A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hocine Aït-Ahmed (1926-2015), Last of Algeria's "neuf chefs historiques," Dies at 89

Veteran Algerian political figure Hocine Aït-Ahmed, founder of the opposition Socialist Forces Front (FFS) and the last of the nine "chefs historiques" who launched the Algerian Revolution, has died in Lausanne at age 89 after a long illness.

A Kabyle Berber by background, the erudite Aït-Ahmed helped launch the uprising against France in  1954, alongside Ahmed Ben Bella, Rabah Bitat, Mohamed Boudiaf, Belkacem Krim, Mostefa ben Boulaid, Mohamed Khidr, Larbi Ben M'Hidi, and Mourad Didouche.

He served as the chief diplomat of the Provisional Revolutionary Government (GPRA), based in Cairo, until he and other key leaders were intercepted by the French and imprisoned in 1956. He was released on independence in 1962, but he soon fell out with Ahmed Ben Bella, resigned from the ruling FLN, and founded the Socialist Forces Front (FFS) as an opposition party, though it remained illegal until 1990. Though the FFS is ostensibly a democratic socialist movement and a member of the Socialist International, it has always appealed primarily to the Berbers of his native Kabylie.

Arrested under Ben Bella and exiled to Switzerland, he periodically returned to Algeria once parties were legalized, even running as the FFS candidate for President. As his health began to fail in 2013, he retired as head of the FFS and returned to Switzerland.

With the passing of the last of the nine historic chiefs, one of the few remaining figures of the Revolution still active in politics is, of course, the ailing President Bouteflika.

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