a close, presidential elections were held again in April 1999. Although seven candidates qualified for election, all but Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who had the support of the military as well as the National Liberation Front (FLN), withdrew on the eve of the election amid charges of electoral fraud and interference from the military. Bouteflika went on to win with 70 percent of the cast votes.
Despite the purportedly democratic elections, the civilian government immediately after the 1999 elections only acted as a sort of 'hijab' over the true government, mostly running day-to-day businesses, while the military still largely ran the country behind the scenes. For example, ministerial mandates to individuals were only granted with the military's approval, and different factions of the military invested in various political parties and the press, using them as pawns to gain influence.
However, the military's influence over politics decreased gradually, leaving Bouteflika with more authority on deciding policy. One reason for this was that the senior commanders who had dominated the political scene during the 1960s and 1970s started to retire. Bouteflika's former experience as Boumédiène's foreign minister earned him connections that rejuvenated Algeria's international reputation, which had been tarnished in the early 1990s due to the civil war. On the domestic front, Bouteflika's policy of "national reconciliation" to bring a close to civilian violence earned him a popular mandate that helped him to win further presidential terms in 2004, 2009 and 2014.
In 2010, journalists gathered to demonstrate for press freedom and against Bouteflika's self-appointed role as editor-in-chief of Algeria's state television station. In February 2011, the government rescinded the state of emergency that had been in place since 1992 but still banned all protest gatherings and demonstrations. However, in April 2011, over 2,000 protesters defied the official ban and took to the streets of Algiers, clashing with police forces. These protests can be seen as a part of the Arab Spring, with protesters noting that they were inspired by the recent Egyptian revolution, and that Algeria was a police state that was "corrupt to the bone".
In 2019, after 20 years in office, Bouteflika announced in February that he would seek a fifth term of office. This sparked widespread discontent around Algeria and protests in Algiers. Despite later attempts at saying he would resign after his term finished in late April, Bouteflika resigned on 2 April, after the chief of the army, Ahmed Gaid Salah, made a declaration that he was "unfit for office". Despite Gaid Salah being loyal to Bouteflika, many in the military identified with civilians, as nearly 70 percent of the army are civilian conscripts who are required to serve for 18 months. Also, since demonstrators demanded a change to the whole governmental system, many army officers aligned themselves with demonstrators in the hopes of surviving an anticipated revolution and retaining their positions.
After Bouteflika (2019-)
Following the presidential election on 12 December 2019, Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected president after taking 58% of the votes, beating the candidates from both main parties, the National Liberation Front and the Democratic National Rally.
On the eve of the first anniversary of the Hirak Movement, which led to the resignation of former president Bouteflika, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced in a statement to the Algerian national media that 22 February would be declared the Algerian "National Day of Fraternity and Cohesion between the People and Its Army for Democracy." In the same statement, Tebboune spoke in favor of the Hirak Movement, saying that "the blessed Hirak has preserved the country from a total collapse", and that he had "made a personal commitment to carry out all of the [movement's] demands." On 21 and 22 February 2020, masses of demonstrators (with turnout comparable to well-established Algerian holidays like the Algerian Day of Independence) gathered to honor the anniversary of the Hirak Movement and the newly established national day.
In an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Tebboune announced on 17 March 2020 that "marches and rallies, whatever their motives" would be prohibited. But after protesters and journalists were arrested for participating in such marches, Tebboune faced accusations of attempting to "silence Algerians." Notably, the government's actions were condemned by Amnesty International, which said in a statement that "when all eyes [...] are on the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Algerian authorities are devoting time to speeding up the prosecution and trial of activists, journalists, and supporters of the Hirak movement." The National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (Comité national pour la libération des détenus—CNLD) estimated that around 70 prisoners of conscience were imprisoned by 2 July 2020 and that several of the imprisoned were arrested for Facebook posts.
On 28 December 2019, the then-recently inaugurated President Tebboune met with Ahmed Benbitour, the former Algerian Head of Government, with whom he discussed the "foundations of the new Republic." On 8 January 2020, Tebboune established a "commission of experts" composed of 17 members (a majority of which were professors of constitutional law) responsible for examining the previous constitution and making any necessary revisions. Led by Ahmed Laraba, the commission was required to submit its proposals to Tebboune directly within the following two months. In a letter to Laraba on the same day, Tebboune outlined seven axes around which the commission should focus its discussion. These areas of focus included strengthening citizens' rights, combating corruption, consolidating the balance of powers in the Algerian government, increasing the oversight powers of parliament, promoting the independence of the judiciary, furthering citizens' equality under the law, and constitutionalizing elections. Tebboune's letter also included a call for an "immutable and intangible" two-term limit to anyone serving as president — a major point of contention in the initial Hirak Movement protests, which were spurred by former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika's announcement to run for a fifth term.
The preliminary draft revision of the constitution was publicly published on 7 May 2020, but the Laraba Commission (as the "commission of experts" came to be known) was open to additional proposals from the public until 20 June. By 3 June, the commission had received an estimated 1,200 additional public proposals. After all revisions were considered by the Laraba Commission, the draft was introduced to the Cabinet of Algeria (Council of Ministers).
The revised constitution was adopted in the Council of Ministers on 6 September, in the People's National Assembly on 10 September, and in the Council of the Nation on 12 September. The constitutional changes were approved in the 1 November 2020 referendum, with 66.68% of voters participating in favour of the changes.
On 16 February 2021, mass protests and a wave of nationwide rallies and peaceful demonstrations against the government of Abdelmadjid Tebboune began.
- Culture of Algeria
- Colonial Heads of Algeria
- Heads of Government of Algeria
- History of Africa
- History of North Africa
- List of Presidents of Algeria
- Politics of Algeria
- Prime Ministers of Algeria
- History of cities in Algeria:
1.^ The indigenous peoples of northern Africa were identified by the Romans as Berbers, a word derived from the word Barbare or Barbarian, but they prefer being called "Imazighen". 2. ^ On the Banu Hilal invasion, see Ibn Khaldoun (v.1).
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Historiography and memory
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