On 50th Independence Day, Algeria Faces Generational Divide

Article Summary
Municipalities across Algeria are organizing celebrations for July 5, the 50th anniversary of independence. But, as Atef Kadadra reports, the celebrations coincide with discussions on the “revolutionary legitimacy” of the rulers from the revolutionary generation and their current conflicts with the younger one.

The workers across Algeria’s municipalities are working nonstop to raise celebration banners for Algeria’s 50th Independence Day, which is today, July 5. Algerian authorities are organizing major festivals for this day, which is largely sponsored on the political level. But some political elites have criticized the celebrations as “populist policy.”

The anniversary celebrations have resulted in polemics from state officials as to the value of deals struck with artists for the independence-day celebrations and performances. These polemics have diverted attention away from a debate that was supposed to be held among political elites to discuss the achievements and disadvantages of the independence movement.

Some Algerian intellectuals discussed “revolutionary legitimacy” in newspapers and workshops in a limited way that did not attract much attention from officials. Some Algerian politicians claim that the time of “revolutionary legitimacy” has passed, but the fact is that the revolutionary generation continues to hold major political and security posts in the country, half a century after independence.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika explicitly confirmed this fact in the Mujahideen (veterans of the war of independence) Organization conference seven years ago when he said, “Revolutionary legitimacy is over.” This sentence aroused resentment among the mujahideen who held senior positions in the state. Bouteflika reiterated his position in May, two days before the legislative election day, when he famously uttered “Our time is over.”

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Many Algerian political parties claim that during the last legislative elections, they included hundreds of young people on their electoral lists. But the new parliament’s actions do not suggest that any radical change has occurred.

Academics are talking about a “generational struggle” in Algeria half a century after the country’s independence. Karim, 34, said to Al-Hayat, “Algeria could have been better. We couldn’t arrange our affairs because we wrongly estimated those who ruled the country.”

The most surprising thing is that the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of independence are recalling what is known as “the achievements of Bouteflika,” a reference to the large-scale projects that were carried out in recent years. The celebrations pay little tribute to the past 50 years of Algerian history, which included the rule of seven presidents and a bloody decade (the 1990s) that sent the country spiraling toward international isolation and caused a sharp decline in revenues. The country did not get back on its feet until 1999.

After achieving its independence on July 5, 1962, Algeria witnessed a coup in 1965 against President Ahmed Ben Bella, who was overthrown by then-minister of defense Houari Boumediene. For many years, the coup was referred to as “revolutionary reform,” but it was no longer celebrated under President Bouteflika. Bouteflika’s decision to annul this former national holiday was considered as a sort of apology to Ben Bella, who passed away a few months ago. After Boumedienne died in 1979, Chadli Bendjedid took over the country’s presidency but resigned when Islamists won the first pluralistic legislative elections in 1991. However, the results of these elections were challenged in early 1992, thus paving the way for the bloody violence that lasted almost a decade and claimed more than 200 thousand Algerian lives.

After Bendjedid, Mohamed Boudiaf was appointed as the chairman of the High Council of State, but he was assassinated on June 29, 1992. Afterward, Ali Kafi and the rightist Liamine Zeroual took over the presidency of the High Council of State during the transitional phase. This phase ended in 1995 when Zeroual was elected as the president of Algeria in the pluralistic elections. After Zeroual came Bouteflika, a retired general with a rigorous policy against terrorism who was elected president of the country in 1999. He remains in power and is in his third term. 

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Found in: independence, algeria, abdelaziz bouteflika
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