Former Algerian revolutionary Ahmed Ben Bella has been released from house arrest in Algiers after more than 14 years.
Former Algerian revolutionary Ahmed Ben Bella has been released from house arrest in Algiers after more than 14 years. The charismatic figure of Algeria's early independence days had become one of the world's almost forgotten political prisoners until his release was announced on Wednesday (4 July). Ben Bella, now aged 63, was deposed in a bloodless coup in June, 1965, led by the late President Houari Boumedienne. His freedom this week coincides with celebrations marking the 17th anniversary of Algeria's independence from France.
SYNOPSIS: A visit to Morocco for talks with King Hassan was one of Ben Bella's first state visits after helping Algeria achieve independence in 1962. He arrived to a tumultuous welcome as a hero for his revolt against French rule -- a revolt that had earned him six years' detention in France. And his arrival in Rabat was kept secret to the last moment to prevent possible assassination attempts by French extremists.
Two years later in Algiers, President Ben Bella attended a massive parade to mark the tenth anniversary of the start of the Algerian fight for independence. But his reign as head of state was soon to end. The same military forces that took Ben Bella's salute that day were the ones who supported the coup that ousted him in June, 1965. The leader of that coup was Colonel Houari Boumedienne who had supported Ben Bella earlier and helped him to power in 1963.
When Ben Bella had marched triumphantly into Algiers in September, 1962, Boumedienne accompanied him at the head of the army. His reward then was appointment as commander-in-chief of the Algerian People's National Army; later as Minister of Defence. Less than three years later, Boumedienne took control and Ben Bella disappeared from public view to go into isolated detention.
But it is for his revolutionary charisma -- rather than for his long imprisonments -- that Ben Bella is remembered.....and for the spirit of speeches such as this one in 1962 when he told the world that Algerians would take up arms to regain Algeria's riches for themselves.....