Ben Bella in Havana with Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
“Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the Bissau-Guinean armed struggle against colonial Portugal, once said about Algiers: ‘The Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Christians to the Vatican, and the national liberation movements to Algiers.’ Cabral was also the first to name Algiers ‘capital of revolutions’ in 1969. By the early 1970s, Algeria had a full blown authoritarian regime and left internationalism was on the retreat. Though Algiers is again the site of protest and young Algerians link their struggles against the government with protests against neoliberalism elsewhere in the world, the global city celebrated by Cabral is now a thing of the distant past. Algeria’s independence in 1962 from France correlated with the fall of the French Fourth Republic and its colonial empire. After 132 years under French colonialism, the renascent yet limping Algeria had a population of 9 million people but only 500 university graduates. Algeria lacked reliable economic and political infrastructures—with France still showing vivid interest in its oil-rich desert in the south. Ninety percent of Algerians were illiterate; but they had brought the world’s fourth largest military power to its knees. It was with this revolutionary spirit that in the early 1960s, the capital Algiers became a meeting ground for international civil rights activists, revolutionary intellectuals, artists and guerilla fighters, all of whom had taken a common stance against imperialism and colonialism. The new government built a nation out of a looted colony. First president, Ben Bella, and the FLN, the ruling party that had mainly led the War of Liberation (1954-1962), dreamed of making Algeria an esteemed country in the international arena, notably by leading the Non-Aligned Movement, the loose alliance of newly independent countries that wanted to chart a future outside the influence of either the US, the Soviet Union or China. At the founding conference of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), Ben Bella argued that the newfound anti-colonialist organization should provide help to liberation movements with arms, training and funding. ‘Let us all agree to die a little so that the people still under colonial rule may be free and African unity may not become a vain word,’ he declared. …”
Africas is a Country
Algeria’s Independence: The Forgotten Protests that Forged a Nation
Telegraph: France may have apologised for atrocities in Algeria, but the war still casts a long shadow