|Biographical detail : ||Algerian nationalist
A farmer’s son Ahmed Ben Bella fought for France in World War 11 turned against it in the brutal struggle for Algerian independence and rose to become his country’s first elected president after years of captivity and exile. He epitomised a generation fascinated, traumatised and antagonised by French colonial rule.
In 1947, Ahmed Ben Bella launched the secret paramilitary Organisation Speciale (OS) with the aim of overthrowing the French. He was jailed but escaped in 1952 and eventually found refuge in Cairo. There, in 1954, he and eight other Algerian revolutionary leaders created the National Liberation Front (FLN). For two years Ben Bella shuttled between Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, acquiring weapons and sending orders to fighters in the field.
Known for his quick mind and courage Ahmed Ben Bella faced heavy combat in wartime France and Italy, escaped French assassination attempts, and after detention and exile, survived the political intrigues and anarchy at home that followed independence of Algeria in 1962. Elected president in 1963 Ben Bella passed Algeria’s first constitution, encouraged the creation of Sonatrach, Algeria’s national oil and gas conglomerate, and built schools for thousands of former shoeshine boys.
He did not remain long in office once he had achieved success in his fight against colonialism. In 1965, after three years as prime minister and president, he was ousted in a coup. Though he spent the next 14 years in confinement, in an isolated villa in Birtouta, outside of Algiers, he was a powerful voice inside and outside of Algeria.
He remained his country’s voice of conscience and a vocal observer of international affairs, opposing America’s wars against Iraq and the rise of global capitalism. Until his death, Ben Bella remained a largely silent but politically inconvenient symbol of the division present in Algerian body politic.
Born in Marnia, a small town in the mountains of western Algeria, to a family with Moroccan roots, Ahmed Ben Bella, tall, athletic, handsome and charismatic passed away at his home in Algiers.