Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika dies at 84 | Politics News
A veteran of the Algerian War of Independence ruled the North African country for two decades before he resigned in April 2019.
Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has died at 84, the country’s presidency announced on Friday, more than two years after resigning 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.
The longest-serving Algerian leader 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.
Bouteflika is considered a national hero by his supporters, having fought on the battlefield during Algeria’s war of independence from France.
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.
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 demanded that China get a seat at the United Nations and stood up against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
In the early 1980s, he was accused of corruption and went into voluntary exile after the death of ex-president Houari Boumediene. He moved to Dubai, where he became an advisor to a member of the reigning family of the emirate. The corruption charges against him were subsequently dropped.
He returned home in the 1990s, when Algeria was ravaged by a war between the military and armed fighters that killed at least 200,000 people, winning an election with military backing.
Elected president in 1999, he managed to negotiate a truce with the Islamists and launched a process of national reconciliation allowing the country to restore peace.
During his first years in power, he led the country into an economic boom, sparking nationwide development.
He also managed to keep the country together during the Arab Spring.
When protests erupted from 2011, his government responded by setting up thousands of small businesses. But despite the initiative, the riots continued.
When he won a second term in 2004, he changed the constitution to run for a third term. And despite his deteriorating health, he again changed the constitution to get a fourth term.
Western leaders viewed Bouteflika as an ally in the fight against armed groups in North Africa, and his government fought al Qaeda and other related groups.
Bouteflika was accused of taking the lives of civilians when he ordered the army in 2017 to storm a gas plant in the Algerian desert in order to rescue hundreds of hostages held by an affiliated group to al-Qaeda.
Bouteflika’s grip on power began to crumble when he announced his candidacy for a fifth term in February 2019, sparking huge protests unprecedented since the independence protests of 1962.
For weeks, protests demanded the resignation of Bouteflika and his allies.
Bouteflika tried to appease protesters by reversing his decision to run for a new term and postponing the elections, saying he would stay until a new constitution was adopted. But that was not enough to stop the revolt.
The protests continued and the army intervened, putting an end to Bouteflika’s government.