Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who served as president of Algeria for two decades, has died at the age of 84 in the country”s capital, Algiers.
A mainstay in Algerian politics for more than six decades, Bouteflika had fought with the National Liberation Army for independence from France when he was just 19.
He became chief secretary of the border army until independence in 1962, going on to take on his first ministerial position in Algeria’s first government at the age of 24.
Bouteflika’s eventual fall from power in April 2019 came as huge protests spread across the country when he tried to secure a fifth term as president.
He’d suffered a stroke in 2013 that had badly weakened him, but concerns about his state of health were kept secret from Algerians. and that fuelled their anger against him. Under pressure from the military, he quit and then stayed out of the public eye, living quietly in western Algiers.
In his early career, Bouteflika had embodied the Third World revolutionary who defied the West, acting as a prominent voice for the developing nations movement. He was active in the United Nations and presided over the U.N. General Assembly in 1974.
he following year, he negotiated with a Venezuelan terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal to free oil ministers taken hostage in a 1975 attack on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)’s headquarters.
Bouteflika became president of Algeria in 1999, and managed to stabilise the country after a horrific Islamic insurgency in the 1990s in which around 200,000 people had beenkilled
He managed to persuade the jihadists to lay down their arms, but the insurgency then moved to the Sahara region, where it relied on smuggling and kidnapping for funds and turned to al-Qaeda for support.
Bouteflika had become foreign minister as just 25, and stood up to the likes of Henry Kissinger at the height of the Cold War.
At the time Algeria was a model of doctrinaire socialism tethered to the former Soviet Union; so much so that the capital, Algiers, was nicknamed “Moscow on the Med.”
But Bouteflika stood firmly with the United States in the fight against Islamic extremism after the September 11 attacks, particularly on intelligence-sharing and military cooperation.
Corruption scandals over infrastructure and hydrocarbon projects also dogged him for years and tarnished many of his closest associates. Many are now in prison.