HISTORICAL FIGURES: ALGERIA
Krim Belkacem was born December 14, 1922 in Ait Yahia, near the region of Dra-El Mizan (Tizi Ouzou, Algeria). A corporal during the second world war, he became an excellent marksman. Issue of a well-placed family, whose father was a retired judge and enjoyed the authorities' trust, Krim joined the Mouvement pour le triomphe des libertés démocratiques (MTLD). In 1946, he became a member of the PPA (Parti du peuple algérien) and set up clandestine cells in two neighborhoods of Dra-El-Mizan, which had more than a hundred militants and sympathizers. After the arrest of 14 nationalists (he would have been the 15th), Krim organized a strike in front of the office of the local government. In March 1947, accused of having killed a forest ranger, he was summoned to court, but rather than risk imprisonment, he left, armed with an old machine-gun, to join the maquis in the mountains of Kabylie, under the alias of Si Rabah, together with Moh Nachid, Mohand Talah, and Messaoud ben Arab. He was then 25 years old.
From that moment, he became an outlaw, sought after by the police and four times sentenced to death in absentia by the French tribunals, the first time in 1947.
He was placed in charge of the PPA-MTLD for all the Kabylie and at the head of 22 maquisards, which increased direct contact with militants and the people. In 1954, he had at least 500 moudjahidines (fighters) in the maquis and more than 1,200 mililtant reserves. At the end of April 1954, the chiefs of the OS (Organisation secrete) and the MTLD realized it was time to act. On June 9, 1954, Krim met with Ben Boulaid in Algiers, then with Boudiaf and Didouche, who succeeded in convincing him of the necessity of a third force. The armed rebellion was launched with the creation of a new organization known as CRUA (Comité révolutionnaire d'unité et d'action, revolutionary committee of unity and action). Nine heads were appointed, thereafter to be known as "the Nine historical (chiefs)": Hocine Ait Ahmed, Rabah Bitat, Ahmed Ben Bella, Mustapha Ben Boulaid, L'arbi Ben M'hidi, Mohamed Boudiaf, Didouche Mourad, Mohamed Kheider, and Krim Belkacem. Krim, being the only one who founded an operational maquis and one of the "interiors" ( "interiors" designates the leaders that actually fought the revolution from within the country), would have appeared to become the most noted of the personalities, but this was not to be the case.
He was in charge of the zone of Kabylie from the moment the revolution was launched on November 1, 1954. He joined the CEE following the Soummam Congress in 1956 and oversaw the FLN-ALN from 1958-1959 as vice-president of the GPRA and minister of the Armed Forces.
During 1954, Krim and Ben Boulaid (chief of the Aures maquis) agreed to lead their groups to take part in a general rebellion. A first plenary meeting of the CRUA had taken place in Algiers. Knowing the only insurrectional force was under his control, he refused to be placed under the command of Algiers, which had a preponderous of arabophones. After a number of lively discussions, it was agreed that Kabylie would remain an autonomous zone of operations. Thus, the CRUA succeeded in averting the old disastrous animosity between arabophones and Kabyles. Krim was in charge of the zone of Kabylie from the moment the revolution was launched on November 1, 1954.
He joined the CCE (Comité de coordination et d'exécution) following the Soummam Congress in 1956. After the Battle of Algiers (1956-57), Krim left Algeria and allied himself with Ben Tobbal and Boussouf against Abane Ramdane. He oversaw the FLN-ALN from 1958-1959 as vice-president of the GPRA (Gouvernement provisoire de la République algérienne) and minister of the Armed Forces. He was minister of Foreign Affairs in 1960, of the Interior in 1961, and opened the negociations with France which resulted in the Evian Accords. His interventions on behalf of the Accords were moments of strong tension during the conference, and Krim saw the world turning their eyes toward him. The French negotiators considered his presence an encouraging sign.
After independence, he disapproved of Ben Bella's politics and removed himself from political life, dedicating himself to the jewelry business. After the coup d'etat of June 19, 1965, which brought Boumedienne into power, he went into exile and formed an opposition group. After Krim publically declared that "seven years of independence have been worse that seven years of war," he was condemned to death in absentia for treason and complicity with foreign powers, also accused of having organized an attempt against Boumedienne.
Krim traveled well armed, but after the sudden notoriety of the Palestinians who hijacked a plane in the autumn of 1970, the airports were extra vigilant. He was stopped at an airport and his revolver, his constant companion, was confiscated. He was found strangled to death in a hotel room in Frankfort (Germany) in October 1970.
The honor of his name reinstated posthumously, he was buried in the Carré des Martyrs on October 24, 1984.
*The above information is thanks in great part to Samir Hamouche, a political science student at the University of Algiers, who compiled and summarized the available information from French and Algerian sources not available in the United States. Some information was also obtained from: John Ruedy's Modern Algeria (Indiana University Press, 1992) and Arslan Humbaraci's Algeria: A Revolution That Failed (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966).