Houari Boumediene

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Houari Boumediene
هواري بومدين
Houari Boumediene's Portrait.jpg
Chairman of the Revolutionary Council
In office
19 June 1965 – 10 December 1976
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Ahmed Belhouchet
2nd President of Algeria
In office
10 December 1976 – 27 December 1978
Preceded by Ahmed Ben Bella
Succeeded by Rabah Bitat
4th Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement
In office
5 September 1973 – 16 August 1976
Preceded by Kenneth Kaunda
Succeeded by William Gopallawa
Personal details
Born Mohamed Ben Brahim Boukharouba
(1932-08-23)23 August 1932
Héliopolis, Guelma Province,
Algeria
Died 27 December 1978(1978-12-27) (aged 46)
Algiers, Algeria
Spouse(s) Anissa Boumediene
Religion Sunni Islam
Military service
Nickname(s) Houari Boumediene
Allegiance Algeria
Service/branch
Years of service
  • 1955–1962 (ALN)
  • 1962–1976 (PNP)
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars Algerian War

Houari Boumediene, also transcribed Boumédiène, Boumedienne etc., (Arabic: هواري بومدين‎ ; ALA-LC: Hawārī Bū-Madyan; 23 August 1932 – 27 December 1978) served as Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of Algeria from 19 June 1965 until 12 December 1976 and thereafter as the second President of Algeria until his death on 27 December 1978.[1][2]

Background[edit]

Boumediene was born Mohammed Ben Brahim Boukharouba (محمد إبراهيم بوخروبة) near Héliopolis in Algeria's Guelma Province and was educated at the Islamic Institute in Constantine. He joined the National Liberation Front (FLN) in the Algerian War of Independence in 1955, adopting Houari Boumediène as his nom-de-guerre (from Sidi Boumediène, the name of the patron saint of the city of Tlemcen in western Algeria, where he served as an officer during the war, and Sidi El Houari, the patron saint of nearby Oran). He reached the rank of Colonel, then the highest rank in the FLN forces, and from 1960 he was chief of staff of the ALN, the FLN's military wing. But at this point of the war, the ALN had been defeated and badly hurt by the French operations and Boumediene accepted a difficult command.

After independence[edit]

In 1961, after its vote of self-determination, Algerians declared independence and the French announced it was independent. Boumediene headed a powerful military faction within the government, and was made defence minister by the Algerian leader Ahmed Ben Bella, whose ascent to power he had assisted as chief of staff. He grew increasingly distrustful of Ben Bella's erratic style of government and ideological puritanism, and in June 1965, Boumediene seized power in a bloodless coup.

The country's constitution and political institutions were abolished, and he ruled through a Revolutionary Council of his own mostly military supporters. Many of them had been his companions during the war years, when he was based around the Moroccan border town of Oujda, which caused analysts to speak of the "Oujda Group". (One prominent member of this circle was Boumediene's long-time foreign minister, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who, since 1999, has been Algeria's president.)

Initially, he was seen as potentially a weak ruler, with no significant power base except inside the army, and it was not known to what extent he controlled the officer corps. But after a botched coup against him by military officers in 1967 he tightened his rule. He then remained Algeria's undisputed ruler until his death in 1978, as all potential rivals within the regime were gradually purged or relegated to symbolic posts, including several of his former allies from the Oujda era. No significant internal challenges emerged from inside the regime after the 1967 coup attempt.

Domestic policy[edit]

1972 newsreel about Algeria under Boumediene

Economically, Boumediene turned away from Ben Bella's focus on rural Algeria and experiments in socialist cooperative businesses (l'autogestion). Instead, he opted for a more systematic and planned programme of state-driven industrialization. Algeria had virtually no advanced production at the time, but in 1971 Boumediene nationalized the Algerian oil industry, increasing government revenue tremendously (and sparking intense protest from the French government). He then put the soaring oil and gas resources—enhanced by the oil price shock of 1973—into building heavy industry, hoping to make his country the Maghreb's industrial centre. His years in power were in fact marked by a reliable and consistent economic growth, but after his death in the 1980s, the drop in oil prices and increasingly evident inefficiency of the country's state-run industries, prompted a change in policy towards gradual economical liberalization.

In the 1970s, along with the expansion of state industry and oil nationalization, Boumediene declared a series of socialist revolutions, and strengthened the leftist aspect of his regime. A side-effect of this was the rapprochement with the hitherto suppressed remnants of the Algerian Communist Party (the PAGS), whose members were now co-opted into the regime, where it gained some limited intellectual influence, although without formal legalization of their party. Algeria formally remained a single-party state under the FLN, but Boumediene's personal rule had marginalized the ex-liberation movement, and little attention was paid to the affairs of the FLN in everyday affairs.

Pluralism and opposition were not tolerated in Boumediene's Algeria, which was characterized by government censorship and rampant police surveillance by the powerful Sécurité militaire, or Military Security. Political stability reigned, however, as attempts at challenging the state were generally nipped in the bud. As chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Boumediene and his associates ruled by decree. During the 1970s, constitutional rule was gradually reinstated and civilian political institutions were restored and reorganized. Efforts were made to revive activity within the FLN, and state institutions were reestablished systematically, starting with local assemblies and moving up through regional assemblies to the national level, with the election of a parliament. The process culminated with the adoption of a constitution (1976) that laid down Algeria's political structure. This was preceded by a period of relatively open debate on the merits of the government-backed proposal, although the constitution itself was then adopted in a state-controlled referendum with no major changes. The constitution reintroduced the office of president, which Boumediene entered after a single-candidate referendum in 1978.

At the time of his death, later that year, the political and constitutional order in Algeria was virtually entirely of Boumediene's own design. This structure remained largely unchanged until the late 1980s, when political pluralism was introduced and the FLN lost its role as dominant single party. (Many basic aspects of this system and the Boumediene-era constitution are still in place.) However, throughout Boumediene's era, the military remained the dominant force in the country's politics, and military influence permeated civilian institutions such as the FLN, parliament and government, undercutting the constitutionalization of the country's politics. Intense financial or political rivalries between military and political factions persisted, and was kept in check and prevented from destabilizing the government mainly by Boumediene's overwhelming personal dominance of both the civilian and military sphere.

Foreign policy[edit]

The 1975 Algiers Agreement was signed in Algiers by (left to right) the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Boumediene and the Iraqi vice-president Saddam Hussein
Boumediene in 1972

Boumediene pursued a policy of non-alignment, maintaining good relations with both the communist bloc and the capitalist nations, and promoting third-world cooperation. In the United Nations, he called for a new world order built on equal status for western and ex-colonial nations, and brought about by a socialist-style change in political and trade relations. He sought to build a powerful third world bloc through the Non-Aligned Movement, in which he became a prominent figure. He aggressively supported anti-colonial movements and other militant groups across Africa and the Arab world, including the PLO, ANC, SWAPO and other groups.

A significant regional event was his 1975 pledge of support for an Western Saharan self-determination, admitting Sahrawi refugees and the Polisario Front guerrilla national liberation movement to Algerian territory, after Morocco and Mauritania claimed control over the territory. This ended the possibility of mending relations with Morocco, already sour after the 1963 sand war, although there had been a modest thaw in relations during his first time in power. The heightened Moroccan-Algerian rivalry and the still unsolved Western Sahara question became a defining feature of Algerian foreign policy ever since and remain so today.

Death[edit]

In 1978, his appearances became increasingly rare. After lingering in a coma for 39 days, he died of a rare blood disease, Waldenström's macroglobulinemia, following unsuccessful treatment in Moscow. Rumors about his being assassinated or poisoned have surfaced occasionally in Algerian politics, perhaps due to the rarity of the disease. The death of Boumediene left a power vacuum in Algeria which could not easily be filled; a series of military conclaves eventually agreed to sidestep the competing left- and rightwing contenders, and designate the highest-ranking military officer, Col. Chadli Bendjedid, as a compromise selection.[3] Still, factional intrigue mushroomed after Boumediene's death, and no Algerian president has since gained the same complete control over the country as he had.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ (French) Houari Boumediène biography, on website of the Presidency of the Republic of Algeria
  2. ^ Boumedienne, Houari (also spelled Boumédiène) at rulers.org.
  3. ^ New Leader Time Magazine, Feb. 12, 1979

Bibliography[edit]

  • Ania Francos et Jean-Pierre Séréni, Un Algérien nommé Boumédiène, éd. Stock coll. « Les Grands Leaders », 1976 ;
  • Paul Balta et Claudine Roulleau, La Stratégie de Boumédiène, éd. Simbad, 1978 ;
  • Juliette Minces, L'Algérie de Boumediène, éd. Presses de la Cité, 1978 ;

External links[edit]