OPINION: President Bouteflika belonged to the generation that we can all agree that followed in the footsteps of the founding fathers of the liberation struggle – like Ahmed Ben Bella, Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere, writes Molly Dhlamini.
After learning of the death of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on September 17, I could not help but reflect immediately on his leadership, influence, determination and decision-making spirit.
Of course, this character cannot be separated from that of the country itself, the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria. It is a country that was unwavering in its determination to fight colonialism and apartheid. It is also a country which has kept alive the spirit of Pan-Africanism until today.
In the recent past, this has been evident in his quiet diplomacy in canceling the debts of some African countries as a form of solidarity and unity. It is not surprising that under his leadership as president, Algeria continued with the institutional and material support for the self-determination of the Sahrawis of Western Sahara. This support has been constant and anchored in the body politic of the country and among its people.
Support for the liberation of Africa’s last colony is what Bouteflika’s presidency was so committed to, and the Tindouf refugee camps, which are home to a large Sahrawi population, can connect to the world across it. Algeria, having its government legitimized. It is the practical solidarity that the Bouteflika presidency has been able to maintain. President Bouteflika also clearly expressed Algeria’s unwavering support for the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination.
With an illustrious political and militant career that began at the age of 19, joining the National Liberation Army (ALN), the armed wing of the National Liberation Front (FLN), he became Minister of Youth and sports at the age of 25 when the revolution against the French was won.
The visible role of President Bouteflika in the fight against apartheid was evident in 1974, when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs under the presidency of Ahmed Ben Bella.
As president of the United Nations General Assembly in the period 1974-1975, he played a decisive role in the suspension of representatives of the apartheid regime, which denied them accreditation.
This is an unprecedented decision that was adopted despite opposition from some key members of the UN Security Council.
At the same meeting, in another unprecedented gesture, he invited Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to address the global body. During his presidency, the United Nations General Assembly remained focused on a critical resolution on “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” which was adopted in 1960. .
Prior to this period, Algeria was home to critical freedom fighters like Che Guevara and the father of our democracy Nelson Mandela, who received his first military training in Algeria in the 1960s. their own struggle, the FNL graciously received the late Jonas Matlou, an ANC envoy who paved the way for the solid relations that eventually developed between the two liberation movements.
A Free Algeria embraced the ANC, allowing the opening of an ANC office headed by Robert Resha and Johnny Makhathini. As General Keith Mokoape, former commander of the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, recalls, in the summer of July 1988, the president of the ANC OR Tambo deployed six MK soldiers to Tindouf in Western Sahara. who received passage from Algeria. They were to be deployed alongside the Polisario Front soldiers who were then fighting against Morocco, which had illegally occupied its territory.
Around the same time, Algeria was instrumental in transporting military materiel captured from Moroccans and donated by the apartheid regime to Morocco.
These were transported through the port of Algiers to the port of Luanda in Angola, to be donated to the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) and to ANC camps in Angola. Algeria was among the first African countries to offer this type of material support to freedom fighters.
President Bouteflika was later to play a key role in working with Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo in the creation of NEPAD. Together, they were to be joined by two presidents – President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal. Later, they would all be joined by President Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on other key African Union milestones.
President Bouteflika belonged to the generation that we can all agree to follow in the footsteps of the founding fathers of the liberation struggle – like Ahmed Ben Bella, Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere. President Bouteflika has maintained this revolutionary fervor and will be remembered. Progressive forces must continue to fight for the self-determination of the Sahrawis in Western Sahara and the self-determination of the Palestinian people.
* Molly Dhlamini is from the South African section of the Sahrawi Solidarity Forum.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the IOL and the independent media.