Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has died at 84, the presidency announced on Friday, more than two years after stepping down under pressure from mass protests and the army.
Bouteflika, a veteran of Algeria’s war of independence, had ruled the North African country for two decades before his resignation in April 2019 after street protests rejecting his plan to run for a fifth term.
He had rarely been seen in public before his departure since a stroke in 2013.
After Bouteflika’s resignation, in an effort to end protests demanding political and economic reforms, the authorities launched unprecedented corruption investigations, leading to the imprisonment of several senior officials, including the powerful brother and adviser of Bouteflika, Saïd. Said was jailed for 15 years on charges including conspiracy against the state.
After Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, former President Bouteflika became Algerian Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs and an influential figure in the Non-Aligned Movement which gave Africa a global voice, l ‘Asia and Latin America.
As president of the United Nations General Assembly, Bouteflika invited former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to address the forum in 1974, a historic step towards international recognition of the Palestinian cause.
He also called for China to get a seat at the United Nations and spoke out against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
He championed postcolonial states, challenged what he saw as the hegemony of the United States, and helped his country embark on the idealism of the 1960s.
He also welcomed Che Guevara, and a young Nelson Mandela got his first training in Algeria. Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, fleeing the US police, has found refuge.
In the early 1980s, Bouteflika went into exile after the death of former President Houari Boumediene and moved to Dubai, where he became an advisor to a member of the reigning family of the emirate.
He returned home in the 1990s when Algeria was ravaged by a war between the army and armed militants that left at least 200,000 dead.
Elected president in 1999, he managed to negotiate a truce with the militants and launched a process of national reconciliation allowing the country to restore peace.
Bouteflika joined the war of independence against France at the age of 19 as a protégé of Commander Boumediene, who became president in 1965.
After independence, Bouteflika became Minister of Youth and Tourism at the age of 25. The following year he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Little is known about her private life, official documents do not mention any wives, although some accounts say that a marriage took place in 1990. For years Bouteflika lived with her mother, Mansouriah, in an apartment in Algiers, where she prepared her meals.
Bouteflika had used the oil and gas revenues to quell internal discontent, and the state he led became more peaceful and prosperous, allowing him to avoid the unrest of the “Arab Spring” for a time. who overthrew the region’s leaders in 2011.
But corruption flourished and Algerians grew increasingly angry with the political and economic torpor, fueling the mass protests that ultimately ended Bouteflika’s presidency.