The passing of Da al-Hocine poses a new challenge for the regime. Real opposition continues to be a major political imperative in shaping the country’s political pluralis. The last Algerian WL hero and leader, Ait Ahmed, who was for my generation a father and a teacher of how to stand to tyranny. His ideas and vision were too good to be true for a country that the regime nationalized even the ideas and the people’s ideal
By Abdennour Toumi
The passing of longtime human rights militant and last Algerian liberation war hero and son, Dr. Hocine Aït Ahmed, affectionately called Da al-Hocine by his militants and sympathizers, died Wednesday night at the age of 89 in Switzerland, having vehemently opposed the Algerian regime for half a century. Dr. Aït Ahmed was born August 20, 1926 at Aïn al-Hammam, in Kabylie, a mountainous Berber region east of Algiers.
Son of a pious and religious family, as an independence activist he adhered in his early years to the Algerian People’s Party (PPA) under the leadership of the charismatic Messali Hadj who in 1948 advocated the necessity of armed struggle against the French occupation. He was appointed to head the Special Organization (l’OS), a para-military organization whose backbone would eventually rise to become the National Liberation Army (NLA) in 1954.
However, he was rejected by the OS in 1949 accused of regionalism in advocating for “Berberism” and was replaced by Ahmed Ben Bella — later, in 1950 the OS was dismantled by the French police.
Convicted in absentia, he went to Cairo in 1951, then joined the National Liberation Front (FLN) and participated in the platform of the war of liberation in November, 1954.
In 1955 he took the Algerian cause to the Bandung Conference, calling for the independence of all Maghreb countries from French occupation. Later he again espoused the cause at the highest level of the international community with his friend M’hamed Yazid at the UN. He opened a FLN section while in New York.
The following year, 1956, he was arrested in Algiers in the aircraft boarded by the French en route to Morocco in the company of Ahmed Ben Bella, Mohamed Boudiaf, Mohamed Khider, Mustapha Lacheraf, and Rabah Bitat.
Released in 1962 after the cease-fire, Aït Ahmed was elected to the first National Algerian free Assembly, but he quickly opposed President Ben Bella. The following year he created the Socialist Forces Front (FFS) and joined a small, armed group of maquis in his Berber region (la Kabylie). His venture was short-lived as the group’s activities were contained by the regular forces.
Arrested again in 1964, he was sentenced to death, but escaped from prison and chose exile in Switzerland where he became a Doctor of Law. Later he was pardoned for his political activities.
In choosing exile he left behind a clandestine, political party in the hands of fervent militants and dedicated sympathizers who continued to preach his ideas for a new Algeria in universities campuses and state owned assembling factories across the country.
The next twenty-three years were spent moving between the Alpine borders, but in December, 1989, he returned to Algeria touched by the southern winds blowing on the political scene, following the recognition of his party (FFS) by the regime.
Da al-Hocine overtly and courageously denounced the 1992 military coup. Rejected a President post from the putschists — he then called for the continuation of the electoral process and respect for the people’s choice, a position that brought him accusations of being “pro-Islamist!” He was seen as an opportunist politician because at that time there were talks between his entourage and the FIS leadership of offering him the post of Speaker in the first elected multi-party Algerian Parliament.
A few weeks after the assassination in 1992 of another liberation war hero, President Mohamed Boudiaf, Dr. Aït Ahmed again chose exile in the land where time is kept by Swiss watch. A few years later, in 1995, he signed the Saint Egidio Agreement in Rome, Italy with Algerian parties including the FIS, asking the regime to open negotiations to end the bloody civil war that had cost more than 200,000 lives and pressed thousands into exile.
In 1999, Da al-Hocine gave the benefit of the doubt to the regime and ran in the presidential election campaign representing his party’s platform. However, he didn’t buy the regime’s charade and its candidates and as a result he withdrew from the race. Ever since that time and in the years that have followed, he has kept his voice and his party alive in the era of President Bouteflika.
Yet change in Algeria doesn’t necessarily rhyme with liberty; consequently, in 2013, Da al-Hocine resigned from the presidency of his party, passing the torch to a collegial leadership of five members. His party, the FFS, as a social-democrat-oriented party, continues to promote an economic ideology standing for political alternation.
The FFS has for a long time been described as regionalist/separatist, harshly criticized by the regime and its allies labeling the FFS leaders and membership as agents of France and politically incorrect (Hizb Franca, Party of France). However, today the regime has declared an eight-day period of mourning in respect for Da al-Hocine’s passing.
The FFS party resumed an active role in the political fight in 2012 and in the last parliamentary elections won 27 seats of the 462 national seats. In the 2014 presidential election, his party opted for the “neither boycott nor support” stand against presidential candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Da al-Hocine has gone, but his dedication to the cause of democracy and human rights continues. As a visionary he put his country’s interest before his own, yet was never understood by the general population and its leaders. Those who accused him of treason yesterday, today are mourning him as a democrat, a State man and a leader that knew how to oppose and to dispose.
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