Algeria officially acceded to its independence on July 5, 1962 at the cost of heavy sacrifices made by its people throughout 132 years of French occupation of settlement, of exploitation, of oppression and of ongoing attempts to erase the cultural identity
The faceted spheroids and chopping tools found beside the remains of archaic wildlife confirm the existence of human settlements in prehistoric times.
However, the most ancient ancestor discovered to this day is the famous Atlanthropus found in Tighenif (Mascara). According to tests his bones are 400,000 years old, going back to the era of elephants, rhinoceroses and giraffes.
The Aterian civilization would emerge later, near Bir El Ater (Tebessa).
Finally, the Ibero-Moorish group found in Mechta Laarbi (Constantine) and the Capsians found in the east and south represent neolithic sites dating back a few millenniums B.C. It is the era of snail plates and snail eaters. This group of Homo sapiens is considered to be the direct ancestors of the Numidians.
Northern Capsian art as well as southern engravings and paintings heralded the blossoming of outstanding civilizations from the Sahara to the Tell Atlas.
Constantine‘s bear caves and Oran‘s troglodyte caves are some of the most important habitats of that era.
Human beings who lived in that region are known as Berbers but the Romans called them Moors or Numidians. They actually called themselves „Imazighen,“ the singular form of which is Amazigh, meaning „free men“ or literally „men from the heights.“ Most of them were nomads or small-scale beef, sheep and goat breeders.
Those living in the rich humid plains combined animal breeding with growing wheat, barley and olives. Living as settlers, they sometimes inhabited caves or mud and earthen houses that were grouped in villages on hilltops for better protection against pillaging.
The Berber population evolved from a Neolithic mixture of old Paleo-Mediterranean ancestry and two Mediterranean groups originating from Western Asia. From early historical times Berbers acted as a link between the Occident and Orient. This period saw the propagation of cultural influences, mostly from western Mediterranean and European countries, such as dolmens, silo-shaped graves, ceramics and settlements. At the same time, Berbers were integrating Oriental cultural contributions. Berbers are linguistically related to the Orient, their language being of Hamito-Semitic origin, a group that covered all of the Near East and North Africa.
The first berber kingdom (FROM THE END OF THE 3RD MILLENlUM B.C. TO THE END OF THE 7TH CENTURY A.D.)
Berber civilization emerges on the (written) historical landscape in the 6th Century B.C. in a Greco-Pheonician confrontation for the control of the Mediterranean.
For centuries Carthage imposed its supremacy over the entire Mediterranean Basin. Towards the end of the Carthaginian era and early Roman dominance, Berbers (Numidians) were divided into two major groups, Massyles and Massaesyli, and were led by their respective kings, Masinissa and Syphax. Syphax, king of the Massaesyli (Numidians) initially lived in western Algeria and was the most powerful Berber monarch during the Second Punic War. The two greatest powers of the Mediterranean, Carthage and Rome, were competing to win him over as an ally. His rival, Masinissa, king of the Massyles, ruled over his kingdom from 202 to 148 B.C. Cirta, later known as Constantine, was the capital of that kingdom.
Masinissa offered his services to Rome and was influential in the destruction of Carthage in 146 B.C. Syphax went into exile in Italy while his son Vermina inherited some parts of his father‘s kingdom. Heartened by his alliance with Rome, Masinissa decided to conquer all of Numidia which he turned into a unified kingdom. However, Rome could not tolerate the emergence of a Berber power. With Carthage eliminated this new power had to be eradicated. Roman hegemonic designs would be hampered by the tenacious Jugurtha, Masinissa‘s grandson and the son of Micipsa. Jugurtha hoped to reunite all of Numidia but he was imprisoned and sent to Italy. He died of starvation in Tullanium, the Rome prison where Vercingetorix had been strangled.
During the last century B.C. all of Maghreb was ruled by Roman public servants. The last two Massyle Kings, Juba from 25 B.C. to 23 A.D., and Ptolemy from 23 to 40 A.D., acted more as vassals of the various „Caesars“ than as truly autonomous princes. This bloody „Roman peace,“ that was forced on the Berber kingdom for a period of over four centuries, was marked by two major events.
The Roman occupation triggered a brutal reorganization of social structures, lifestyles and production processes. Not content with ending the first Berber political centralization effort, it also brought an end to structural benefits that had resulted from the emergence of villages initiated by Massinissa. Pushed back towards the desert, the population had no choice but to reluctantly resume a nomadic lifestyle. Confined behind the „limes,“ as Roman boundary lines were called, for nearly three centuries entire fragments of Berber society were disenfranchised from their right to a normal agrarian lifestyle and were compelled to lead an enforced Bedouin lifestyle, synonymous with constant uprooting and roaming.
Algeria in ancient times
The substantial development of cities in the Maghreb during the Roman era, is a source of contention for many historians who dot not always have access to the necessary data to evaluate their respective population and to better understand their legal and administrative structures as well as urban characteristics.
Archeological excavations performed in the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century have brought to light only a handful of ancient major urban centers. The main objective of those excavations was often to dig up art objects and ceramic tiles or to dig up monuments to a „useful level“ with very little thought for archeological layers or subsequent levels under them. This is why, upon visiting museums, the Italian archeologist M.A. Carandini declared: „One is under the impression that the only occupation of ancient people was to sculpt statues, create elaborate mosaics or paint vases and walls“.
When visiting ancient archeological sites, one is frequently told that the first cities were Roman colonies and that „in this barbaric country inhabited by nomadic tribes, the first sedentary Inhabitants were Roman soldiers released from duty.“
As J. Toutain observed, „A vision of archeology and ancient history that only seeks to enhance Rome’s reputation, by focusing exclusively on its colonizing efforts and its urbanization of Africa, must indeed be reviewed in the light of recent research and requires a thorough reevaluation of the colonial centered point of view.“
However, in recent years, the backlash of de-colonization and the use of new and stricter scientific methods have greatly affected archeological research. The old historical concept of the primacy of Roman conquests is the object of fierce criticism, which reminds us, with good reason, that African-based Roman civilization was dependent on Libyan and Punic civilizations that preceded them, a fact that we are only now beginning to fully recognize.
From that point of view accurate archeological insights are still in their earliest stages of development. With this in mind we must rid ourselves of some biases and clichés that some reference works, and even identifiers of records, rely upon to turn almost every antique archeological object into a „Roman ruin.“ This is symptomatic of an insistence on defining ancient Maghrebian cities as the exclusive creations of Roman conquerors, especially where central Maghrebian cities are concerned. But how can anyone forget Carthage, and its influence or the powerful Cirta (Constantine).
Toponomy, as applied to established ancient site guides, provides interesting data on the occupation of some Algerian coastal sites during the Phoenician and Punic eras. Such is the case of Icosium, currently Algiers, whose first syllable is found in the names of some trading posts such as Iol (Cherchell) and Igilgili (Jijel). Elsewhere, the prefix „rus“ refers to sites established on capes or promontories, such as Russicade (Skikda), Rusazus (Azeffoun), Rusucurru (Dellys) or Rusgunia (Bjord al-Bahri or Cape Matifou). It should be noted that this prefix is of the same Semitic origin as „ras“ (cape in Arabic).
Toward the end of the first millennium Phoenician sailors, and later from the 8th Century onwards Carthaginian sailors, almost certainly inhabited coastal islands before settling on the main continent. Their stations, called „ladders“ or trading posts, were thus set along the Maghrebian coast roughly fifty kilometers apart, which equaled the distance covered by ancient vessels in a day‘s voyage.
We must consider those ancient Maghrebian cities from a new perspective, as their dug up content may date back to the Roman era but their true origin may quite often precede the Roman conquest.
These facts raise an interesting question: What was the nature of the relationship between those trading posts and the neighboring tribes and, generally speaking, with Libyan or „Imazighen“ populations during those particular centuries? One should also wonder about the number of „Punic posts“ and whether there could have been more ancient villages established by the natives near those posts or at the very same locations. Only necropolises, from which Tipasa, Cherchell, Jijel, Gouraya and Rachgoun inherited a wealth of funeral goods, confirm the substantial Punic contribution and exchanges with Greece, Sicily, Italy, and Spain. Grave steles, geometrically ornamented pottery, the prevalent forms of stone-cutting and the shape of monuments are valuable clues that can help us determine the true identities of the local artists.
Although Roman architectural models are omnipresent in ancient cities, several characteristics distinguish African cities established during the Roman era from those encountered in Gaul and in Italy.
Archeology can better serve history, especially economic and social history, by using modern archeological survey and excavation technology such as aerial photography. In recent years, aerial photography has become a key element of archeological research when studying ancient cities. It represents a very useful discovery tool and offers unrivaled benefits for ground level shots.
A strict policy of colonization was maintained during the Roman era with the help of Augustus‘ Third Legion, a military body that played a deciding role and which was based in the Ammaedera camp (Haidra – Tunisia) and the Theveste camp (currently Tebessa). This African army‘s base camp was set up in Lambese (currently Tazoult), because of its strategic location along the Aures Mountains.
The ruins of these camps are among the best preserved of the thirteen known camps of the Roman legions. A military road was actually built through the Aures mountains, between Lambese and Biskra (the ancient Vescera), and led to the various southern posts forming the so-called „limes,“ or borderline. A rock engraving located along the Fighaniminet narrows, between Roufi and Arris, states that the road was built in 145 A.D. in the reign of Antorrin the Pious by a detachment of the Eight Ferrata Legion.
In the north, there were colonies such as Cuicul (Djemila), Mopth (Mons), and Sitifis (Setif ), and in the south, there were the colonies Theveste, Caesaris (Youks), Vazavi, Mascula (Khenchela), Aquae Flavianae (Hendair El- Hammam), Thamugadi (Timgad), and Verecunda (Arcouna).
This progression was maintained toward the south and the west during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus with the conquest of cities such as Pomaria (Tlemcen), Numerus Syrorum (Maghnia), and Altava (Ouled el Mimoun).
Roman occupation was relatively negligible in Western Algeria where columns sent by Augustus eventually reached the Setif valley.
As Paul-Albert Février wrote in his book “L’Art de l‘Algérie antique”: „This Roman progression gave rise to resistance efforts and throughout the occupied zone remained some undefeated and at time rebellious pockets,located in mountainous areas of the Small or Great Kabylie or of the Tellian Atlas. Around the middle of the 3rd Century and until the second half of the 4thCentury, these tribal pockets of resistance clearly conveyed to Rome that it had not yet won the battle.“
After two centuries, Roman influence had a great impact on the Maghrebian landscape, with Rome administering four of its provinces.
– Proconsular Africa included Augustean, Verus and Nova Africa. It formed a senatorial province headed by a Carthage based proconsul. As to its territory, it included parts of Libya, Tunisia and the oriental part of Algeria, along with several cities: Hippone (Atmaha), Calama (Guelma), Thubursicu Numidar- um (Khamissa), Thagaste (Souk Ahras), Madauros (Md‘aourouch), and Theveste.
– A second Numidian province was established west of proconsular Africa, essentially for military purposes, at the very beginning of the First Century. It was delimited on the western side by the entrance to the Ampsaga (Oued EI-Kebir), a series of valleys west of Cuicul (Djemila), the Zaraï region (nowadays Zraïa), the Hodna plains and the Zahrez Chergui, right up to the Laghouat region. Headed by a legate, a commander-in-chief of the entire region based in Lambese, this province served as a military base.
– The two Mauritanias formed the two other provinces. The first extended to the center and west of Algeria as well as to a part of what is now Morocco. Its capital city was Caesarea (Cherchell). The second one covered the northern part of Morocco and its capital city was Tingi (Tangiers). The emperor assigned them a procurator, with a rank below that of the proconsul, and the Numidian legate.
Inscriptions etched on funeral steles found virtually everywhere remind us of the sustained and deadly insurrections that Roman troops tried to quell for nearly four centuries. Given the wealth and diversity of art and architectural treasures of Ancient Algeria, recalling this past history covering many centuries, from the end of prehistory to the emergence of Islam, translates into a quest for knowledge and an invitation to travel.
A municipal Berber elite, whose names had been Latinized, contributed to the economic expansion of provinces and to urban development. Under no circumstances should one think that overseas foreigners inhabited all cities, about five hundred in all, during the late Empire. Indeed, according to Gilbert-Charles Picard, from the Second Century onwards, „lf one wishes to explain these developments and renewed expansions, one should consider the social dynamics as language and mores slowly evolved. Roman and Latin socialization was indicated not only by monuments but also by tens of thousands of preserved inscriptions as well as by the Second Century works of such writers as Fronton de Cirta or Apulée de Madaure, and then of Christians authors such as Tertullian, Cyprian, and eventually Augustine, all of whom were driven by apologetics and polemics and offer us a vibrant testimony to the legacy of the Third Century.“
THE VANDAL AND BYZANTINE ERAS
In 431, under the leadership of Genseric, Vandals besieged Hippone (Annaba). Berber land once again witnesses’ insurrections. Byzantines faced the same resistance. Thus, neither of them will succeed in occupying Central Maghreb for a long period.
During the Vandal and Byzantine eras Berber traditions were reinstated throughout the newly independent Maghreb thus leading to the establishment of Berber kingdoms in former Roman provinces, a change that was also supported by the intrusion of Zenete nomads. Descendents of Numidians and Moors, the Paleo-Berber Branes inhabited plains that were gradually replaced by Botr and Zenete nomads from the south and the east who spoke a different Berber dialect.
Eventually they would plant the seeds of nomadism in these formerly cultivated lands.
ISLAMIC BERBER KINGDOMS (8TH – 13TH CENTUR IES)
Uqba Ibn Nâfi founded the city of Kairouan in 670 A.D., a bridgehead for the conquest of Maghrebian territory. In 682 he led an expedition that would take him to Tlemcen. He eventually reached the sea but upon his return he decided to split his army, sending part of it directly back to Ifriqiya (now Tunisia) through the high plains, while leading the remaining part of his army southwards to the edge of the Sahara. His troops were assaulted by those of a Kusayla Berber leader. He lost the battle and was killed in 683 A.D. in Tehud, Biskra. The Arabs decided to regroup in Tripolitania. They would eventually capture Kairouan in 691 A.D. and Carthage in 697 A.D.
Berber resistance gradually reemerged in the Aures Mountains under the leadership of a woman, Kahina. She was defeated in 698 A.D. After 711 A.D. the Maghreb became a province of the Arab Empire, at least theoretically. In actuality, strictly from a military point of view, the conquest of central Maghreb was a failure. After fifty years of struggle the Arabs only controlled Ifriqiya. The conversion of the Berbers to Islam proceeded but it faced great resistance and resulted in numerous schisms.
Most of the 8th Century was defined by a sustained revolt against central Arabic government that originated from an oriental schism, the Kharijism. Beginning in 141 A.D., having joined this movement, central Maghreb had already earned its independence. The Maghreb was then controlled by Kharijite natives who were unified around a Persian family known as the Rostemides that would rule over Tahert, now known as Tiaret.
Two key elements defined the emergence of this dynasty, the refusal to submit to a Byzantine-based state geared to exploitation and inequity, and the refusal to submit to any foreign domination. While Zenete Berbers gradually spread onto the high plains, driven by Kharijism, the other branch, the Sanhadjas, inhabited the mountainous areas of central and eastern Algeria.
One of these tribes, the Kutamas, settled in Small Kabylie and sponsored a Shiite missionary, Abu‘Abdallah. Shiites believe that only Ali and his descendents, the sons of Fatima, are the Prophet‘s legitimate Caliphs. It all began in 893-894 A.D. at Makkah, when a number of Kutama chiefs met Abu ‚Abdallah, the Shiite missionary (dâ‘ia), while on a pilgrimage. The missionary won them over and accompanied them on their way back to the Maghreb. He settled in Ikjan, in the mountainous area separating the Setif plain from the Tellian Atlas.
He then assembled an army and attacked the fortresses built by the Aghlabides that faced the Kabylie and Aures mountains. After many assaults, the Kutamas, led by Abu ‚Abdallah, finally crushed the Aghlabides‘ army.
In the next few years, they would conquer Setif, Constantine, Bejaia and Kairouan in March 909 A.D. He then proceeded to seize Sijilmassa in southern Morocco, where ‚Ubayd Allah, a Fatimide Mahdi, was held prisoner. Once free ‚Ubayd Allah affirmed his Mahdi status and became Emir al-Mouminine, Commander of the Faithful.
During their three hundred-year history, from the early 10th Century to late 12th Century, the Fatimides inhabited the Maghreb for a mere sixty years. In 973 A.D. they settled in Egypt making Cairo their capital city. Before returning to the Orient the Fatimide Caliph entrusted his Sanhadja lieutenant, Ziri Ibn Manâd, with the governance of the Maghreb. He would go on to establish the Ziride dynasty.
While marching through ancient Numidia, the Zirides gave their former central Maghrebian realm to their Hammadide cousins. For a century and a half Hammadides ruled over Central Maghreb.
They established two successive capital cities. Built in 1007 A.D., the first capital of Kalaa of Beni Hammad was located at the Tellian heights overlooking the Hodna Steppe on a trading route between the Biskra region and the sea. Founded in 1607 A.D. the second capital of Bejaia (Bougie) became the main trading, political and cultural center of all Maghreb.
Three generations later, the Zirides had rejected Fatimide and Shiite suzerainty. In retaliation the Fatimide Caliph deployed nomadic Arab tribes, then stationed in Upper Egypt, to attack the Maghreb.
The Almohade Empire rose from a Sanhadja mountain tribe, the Masmoudas of the High Moroccan Atlas and from the religious reformer Ibn Toumert. Ibn Toumert became a Mahdi and established his base at Tinmall in 1124 A.D. amid the mountains. Following his death in 1130 A.D. his successor, ‚Abd el-Moumen, became Amir el Mou‘minin, Commander of the Faithful.
It was under his leadership that the Almohades set out to conquer the Maghreb. They first conquered the southwest by taking control of the gold route. Then they advanced northwards to secure Fès. They seized Marrakech, the Almoravide capital in 1146 A.D. Almohades armies kept marching eastwards.
The fall of Bejaia in 1151 A.D. signaled the end of the Hammadide kingdom.
The fall of Mahdia in 1160 A.D. marked the end of the Ziride kingdom and, importantly, it also led to the defeat of the Sicilian Normans who had occupied the city for the prior twelve years. Almohades carried this fight against the advance of the Christians into the Mediterranean and over to Spain (Andalusia), where they did their best to confine the „reconquista.“
The constant state of war maintained by the Almohades against Spain‘s Castilians would have a disastrous effect on the Maghrebian economy since the bulk of its resources were allocated to the war effort. Spanish sovereigns would eventually get the upper hand in this confrontation. Almohades were defeated in 1212 A.D. at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. Furthermore, the Almohade State was also unable to control internal dissension that was producing recurring rebellions.
As the Almohade Empire finally collapsed the Maghreb was once again fragmented, this time along a three-part axis, the Hafside kingdom of Ifriqiya (Tunisia and east Algeria) in the East, the Abdalwadides in central Maghreb with Tlemcen as its capital city, and Merinides in Morocco, in the west.
The Hafside kingdom extended from Algiers to Tripoli, with Bejaia, Constantine, Kairouan, Mahdia, Sfax and Tunis under its rule. Aghlabides could only claim one city, Tlemcen.
These cities were essentially Arabic centers and none of the sovereigns‘ traits could be said to be specifically of Berber heritage.
During their roughly three hundred-year history, from the early 10th Century to late 12th Century, the Fatimides inhabited the Maghreb for a mere sixty years or so.
THE OTTOMAN ERA AND ALGIERS‘ REGENCY (1512-1830)
Another brutal historical event occurred in the 14th Century. The Maghreb was for a long time at the crossroad of all trading routes used to carry precious metals towards the east and to Arab countries also to the north, meaning Europe. Sub-Saharan African gold transited through Maghrebian cities and villages.
From the 14th Century on caravans would use other southern communication routes bypassing the Maghreb. Having stretched its influence to the Upper Nile Valley the Mameluk dynasty, which ruled over Cairo, could reach the Atlantic through Savannah and deal directly with Sudanese suppliers of precious metals.
The Mediterranean north-south axis also lost some of its influence following the opening of new trading routes by Christians, namely the Atlantic trading routes. Around 1540 the Portuguese started to move most of the Sudanese gold toward the east coast. The role of central Maghreb as an intermediary steadily declined. The depletion of this unique source of wealth resulted in a weakening of the region and, eventually, in its fragmentation into many principalities.
In order to take advantage of the situation Spain, which was on the verge of completing the reconquest initiated in the 13th Century, prepared to conquer North Africa with the support of Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros, Cardinal and Minister under King Ferdinand.
On September 13, 1505, Spanish soldiers occupied Mers el-Kebir, then known as Bougie on January 6, 1509, followed by Tripoli on June of the same year and then Oran on May 19, 1509. After capturing the stony island facing Algiers, Penon, the Spanish army banned all port activities. The inhabitants abandoned the cities and, after being subjected to Spanish raids, the hinterland collapsed.
The presence of Turks in Algeria over many centuries (1518-1830) gave rise to endemic violence. The sheer frequency of rebellions fomented by local populations and the propagation of political assassination attest to that fact. One must also take into account the permanent state of war against Western powers (Spain, France, England, Portugal, etc.) and neighboring countries (Morocco and Tunisia).
Cheikh Salim Tumi, the King of Algiers, asked the Barbarossa brothers, Turkish pirates based on Djerba Island, to help him fight the Spanish. In May 1515 Aroudj launched an attack on Algiers‘ Penon, but the fortress withstood his assault and the adventure failed.
While waiting to repeat his offensive, Aroudj had Cheikh Salim Tumi strangled and declared himself „King of Algiers.“ On September 30, 1516, the Spanish government sent 3,000 men, under the leadership of Diego de Vera to assist the Penon. The expedition was a total failure. The Spanish defeat only enhanced Aroudj‘s popularity throughout all of central Maghreb. Other port cities called upon him to evict Spanish garrisons. Tribes of the Mitidja, Setif plains, Titteri, Ouarsenis, Dahra, and Zaccar were willing to place themselves under his leadership.
After Aroudj‘s death in 1518 his brother, Kheir ed-Dîn, based in Algiers, pledged allegiance to the Sultan of Constantinople (Istanbul). The regency of Algiers became reality. Kheir ed-Dîn was named Pasha and then Beylerbey, Emir of all Emirs. The Spanish saw the regency of Algiers as a threat to their Maghrebian interests. In 1519 the new King of Spain, Charles the Fifth, sent Hugo de Moncade, Lord Lieutenant of Sicily, to Algiers with a fleet of forty ships and five thousand men.
Spanish troops had to retreat. In 1529, he liberated the Penon.Controlling most coastal cities and some inland ones the Turks dominated Algeria for about three centuries. They managed part of the country with the support of „Maghzen tribes,“ who levied taxes on „Ra‘ais tribes,“ on their behalf. But their authority did not extend beyond those limited cities and plains. The more remote or unruly the tribes, the less effective was the centralized power.
The Turkish minority led an isolated existence, far from the hinterland, where it maintained a military presence solely for increasingly oppressive fiscal purposes. Its inability to merge with the local populations forced the militia to hang on even when the resources it provided could not offset ensuing international problems.
Trapped between local rebellions and increasingly influential European powers, the Dey‘s authority collapsed with only a small push. When in June 1830 37,000 French troops landed on Sidi Ferruch beach, west of Algiers, it easily defeated the 6,000 Ojak soldiers.
The middle class of Algiers opened the city‘s doors and the Dey retreated, leaving the conquerors enough to reimburse the costs of the expedition. Only the tribes would continue fighting. Thus another era of foreign occupation began for the Algerian people, with dreadful consequences.
FRENCH COLONIZATION (FROM 1830-1962)
The War of National Liberation (1954-1962)
At the end of the 2nd World War during which the Algerians participated by thousands to the liberation of Europe and while they expected the freedom promised by the colonizer, the Algerian people underwent one of the wildest repressions since the colonial invasion in 1830.
On May 8, 1945, when thousands of Algerians came out to peacefully demonstrate their joy following the end of the second World War and remind the French colonial regime of its promise to grant them independence following their participation in the victory of the Allies in the Second World War, the French colonial regime, instead of responding favorably to the legitimate aspirations of the Algerian people, responded with a violent repression that caused the death of more than 45,000 Algerians.
“…Through the evocation of the dramatic past following the French invasion, the Algerian people exercise the duty of memory towards their ancestors, millions of whom have fallen into resistance, hundreds of thousands of others have been imprisoned or deported, while millions of Algerians have been dispossessed of their land and property…” extract from the message of H.E the President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on the occasion of the 55th Anniversary of the Independence of Algeria.
“…The Algerian people have demonstrated, through the centuries, its fierce resistance to any invader it has always managed to undo, like the French colonization evacuated after 132 years of martyrdom and suffering, but also resistance and an ultimate liberating revolution hailed throughout the world…” extract from the message of H.E the President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on the occasion of the 55th Anniversary of the Independence of Algeria.
Thus, the fate of independent Algeria emerged at the birth of a hard core called „Special Organization“ which transcends the divisions within the nationalist movement to bring the supreme aspiration of the Algerian people to recover their independence by a long and painful armed struggle triggered on November 1st, 1954.
ndependence and Reconstruction
Algeria officially acceded to its independence on July 5, 1962 at the cost of heavy sacrifices made by its people throughout 132 years of French occupation of settlement, of exploitation, of oppression and of ongoing attempts to erase the cultural identity. The hardships and difficult trials that the Algerian people experienced during this occupation have inevitably defined a social character to the Algerian state.
The Algerian people have always considered that their own freedom can not be fully affirmed without the full liberation of the African continent. That is why since its independence, Algeria has been mobilized to provide its effective support, in all kinds, to all liberation movements throughout the world and particularly in Africa.
This is how Amilcar Cabral, leader of the Liberation Movement of Guinea Bissau called Algeria „The Makah-Place of pilgrimage of the liberation movements“. As an example, some highlights will remain in the history of Africa:
The first weapons that were used to launch the liberation struggle in Namibia by SWAPO and Mozambique by the FRELIMO were Algerian weapons.
In 1962, Algeria immediately affirmed the need to consolidate liberation through national edification, assigning this work to young national elite enjoying a strong historical and revolutionary legitimacy grouped within a Unique Party „FLN“ and adopting the model of the directed economy to carry the hopes of the nation that has just recovered its independence.
This choice reflects the soul of an old nation that has, each time through the millennia, overcome the tragedies and vicissitudes of history and continues the realization of its destiny of dignity and greatness.
The challenges identified have led to achievements equal to the aspirations of the Algerian people, with the values of social justice. These achievements, like the nationalizations of hydrocarbons, literacy efforts, public and free access to health and education, infrastructure construction, access to housing and work are the consequences of the adopted policies.
Democratic opening and economic reforms in the late 80s early 90s
October 5, 1988 is a date that marked the history of Algeria when part of the Algerian youth spontaneously went out into the streets to express a desire, which was incubating in society, for more individual and collective freedoms and political openness. This desire had gained momentum as the Algerian People who was precursor well before the others know the same fate later in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
These demonstrations led to riots that some, notably the Islamists, wanted to use to try to join a process of seizure of power by the instrumentalization of Islam (which is the religion of all Algerians) and through violence.
These events led the Government to respond favorably to this demand of a large section of the population by adopting a new constitution in 1989 which introduces political and economic reforms aimed at opening up the political field to multiparty politics, freedom of press, a more active and participatory role of the civil society and a transition from the directed economy to an economy based on the liberalization of the market and the privatization of enterprises.
This period coincided with the end of the war in Afghanistan, which embodied one of the bloodiest facets of the Cold War between the two blocs (Western and Soviet) and the return of Jihadists in some countries like Algeria, driven by the desire to extend terrorist violence as a means of gaining access to political power.
This came in a context of political opening through multiparty, not yet regulated and of economic liberalization hugely impacted by the dramatic consequences of the structural adjustment program of the international financial institutions imposed on a country heavily indebted.
Those consequences produced perverse effects such as the inflationary shock, the impoverishment of part of the population, the shift of activities to the informal sector, the massive flight of the intellectual elite to Western countries, the collapse of production and the explosion of unemployment.
In reality, the extremists took advantage of this pivotal period to try to curb the reforms, to confiscate the future of the Algerians and further weaken the State Institutions that were in transition. That being by diving the Country into a decade of terrorism, referred by Algerians as „The Black Decade“.
The troubles experienced by Algeria during that period of time not only hindered the implementation of the development projects, planned by the Government, but also cost a lot to the population, especially in terms of human lives.