Finally President Bouteflika Quits Amidst Intense Pressure

By Emmanuel Uffot

Against the background of over three sustained protest by Algerians and pressure from the Military hierarchy, the ailing Algerian President who holds the record of the longest serving president of the North African country on Tuesday April 2  announced his resignation as the President of Algeria thus ending his twenty years rule.

Prior to his decision to quit amidst the widespread protest by Algerians over his decision to continue in office and the call by the military for him to quit Bouteflika had on Monday April 1 announced that he will resign before April 28, 2019, when his term expires. 

Since February 22, 2019, Algeria has been enveloped by a wave of demonstrations, demanding Abdelaziz Bouteflika to go after being in power since April 1999.

The protest was instigated by the decision of the 82 year old president to seek a fifth term in office in the election scheduled for April 18. The anger of the multitude of Algerians being that there was no justification for the president who has been on wheel chair since 2013 when he was struck by stroke and was rarely seen by the people, to seek for another term in office on account of his state of health.

Before his decision to resign which elicited jubilation across Algeria especially Algiers, the capital which has been the centre of the weeks of protest, the embattled Bouteflika who had earlier drop his decision to re-contest as a way of dousing the demonstration last Sunday March 31, appointed a new government composed of 27 ministers to be led by Noureddine  Bedoui, who was named the  Prime Minister on March 11 and said he would leave office by April 28 to end his fourth term in office. 

Even as the ailing president hang on to power inspite of the demonstration by Algerians which brought government to a stand -still, political followers attributed the immediate cause of his decision to quit to the fear of a pending military coup given a stern warning from the Army Chief that the president listen to the wish of the people and  immediately bow out.

It could be recalled that the Army Chief Lt General Ahmed Salah  had last week consistently called on the country’s Constitutional Council to convene and mandate President  Bouteflika to quit and institute an interim government to conduct the election to usher in a new leader. Under  the Algerian constitution, the president of the Upper House, the Council of Nations, steps in as interim leader for a maximum of 90 days so that elections can be organized.

 Given the position of Algerians of a total purge of the government of the outgoing president it is unclear as at the time of writing this report whether the people will accept the current upper house president  Abdelkader Bensalah, a Bouteflika ally to step in as interim President as stipulated by the Constitution.

 Apart from Bensalah the fate of Bouteflika younger brother Said is yet unknown as events unfold. The president’s younger brother is  blamed by protesters for widespread corruption in the North African country with a high unemployment rate and drastic gap between the rich and poor.

The protests that has finally seen the ouster of the 82 year president brought together a wide range of people from all backgrounds. Most of those involved in the protest were youths, women, journalists, lawyers, unions and the influential association of veterans of the war of independence against the French between 1954 and 1962.

It was the largest protest the Algerian capital had witnessed since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, and the latest in a series of extraordinary public gatherings that erupted across the North African country.

The Value News gathered there has been widespread resentment in Algeria at the incompetence and corruption of the Front de Liberation Nationale , FLN, the party that has been in power In Algeria for more than 50 years. Several FLN parliamentarians were said to have resigned last week Friday March 29  to join the protest.

The Value News gathered there has been widespread resentment in Algeria at the incompetence and corruption of the Front de Liberation Nationale , FLN, the party that has been in power In Algeria for more than 50 years. Several FLN parliamentarians were said to have resigned last week Friday March 29  to join the protest.

Originally from the city of Tlemcen in Western Algeria, Bouteflika was born in the Moroccan town of Oujda on March 2, 1937.

In 1956, at the age of 19, Bouteflika joined the Army of National Liberation (ALN), the military branch of the FLN, then waging its war of independence against colonial France.

The young  Bouteflika quickly rose through party ranks, winning the trust of Houari Boumediene, an ALN commander based in Morocco who later seized power through a bloodless coup in 1965.  Boumediene  appointed Bouteflika, administrative secretary for the fifth Wilaya – Arabic for province – in 1957.

After Algeria gained its independence in 1962, members of the ALN based in western Algeria and along the Moroccan border – known as the Oujda group or clan – assumed control of the nascent state.

Boumediene’s protege,  Bouteflikia, was named minister of youth, sports and tourism at the age of 25 in Algeria’s first post-independence administration under the leadership of President Ahmed Ben Bella.

In 1963, Bouteflika became the world’s  youngest minister of foreign affairs at 26 – a record that he still holds to this day. 

In 1967, following the Arab military defeat against  Israel during the Six-Day War, Bouteflika broke diplomatic relations with the United States.

After Boumediene died in 1978, Bouteflika began losing his status. Corruption charges forced him into self-imposed exile in 1981, first to  Switzerland  and then the United Arab Emirates. 

Bouteflika returned to Algeria in 1987 and was readmitted to the FLN’s central committee two years later. 

In 1994, amid the raging civil war, Bouteflika turned down an offer to become president, fearing the military had too much power and would have prevented him from running the country. 

But five years later, he agreed to run and was elected with a massive   with 74 percent of the votes.

Bouteflika spent his first years as president trying to end the civil war, capping his effort with the 2005 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, which granted amnesty to armed groups.

Bouteflika then set out to get the country out of diplomatic isolation and kick start its stagnant economy.

High oil prices between 2004 and 2014 allowed the president to invest heavily in building the country’s infrastructure, notably the construction of new roads, the completion of a lagging metro project and the construction of Africa’s biggest mosque. 

These projects, however, fell short of many people’s expectations and they accused the president’s family and close entourage of benefitting the most from these state-building initiatives.  

In 2008, he changed the constitution to allow him to run for a third term in office. By then, reports of his failing health had already begun circulating but did not cause too much public alarm.

When the Arab Spring  toppled fellow North African leaders like those of neighbouring  Tunisia and in 2011, Bouteflika was able to use the country’s vast oil wealth and the threat of instability to remain in power.

Algeria had emerged from only a few years before – kept Bouteflika at the helm of affairs.

By 2012, it had  appeared he was ready to step down having quoted saying “My generation is finished, Our time is over.” But he hanged on and stood for election in 2014 and won it despite being struck by stroke in 2013, a year earlier.

Indeed that the Algerian President had in the past one decade been battling with health challenges that finally confined him to wheel chair dates back to 2005 when he was first hospitalised in France on November 26 after being diagnosed of suffering from gastric ulcer hemorrhage.

 In 2008 he was speculated of having developed  stomach cancer and spent over four months in hospital in Paris in 2013 due to health challenges.

 We gathered that since 2016  Bouteflika has not been seen in public  and several of his close associates are said not to have not seen him for more than a year now.

It is this state of health that is believed to have fuelled the angst of Algerians against him when he declared his intention to contest the April election. That ambition has now led to what political analysts and Algerians termed his inglorious exit.

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