Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s Longest-Serving President, Dies at 84

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Mr Bouteflika, removed from the presidency in 2019 after 20 years in office, became involved in the country’s fight for independence in the 1950s and helped lead the country from a brutal civil war in the 1990s.

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ALGIERS – Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who joined his country’s fight against French colonial rule in the 1950s, became foreign minister at age 26, went into exile on corruption charges and then went into exile for helping the country out of civil war. Returned to, state television reported that he had died, state television reported on Friday. He was 84 years old.

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Mr Boutflika, who was ousted from the presidency in 2019, has led Algeria for 20 years longer than his predecessors.

After having a stroke in early 2013, he spent two and a half months in a French military hospital and several more months recovering.

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Following the stroke, Mr Bouteflika was rarely seen in public or on television, leaving many with the impression that the country was being governed by his inner circle, which was suspected in several corruption scandals.

Despite his health problems, he insisted on running for a fourth term in elections in April 2014, a decision that divided the ruling elite, the military and the country’s intelligence apparatus. Algeria’s main opposition parties refused to participate in the election, and refused to recognize the result when it returned to power with 81 percent of the vote.

Mr Bouteflika nevertheless remained in power, ruling by written instruction and occasionally receiving foreign dignitaries.

Protests erupted in late February 2019, when it was announced that Mr Bouteflika would run for a fifth term in elections to be held on 18 April. Thousands of protesters marched peacefully in central Algiers on 1 March, chanting the slogan “Goodbye, bye, Bouteflika”. and “No fifth term!” Amidst reports that he has left the country for a medical test in Geneva.

By April of that year, popular unrest forced his resignation.

He was born on March 2, 1937, in Oudja, Morocco, to Algerian parents, who was then a French patron, where he grew up and went to school. (His Moroccan debut was not usually mentioned in his official Algerian biography.)

At the age of 20 he joined the National Liberation Army in rebellion against the French colonial administration of Algeria and served in the so-called Borders Army, which operated from Moroccan territory. He became a close assistant to the revolutionary leader. howri boumedien.

After Algeria gained independence in 1962, Mr. Bouteflika was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports in the government of Algeria’s first elected President, Ahmed Ben Bella. He led the Algerian delegation to talks with France in 1963 and was appointed Foreign Minister that year.

In 1965 he was a key actor in a bloodless coup led by Mr. Baumedien that overthrew President Ben Bella. Mr Bouteflika remained in charge of the Foreign Ministry until Mr Boumedin’s death in December 1978. He was a gifted and flamboyant foreign minister who pioneered a policy of anti-colonial and non-interventionism and brought Algeria to prominence as the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. and is a founding member of the African Union.

Mr Bouteflika was mentioned for some time as a possible successor to Mr Boumedienne, until he was arrested and tried by the Court of Auditors on charges of misappropriating millions of dollars from the foreign ministry’s budget. . He decided – or was forced – to go into exile abroad for six years.

Returning to Algeria in 1987, he rejoined the Central Committee of the National Liberation Front, the political wing of the independence movement. But he remained behind the stage until much of the 1990s, when military and intelligence figures dominated the government amid a war with Algeria’s Islamist rebels.

The rebellion began when the government canceled elections to prevent a landslide victory for the Islamic party, the Islamic Salvation Front, also known by its French abbreviation, FIS.

As the Civil War was coming to an end, Mr. Bouteflika made his way to the fore. Running for the presidency in 1999, he found himself the lone candidate after six rivals withdrew in protest, saying the election conditions were unfair.

As president, he promoted the concept of “national reconciliation”, imposing genuine apologies to all opponents of the war, whether Islamists or members of the military. Both sides were accused by human rights organizations of committing atrocities during the war, in which an estimated 200,000 Algerians were killed.

Mr Bouteflika then won three more elections, the last time in April 2014, after an amendment to the constitution allowed him to run without a term limit. His supporters credit him with restoring peace and security to the country after a decade of disastrous war and suggest that he was the only person who was able to unite the country in its aftermath. Opponents blamed him for economic stagnation and corruption and nepotism as his reign lengthened, and ultimately criticized him as selfish in refusing to give up power when he was in poor health.

Nevertheless, he ensured that Algeria remained a significant influence in North African regional affairs, cooperating with France and the United States on counter-terrorism strategies in the region, and conflicts and conflicts in the neighboring states of Mali, Libya and Tunisia. helping to mediate political instability.

Amir Jalal Zardoumi reported from Algiers, Algeria and Carlota Gall from Istanbul.

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