Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has died at age 84
Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who fought for independence from France, reconciled his conflict-ravaged nation and was then ousted amid pro-democracy protests in 2019 after two decades in power, has died at age 84, state television announced Friday.
He served as president for nearly 20 years, from 1999 until his resignation in 2019. He was the longest serving head of state in Algeria.
Of his four electoral victories, all but one was marred by fraud and widespread irregularities.
In 2013, Bouteflika suffered a stroke and was rarely seen in public — prompting speculation about the state of his health for years.
An astute political chameleon, Bouteflika had been known as a wily survivor ever since he fought for independence from colonial ruler France in the 1950s and 1960s.
He stood up to Henry Kissinger as Algeria’s long-serving foreign minister, successfully negotiated with the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal to free oil ministers taken hostage in a 1975 attack on OPEC headquarters, and helped reconcile Algerian citizens with each other after a decade of civil war between radical Muslim militants and Algeria’s security forces.
I’m a non-conformist politician. I’m a revolutionary,” Bouteflika told The Associated Press on the eve of his first presidential victory in 1999, after a campaign tarnished by fraud charges that drove his six rivals to pull out of the vote.
Born March 2, 1937, to Algerian parents in the border town of Oujda, Morocco, Bouteflika was among Algeria’s most enduring politicians.
In 1956, Bouteflika entered the National Liberation Army, formed to fight Algeria’s bloody independence war. He commanded the southern Mali front and slipped into France clandestinely.
After the war’s end, Bouteflika became foreign minister at just 25, at a time when Algeria was a model of doctrinaire socialism tethered to the Soviet Union. Its capital, Algiers, was nicknamed “Moscow on the Med.”
His brother, two former prime ministers and other top officials are now in prison over corruption.
Bouteflika balked at the region-wide calls for change embodied by the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions that overthrew three dictators to his east. Bouteflika tamped down unrest through salary and subsidy increases, a vigilant security force and a lack of unity in the country’s opposition.
He also demanded China be given a seat in the United Nations, and railed against apartheid rule in South Africa.
He also welcomed Che Guevara, and a young Nelson Mandela got his first training in Algeria. Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, on the run from US police, was given refuge.
After independence, Bouteflika became minister of youth and tourism at the age of 25. The following year he was made foreign minister.