In 1962 when Algeria won independence, Abdelaziz was appointed minister of youth and sports in the government of Ahmed Ben Bella, Algeria’s first elected president. In 1963 he was appointed foreign minister, until 1978, when he headed Algerian delegations to negotiate with the French.
A talented and dashing foreign minister, Abdelaziz led a policy of anti-colonialism and non-interference and brought Algeria to prominence on the world stage as a leader of the non-aligned movement and a founding member of the African Union. He welcomed Che Guevara and a young Nelson Mandela to Algeria.
Abdelaziz was tried by Algeria’s Court of Auditors on charges of misappropriating millions of dollars from the foreign ministry’s budget over the years and was arrested. He opted going into exile for six years.
After his return to Algeria in 1987, Abdelaziz rejoined the Central Committee of the National Liberation Front, the political arm of the independence movement. But he remained a backstage figure through most of the 1990s.
The uprising in Algeria began when the government aborted elections to avert a landslide victory by the Islamic Salvation Front, also known by its French abbreviation, F.I.S.
Abdelaziz, in 1999, made his way back to the forefront, being the only candidate left standing after six rivals pulled out in protest, saying the conditions under which the election took place were unfair.
As president he promoted the concept of “national reconciliation” imposing a de facto amnesty on all antagonists of the war. Atrocities were committed during the war by both sides, which left an estimated 100,000 Algerians dead.
Abdelaziz won three more elections after that, the last one in 2014, after the Algerian Constitution was amended to allow him to run without term limits. He ensured that Algeria remained an important influence in North African regional affairs. He helped mediate conflicts and political instability in the negotiating states of Mali, Libya and Tunisia.
Protests broke out in late February 2019, when it was announced that Abdelaziz would run for a fifth term in elections scheduled for April. Hundred of thousands of demonstrators protested peacefully in central Algiers on March 1. Abdelaziz was forced out of the presidency in 2019, by the military the dominant political force in the country, after leading Algeria for 20 years.
Algeria’s opaque pouvoir is the influential decision makers at the top of the military and intelligence establishments that had shaped politics since independence in 1962. The military remains the dominant power in Algeria. Abdelaziz had stroke in early 2013 and spent two and a half months in a hospital recuperating. He was rarely seen in public or on television, leaving the impression that his inner circle, which was suspected of corruption scandals anyway, governed the country.
Compiled by:Muhammad Nauman Khan