Former Algerian president Bouteflika ousted amid protests dies – NBC Connecticut
Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who fought for independence from France, reconciled his conflict-ravaged nation and was later ousted amid pro-democracy protests in 2019 after two decades in power , has died at the age of 84, state television reported on Friday.
The ENTV report, citing a statement from the office of current President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, provided neither the cause of death nor any information on funeral arrangements.
Bouteflika had suffered a stroke in 2013 which severely weakened him. Concerns about his state of health, kept secret from the Algerian public, have helped fuel public frustration with his 20-year reign marred by corruption. Mass public protests by the Hirak movement led to his departure.
A shrewd political chameleon, Bouteflika was known as a cunning survivor since he fought for independence from colonial France in the 1950s and 1960s.
He stood up to Henry Kissinger as Algeria’s longtime foreign minister, successfully negotiated with the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal to release the oil ministers held hostage in an attack on the OPEC headquarters in 1975, and helped reconcile Algerian citizens with one another after a decade of civil war between radical Muslim militants and Algerian security forces.
“I am a maverick politician. I am a revolutionary, ”Bouteflika told The Associated Press on the eve of his first presidential victory in 1999, after a campaign marred by accusations of fraud that prompted his six rivals to withdraw from the poll.
By taking office, Bouteflika promised “to turn definitively the dark pages of our history to work for a new era”.
Born on March 2, 1937 to Algerian parents in the border town of Oujda, Morocco, Bouteflika was one of Algeria’s most enduring politicians.
In 1956, Bouteflika joined the National Liberation Army, formed to fight Algeria’s bloody war of independence. He commands the southern front of Mali and slips clandestinely into France.
After the end of the war, Bouteflika became Minister of Foreign Affairs at just 25 years old, at a time when Algeria was a model of doctrinaire socialism attached to the Soviet Union. Its capital, Algiers, was nicknamed “Moscow on the Mediterranean”.
He held this post for 16 years, helping to increase Algeria’s influence and define the country as a leader of the third world and non-aligned movements. He was active in the United Nations and chaired the United Nations General Assembly in 1974.
In 1978, disappeared from view for nearly two decades, spending more than six years in exile to evade corruption charges which were later dropped.
The Algerian army held the reins of power throughout this period. The National Liberation Army had evolved into a single party which ruled until 1989, when a multi-party system was introduced.
But as the Islamic Salvation Front, or FIS, quickly gained support, the military canceled Algeria’s first multiparty legislative elections in 1992 to thwart a likely victory for Muslim fundamentalists. An insurgency erupted that left around 200,000 people dead in the years that followed.
Bouteflika took office in 1999, Algeria’s first civilian leader for more than three decades. He succeeded in bringing stability to a country almost brought to its knees by violence, unveiling a daring program in 2005 to reconcile the fractured nation by persuading radical Muslims to lay down their arms.
Bouteflika and the armed forces neutralized the Algerian insurgency, but then saw it metastasize into a Saharan-wide movement linked to smuggling and kidnappings – and al-Qaida.
Bouteflika was alongside the United States in the fight against terrorism after the attacks of September 11, 2001, in particular on intelligence sharing and military cooperation. It marked a turning point from the militant anti-America and Soviet army of yesteryear, when figures like Black Panthers leader Eldridge Cleaver took refuge there.
Bouteflika’s powerful political machine had the constitution amended to overturn the presidency’s two-term limit. He was then re-elected in 2009 and 2013, amid accusations of fraud and a lack of powerful challengers.
Her burning past was dissolved as age and disease took their toll on the once charismatic figure. Corruption scandals over infrastructure and hydrocarbon projects haunted him for years and tarnished many of his closest associates. His brother, two former prime ministers and other senior officials are now in prison for corruption.
Bouteflika balked at the region-wide calls for change embodied in the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions that toppled three dictators in the east. Bouteflika mitigated the unrest through wage increases and subsidies, a vigilant security force and a lack of unity in the country’s opposition. It has also failed to restore civic trust or create an economy that could provide the jobs needed for Algeria’s growing youth population despite the country’s vast oil and gas wealth.
Bouteflika was increasingly out of sight during his third and fourth presidential terms after suffering a stroke. The extent to which Bouteflika was controlled by the military remained uncertain. He once told the PA that he turned down the post of president in 1994 because he was unable to accept conditions imposed by the military.
The Hirak protests in Algeria erupted after he announced his intention to run for a fifth term in 2019, and it was the then army chief who sealed Bouteflika’s fate by siding with him. Some protestors. Bouteflika had no choice but to withdraw.
Despite new elections and some gestures towards the demonstrators, the Algerian leadership remains opaque and has recently cracked down on dissent, especially among the Berber populations.
The secrecy surrounding the Algerian leadership is such that it is not clear whether Bouteflika ever married or had any survivors.
Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.