translated by Dr. Salah Badjou (May 6, 2001)
Bouteflika, That's Chaos!
at Le Parisien
Hocine Aït-Ahmed, 75, is one of the last historical
leaders of the Algerian war of independence. President of the
FFS (Socialist Forces Front), he has always been an opponent to
the regime in place in Algiers. Candidate to the presidential
elections of 1999, he pulled out on the eve of the elections,
along with the four other rivals of Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Last Thursday, in Algiers, following the call of his party,
strongly implanted in Kabylia where tension is at its highest,
thousands of demonstrators have marched under the slogans of "Pouvoir
Murderer!" This demonstration occurred certainly in calm.
But what about the next? In the interview that he granted to our
newspaper, Aït-Ahmed denounces the heavy oppression that
has been suffocating his country since independence--a dictatorship,
he says, always in the hands of the military. And the old leader
to dream of a perestroika, the only means to bring down
an unworthy regime. Yesterday, at Paris and in Province, several
hundred persons demonstrated against the repression of the demonstrations
in Kabylia, which has led to at least 40* deaths in the last two
Le Parisien: After the last 12 days of riots in Kabylia
and 60 dead, the demonstration that you have organized in Algiers,
which has gathered several thousand people, took place in calm.
How do you explain this?
Hocine Aït-Ahmed: We had not requested an authorization
for this demonstration. But we knew that Algerians wanted nothing
but to show their solidarity with those who have shouted their
ras-le-bol of the pouvoir, which has so far generated
nothing but misery and violence. The stakes were high. This had
to do with proving that we were capable of avoiding excesses.
Algerians know how to demonstrate peacefully when there are no
provocations. This is why I warned against any provocations no
matter where it came from, because it could have caused a blood
bath which would have set the whole country ablaze. The success
of this march also shows that a political alternative exists in
Le Parisien: This did not then involve, in Kabylia,
purely regionalist demands?
Hocine Aït-Ahmed: Of course. The entire world
was able to hear the slogans shouted by the youth in Kabylia.
They go well beyond the scope of demands for identity, which is,
besides, totally legitimate.
The revolt of these youth obeys immediate causes: the lawlessness
and the right to life and death of the security services who have
triggered the fire by executing young Massinissa [a young high-school
student killed by the paramilitary gendarmes on April 18].
This should not make us forget the desire of some to throw Kabylia
into chaos. No doubt, to produce the pretext to crack down on
the region, which is at the forefront of the struggle for democracy
as it was during the liberation war. But there are also deeper
causes, shared by all Algerians: worsening poverty (including
the middle classes), unemployment that hits 33 percent of the
In brief, no hope for the future. Not to mention
this endless war, with its dead, its handicapped for life, and
its thousands of disappeared and forcibly displaced.
Le Parisien: How do you conceive of an exit to the
Hocine Aït-Ahmed: Who could today deny what
we have said for a long time. That is, that the politics of eradication
would only lead to human tragedy and a dead end. There is no possible
exit from the crisis without lifting the state of emergency and
a return to civilian peace, that is without a political solution
to the crisis. There are, in our country, unsuspected human potentialities.
But these cannot be expressed and mobilized as long as the pouvoir
works hard at breaking any autonomous expression and dividing
Le Parisien: What conclusion do you draw about the
2 years of Bouteflika's presidency?
Hocine Aït-Ahmed: There is too much of a tendency
to view Bouteflika in opposition with the army, without realizing
that both are fundamentally in agreement to maintain the status-quo
and preserve the system. Bouteflika has been chosen for his past
as foreign minister--a way to prevent the international community
from seeing what is happening in Algeria. In reality, nothing
has changed. It is chaos.
Le Parisien: The French general, Paul Aussaresses,
has just recognized that he tortured and assassinated during the
war of independence.
Hocine Aït-Ahmed: The demand for a trial for crimes against
humanity seems to me a minimum concerning a "monster"
who recognizes having himself assassinated Ali Boumendjel, a
great political figure, and Larbi Ben M'hidi with whom I shared
so much, as friend and politically-speaking. The actions of
Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin seem to me a good beginning.
All Algerians know that henceforth impunity does not exist and
that crimes, sooner or later, catch up with their authors.