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   HISTORICAL FIGURES: ALGERIA

HOCINE AIT-AHMED

Hocine Ait-Ahmed was born in 1919 in the town of Michelet in Kabylia. He was one of the early leaders of the Organisation spéciale (OS), a secret paramilitary structure created in 1947 for the purpose of exploring the possibilities for revolutionary action. He is included among the nine "historic leaders" of the Algerian nationalists who in 1954 founded the FLN and began the eight-year war of independence against France. He fought as a rebel leader in his Kabylia mountains and with the rebel high command abroad, in Egypt and Tunisia until he was captured by the French in October 1956 (with four other leaders, in a commercial airliner the French forced to land). He was imprisoned in France until the 1962 agreement on Algeria's independence.

After independence, he strongly opposed the ruling faction of Ben-Bella and his associates. Ben-Bella, who ruthlessly suppressed all opposing factions, did not take similar action against him. Ben-Bella made Ait-Ahmed a member of the FLN Politbureau, but the latter soon resigned and went underground. He was elected in 1963 to the National Assembly on the FLN list and returned from exile, but soon went underground again and started militant guerrilla action against Ben-Bella's regime. He was captured in October 1962 and sentenced to death, but was pardoned by Ben-Bella.

In April 1966, Ait-Ahmed escaped to France. There he tried to organize various shifting opposition groups plotting against the Algerian regime--sometimes even in cooperation with Ben-Bella (himself now in exile), but mostly in rivalry with him. His main organizations in the 1970's and 80's were the Party of Socialist Revolution and the Front de libération nationale (FFS) (Front of Socialist Forces) . After the liberalization of Algeria's regime in the late 1980's under Benjedid, Ait-Ahmed's FFS was legalized in November 1989. He returned to Algeria and tried to build the FFS into a main democratic opposition party, strongly anti-FLN and again based mainly on Kabylia and Amazigh elements (but not overtly speaking for the Amazigh--in contrast to the rival, openly Amazigh, Rassemblement pour la culture et la démocratie (RCD) (Rally for Democracy and Culture).

Ait-Ahmed and the FFS opposed the growing Islamist agitation of the Front islamique du salut (FIS) (Islamic Salvation Front), in agreement with the regime and the FLN on this particular issue. They boycotted the June 1990 local and municipal elections, the first "free" multiparty elections in Algeria. In the elections of December 26, 1991, however, it won second place after the FIS, having swept the Kabylia with twenty-six seats, eleven more than the once powerful FLN. In 1997, the first multiparty parliamentary elections since the military voided the results of the 1991 elections was held. The FFS won 10 seats.

During the presidential elections of April 1999, Ait-Ahmed became a candidate, hopeful that these elections would indeed be open and transparent. However, concluding that fraud had taken place, and the election was pre-determined, he and five other candidates withdrew about 16 hours before election day, April 15, leaving Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run alone.

See: Fondation et Institut Hocine Ait Ahmed for articles and exclusive interviews of Mr. Ait-Ahmed. (In French).

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