Algeria Recent History

At the beginning of the historical era, today’s Algeria was populated by people of different ethnic groups, including those of the Berber nomads, of uncertain origin, who had settled in this part of Africa since time immemorial.

According to Abbreviationfinder, a first embryo of organization was the Numidian State, with King Massinissa, who occupied approximately present-day Algeria north of the Sahara.

Instead in the central part of the desert, in a desert expanse, there lived other tribes, warriors, of Berber origin: the aristocrats and proud Tuareg (or blue men) who still disdain any type of work and live in luxurious tents, only herding. In the early days they were relentless and fierce marauders.

The Numidian state underwent a long period of Carthaginian colonization and with the destruction of Carthage (by the Romans), which occurred in 146 BC, it became a Roman province and remained so until the fifth century, reaching a high degree of prosperity and a certain unity.

Under Rome, in Algeria, large cities sprang up, centers of culture and traffic. Sant’Agostino was born in Tagaste (today Souk-Ahras) in 354.

Then, in the Middle Ages, around 430, Algeria was invaded by the Vandals. Only a few Berber tribes managed to maintain their independence, taking refuge in the Atlas Mountains and in Kabylia, a place where, even in the following centuries, the natives kept their spirit of freedom alive and active.

Then the Byzantines intervened but managed to settle only on the Algerian coast, countering Islamic penetration for over a hundred years. Until the Arab occupation took place in 647. The Arabs encountered strong resistance from the Berber tribes and only in 692, with the collapse of that heroic resistance, led by the great Queen Khaina, were they able to incorporate the region into their empire and ended up establishing themselves.

Continued rebellions and splits, however, led to the formation of autonomous states, with dynasties that fought over control of the coastal strip from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Apart from the period in which the Almohad, Islamic sect and dynasty of princes (1120-1270), achieved the unification of North Africa and the union with Muslim Spain; political chaos and economic instability reigned until 1500.

Algeria Recent History

From 1500 Algeria was then dominated by Spaniards and Turks. The latter made the ports of the coast the basis for their terrible pirate exploits, which the Spaniards tried several times to eradicate. Ferdinand of Castile, after having occupied the strongholds of Mers el Kebir, Bougia and Oran, made Algiers capitulate in 1515.
The Algerians then resorted to the help of the Turkish corsairs: but their leader, Khair al Din, nicknamed Barbarossa, drove back the Spaniards, proclaimed himself Sultan and then consolidated his position by submitting part of the interior of the territory.
This event was considered the first real step towards the formation of an Algerian state which, within the Turkish Empire, reached maximum prosperity in the seventeenth century. A partnership was established in which political power was in the hands of the Turks while the Berbers were involved in trade, including the slave trade, and piracy.
And to combat the latter, in the early nineteenth century the European states decided to intervene. In 1816 the English fleet bombed Algiers and in 1830 Charles X, king of France, sent an expedition with the task of conquering Algiers. Which happened on July 5th of that year.

From that moment the history of Algeria coincided with the progressive French military occupation. The Turks were definitively defeated and driven out in 1847, while the Berbers resisted desperately until the complete fall of Kabylia in 1857.

The French tried to “equalize” the position of the Europeans and that of the natives, declaring the “Algerian territory” metropolitan, that is true French territory, and in the space of 50 years Algeria went from conditions of anarchy and social dissolution to a moderate level of prosperity and economic progress.

Of course, the “colonists” benefited mainly, while the Muslim population had no political weight.
And yet, however, that Muslim population, which represented 85% of the total, slowly acquired a national conscience. And in 1933 a congress of nationalist leaders demanded the withdrawal of all French troops and especially of the famous “Foreign Legion”, wanting to acquire total independence.

The “settlers” immediately tried to quell the riots by frustrating any desire for freedom of the Algerians.
During the Second World War, when Northern Africa, in 1942, was occupied by the Allies, the nationalist leaders re-presented their requests for self-determination in the spirit of the Atlantic Charter: France rejected them. This gave rise to a serious state of tension from which sporadic movements of rebellion followed, always suffocated in blood, as happened in May 1945 in Setif with 15,000 Europeans dead.

On March 7, 1944, an Algerian provisional government was established; the “Friends of the Manifesto” was born, headed by the autonomist Ferhat Abbas, and the Nationalist Party led by Messali Hadj.
Administrative elections were called in June 1946 and Ferhat Abbas achieved resounding success by conquering all the seats of the Muslim college.

On September 20, 1947, France granted Algeria a statute that regulated the vote of Muslims and the independence of their worship, in addition to teaching the Arabic language. But he was unable to apply the rules in order to satisfy the needs of the people who, taking advantage of the situation, accentuated the propaganda against French rule; and finally understood the need to organize an armed insurrection across the country.

The patriots gathered around the “National Liberation Front” (FLN) created by Hadj and Abbas; the territory was divided into 6 military zones and the war began on 1st November 1954.

France responded immediately with the arrest of the secretary general of the Algerian People’s Party and other political leaders; prohibited the publication of the weekly “Libertè”, organ of the Algerian Communist Party, and began real military actions.
Throughout 1955 there were nationalist guerrilla operations, terrorism, sabotage, attacks and coups, which kept the authorities and the population in constant alarm.

In order to maintain control of the situation, France appointed J. Soustelle as Governor General who drew up a reform plan, including the agrarian one. But this plan, which naturally provided for the integration of Algeria into France, was rejected by the FLN. Not only that, but in the following two years the struggles strengthened and the French government, facing an increasingly difficult situation, offered peace negotiations that began in Evian, Switzerland, while fighting and attacks continued in Algerian territory.

Finally, the conviction that Algeria was ripe to decide on its future also made its way in France, first came a truce and then peace.

The Algerians, called to a referendum, gave 91% of the votes for independence, which was proclaimed on July 3, 1962.
France immediately freed from captivity in which the heads of the former provisional government were located, including Ben Bella and the chief of FLN forces, Hawari Bu Midyan (Boumedienne) who had moved to Morocco.

After independence was proclaimed they returned to Algeria and created a political office in Tlemsen which came into conflict with the provisional government in charge to almost lead to a civil war. This was avoided thanks to an intervention by the General Union of Algerian Workers; then on September 20, 1962 the elections for the Constituent Assembly took place: Ferhat Abbas was elected president and Ben Bella was charged with forming the new government. And it was time to restore the economic situation in the country, already precarious, but also exacerbated by the exodus of Europeans from Algeria, which thus remained without administrators, technicians, entrepreneurs and professionals. Many farms, factories and shops were closed and 70% of the population was unemployed. In March 1963 the new government issued decrees whereby,
In September of the same year, a referendum was held which approved the establishment of a presidential republic with only one party, the Pli, and Ben Bella was elected president, but in addition to being head of state and government, he also became commander in chief of the armed forces..

This take over of all sectors in the hands of one person provoked various reactions. Ferhat Abbas rebelled and was expelled from the party, the Berbers of Kabilia became agitated and the head of the Front of the Socialist Forces (SBB) also tried to oppose Ben Bella, but then joined it.

Then Ben Bella began her work, first overcoming a border conflict with Morocco; obtaining aid from the Soviet Union and the World Bank, and removing many historical leaders of the Algerian revolution from the political scene in the south of the country.

He also wanted to promote a conference of Afro-Asian countries, to be held in Algiers; but on 19 June 1965 a coup took place, carried out by his old ally Boumedienne, who deposed him.

Power was taken over by a Council of the Revolution which proposed to immediately create a truly socialist state. Boumedienne was immediately Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
In the international arena he operated a prudent policy and slowly made Algeria regain prestige and credibility. Then he nationalized several sectors of industrial production, controlled all foreign interests, eliminated the privileges granted to France and in 1971 the Evian agreements were abolished and new ones were signed.

Meanwhile, a situation of discontent had arisen within the country because power had been precisely concentrated in the hands of Boumedienne and a group of technocrats with whom he had surrounded himself, and this provoked rebellions, immediately repressed, also because he, not being sure of having a majority in the government, he did not want to bring together the Council of the Revolution, as had been requested by many parties.

There were rebellions and strikes also by students and on April 25, 1968 there was also an attack on Boumedienne. Then he was able to restore calm in the country and in 1970 he approved measures of clemency towards the opponents of the regime. However, as the students’ discontent continued to upset the state, he made compulsory civil service available to them so that as they matured they better understood their duties to the community.

Boumedienne wanted to reconstitute the FLN with variations that would make it more advanced; proposed the establishment of a National Charter to renew the Constitution and on July 27, 1976, for this purpose, a referendum took place, with which the proposal became executive.

In December of the same year there were presidential elections and Boumedienne, the only candidate, was elected. Then he planned a congress of the FLN but was unable to implement it because in late 1978, struck by an illness, he died in December.

The succession was laborious; there were two trends that confronted each other, a radical socialist and a more moderate one. Despite the preponderance of the former, Colonel Sadhili Ben Gadid was appointed as the only candidate in the elections, who in fact won them, becoming president on February 7, 1979.

His first concern was to decentralize his powers, then he had to deal with the complete Arabization of the country, tenaciously desired by everyone, but especially by the students, who first asked for the elimination of the French language in education, justice and civil administration.

Ben Gadid was re-elected in both 1984 and 1988. However, he had to loosen the rigid scheme imposed by socialism, already applied by Boumedienne, and he had to remedy the serious economic crisis, also due to the international fall in the price of oil.

It was not all; a large religious protest was launched within the town. Muslims demanded more respect for their laws and the formation of an Islamic Republic. There were bloody riots with hundreds of victims. But institutional reforms came to appease the hearts; Multiparty was introduced, the “Islamic Salvation Front” was formed, which overturned the 1990 administrative elections.

In foreign policy, old disagreements with Mauritania and Morocco were smoothed out and for what pertained to the Gulf War, Algeria first disapproved of the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi nation, but in opposition to the UN intervention, although remaining neutral, he stood in favor of Saddam Hussayn.

Following the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front, numerous clashes took place, with victims, between the followers and the police. Ben Gadid, in order to restore order, suspended the already scheduled political elections.

These were held in the first round in December 1991, and the Front took another hit. In January 1992 Ben Gadid was forced to resign from the military summit and the second round of the elections was canceled by the State High Security Council.

Then from exile M. Budyaf was recalled to whom he was assigned the post of president and the state of siege was proclaimed.

All this to prevent the Islamic Front from assuming government powers with a new electoral victory. An absolutely important and influential task was done by General K. Nezzar, Minister of Defense.

He repressed Muslims by declaring the most extremist wing of the Front illegal. The opposition of the most radical activists exploded violently and went underground and operated so many and such terrorist actions to precipitate the country into a real deep crisis, which also perpetrated the assassination of President Budyaf in June 1992.

During the three-year period 1992/95 there were numerous continuous acts of terrorism that involved the killing of women, foreign citizens, intellectuals of all kinds, political exponents of various tendencies, and then massacres of civilians and soldiers and attacks in France.

The High Security Council appointed General L. Zeroual as head of state in January 1994. He tried to ease the tension a little by practicing a more conciliatory policy and promoting dialogue with the opposition. Everything was useless because by contrast the attacks in the country increased. Then the regime, which was heavily dominated by military forces, launched a series of violent countermeasures outside even the most limited respect for human rights.

An urgent solution had to be found and then in January 1995 the main opposition parties, in hiding, met to agree on the formation of a government of national unity. This happened in Rome, but the official declarations, signed in the headquarters of the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, did not find even the smallest consideration from the Algerian government which rejected them without any possibility of agreement.

The presidential elections in which Zeroual prevailed took place in November 1995. Although Islamic terrorists were threatened in every way by possible voters, participation was 75%. This was intended to proclaim the legitimacy of the government with the consequent desire to see illegality and terrorism cease.

Another important fact of these elections was the participation of women who could finally do it themselves instead of being represented by their fathers or husbands, as had happened until then.

The following year, November 28, 1996, some reforms to the Constitution were made by referendum, through which Islam was recognized as the state’s official religion; parties based on religious foundations were excluded from politics; The powers of the President were strengthened with the creation of a second Chamber whose representatives were one third appointed by him.

This referendum was opposed by all opponents and the year 1997 was characterized above all by the enormous massacres, which took place especially in Algiers and the surrounding area. In this same year both legislative and political elections took place; both strengthened the President’s party.

A strange note of this period, despite the violence and unrest and the repeated massacres of the Muslims, was the improvement in the economic situation, certainly due to the increase in the price of oil.

In 1998 the fight against terrorism had some successes but not of great importance, and in September Zeroual suddenly resigned. Naturally, new presidential elections were needed which took place on April 15, 1999 and which, under the aegis of the true protagonist of the situation, that is, the army, assigned the palms of victory to Abdelaziz Bouteflika, already Boumedienne’s right-hand man in 1970, with the very high consent of 73% of the votes.