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The veteran of the Algeria War of Independence ruled the North African country for two decades before resigning in April 2019.
Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika died at age 84, the country’s presidency said Friday, more than two years after he stepped down under pressure from mass protests and the military.
A veteran of Algeria’s war of independence, Bouteflika had ruled the North African country for two decades before resigning in April 2019 after street protests rejected his plan to pursue a fifth term in office.
The longest-serving Algerian leader had rarely been seen in public before his departure since a stroke in 2013.
After Bouteflika’s resignation, in an effort to end protests demanding political and economic reform, authorities launched unprecedented corruption investigations, leading to the imprisonment of several senior officials, including Bouteflika’s powerful brother and adviser, Said.
Bouteflika is considered a national hero by his supporters, having fought on the battlefield during the Algeria War of Independence.
After Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, former President Bouteflika became Algeria’s first foreign minister and an influential figure in the Non-Aligned Movement.
As president of the UN General Assembly, Bouteflika invited former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to address the body in 1974, a historic step towards international recognition of the Palestinian cause.
He also demanded that China get a seat at the United Nations, and railed against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
In the early 1980s, he was accused of corruption and went into self-imposed exile after the death of ex-president Houari Boumediene. He settled in Dubai, where he became an advisor to a member of the emirate’s ruling family. The corruption charges against him were later dropped.
He returned home in the 1990s, when Algeria was ravaged by a war between the military and armed fighters that killed at least 200,000 people, and he won an election supported by the military.
He was elected president in 1999, managed to negotiate a ceasefire with the Islamists and launched a national reconciliation process that allowed the country to restore peace.
During his early years in office, he led the country into an economic boom, leading to development across the country.
He also managed to keep the country together during the Arab Spring.
When protests erupted in early 2011, his government responded by establishing thousands of small businesses. But despite the initiative, the riots continued.
When he won a second term in 2004, he changed the constitution for a third term. And despite deteriorating health, he changed the constitution again to secure a fourth term.
Western leaders viewed Bouteflika as an ally in fighting armed groups in North Africa, and his government fought al-Qaeda and other related groups.
Bouteflika was blamed for the cost of civilian lives when he ordered the military to storm a gas factory in the Algerian desert in 2017 to rescue hundreds of hostages held by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.
Bouteflika’s grip on power began to crumble when he announced his bid for a fifth term in office in February 2019, sparking massive demonstrations not seen since the independence protests in 1962.
For weeks, protests demanded that Bouteflika and his allies resign.
Bouteflika tried to appease protesters by backtracking on his decision to seek a new term and postpone the election. But it was not enough to stop the uprising.
The protests continued and the army intervened and ended Bouteflika’s government.
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