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Algeria:Test of power

Algeria: Test of Power

The story of Algeria’s past, present and future – from independence to the Arab Spring and beyond.

Editor’s note: This film is no longer available online.

A film by Herve Bourges; directed by Jerome Sesquin

Algeria was under French colonial rule for 132 years. From tears of joy at independence in 1962 to the tragic civil war of the 1990s and the anger that culminated in the Arab Spring, this series provides a unique insight into a country notoriously inaccessible to both journalists and filmmakers.

Interviews with key players like Ben Bella, Ait Ahmed and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, cover 50 years of tragic and powerful history from the Evian Accords of 1962 to the Arab Spring of 2011.

This is the story of Algeria’s past, present and future.

In 1962, Algeria proclaimed independence from France following eight years of war and over a century of colonial rule.

We liberated the territory, but not the people

by Abdennour Ali Yahia, a human rights lawyer

The Algerian war of independence, and the negotiations that followed, spurred decades of political assassinations, coups, terrorist attacks and civil war.

Hundreds of thousands of Europeans fled the country, but many Algerians who fought alongside the French during the war were left behind.

Harkis, as they were called, faced torture and execution at the hands of fellow Algerians.

Under the rule of its first elected president, Ahmed Ben Bella, Algeria adopted a socialist single-party political system.

One year after independence, the country of nine million was poor, starving and war-torn.

This is the story of Algeria’s struggle told through the voices of the presidents and politicians who once ran the country. 

Episode 2: An era of tempests

In October of 1988, the Algerian army opened fire on protesters, killing 500 civilians.

This brutal attack sparked uprisings that in-turn prompted the government to abandon three decades of single-party socialism in favour of a multi-party system. Journalists and citizens celebrated their new-found freedom.

Our generation bears a terrible responsibility. We neglected the young people and woke up one morning to find they had moved on with this terrible seed of violence

by Lakhdar Brahimi, former Algerian foreign affairs minister

Thirty years after independence, Algeria became the site of what many call the ‘first Arab Spring’ after Algerians demanded democracy and social and economic equality.

Political freedom allowed Islamist movements to garner more support. The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), which gathered momentum under the one-party system because of its grounding in religion rather than politics, had gained increasing support during the 1990 municipal election.

Then, in 1991, it won almost half of the votes in the first round of the legislative election. Fearing a majority win for the FIS, the military stepped in and halted the democratic electoral process. It forced Chadli Bendjedid, then president, to abdicate and presented his resignation as voluntary.

The second round of elections were cancelled and Mohamed Boudiaf, who had returned after a 27-year exile in Morocco, became Algeria’s new leader as the chairman of the High Council of the State, a figurehead body for the ruling generals.

Boudiaf tried to bring the parties together but quickly made enemies. And after his assassination in 1992, terrorist attacks increased and Algeria spiralled into a decade of civil war that claimed thousands of lives.