The fight for independence was the beginning of Algeria’s journey towards economic and political development. Between March and October 1954, the CRUA organized a guerrilla military network that comprised of six military regions. The leaders and their respective followers were referred to as the internals. Among them were Ben Bella, Ait Ahmed, and Khider and they had their operations base in Cairo. The delegation of six individuals wanted to rally foreign support for the rebellion as well as acquire supplies, funds, and arms to help in their struggle. In October 1954, the CRUA changed its name to The National Liberation Front or French de Liberation Nationale (FLN), and it was in charge of leading the Algerian revolution. Internal political wrangles, military interference, and economic instability were the major issue that influenced the success and failure of the country ’s three presidents while ensuring political and economic independence.
The French de Liberation Nationale (FLN) was formed in early 1954 with the aim of ending colonial rule in Algeria. The FLN was born due to the rigidity of the French imperial system. For instance, the French colonial government treated the native Algerians as second class citizens, employing brutal ways to deal with persons involved in the liberation fight. Adam Shatz quoted the words of Frantz Fanon, one of Algeria’s liberal movement members on why the people needed to be ready for violence as a way towards independence. As he stated, ”To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time” (Shatz, 1). On All Saints Day, Ist November 1954, the FLN launched guerilla attacks in different parts of Algeria. The Algerian freedom fighters were inspired by Frantz Fanon who according to Shatz “came to believe that the revolution contained the seeds of redemption, not only for Algeria but for the entire colonial world” (Shatz, 3). The Algerian revolutionaries also sought help from other African hand foreign nations to fight the French. For example, Egypt was among the leading international supporters of Algerian independence under the leadership of the then president, Gamal Abdul Nasser. The United States played a significant role in helping the Algerian revolutionaries fight for freedom. The C.I.Employed delicate diplomacy and on many occasions, offered the revolutionaries political asylum.
The FLN took another shot at the French colonial government in 1958, and the coup was unsuccessful once again. However, the move paved the way for negotiations between the FLN and the colonial government. The two sides were involved in a political stalemate and 1960; Charles de Gaulle was forced to negotiate a settlement with Ben Bella. The two reached a compromise making Algeria an independent state in March 1962, under Ahmed Ben Bella as the president.
As president, Bella focused on reestablishing the county after the devastating effects of the guerrilla warfare that had left the country disorganized and the clashes by internal armed groups. For instance, he set out a quarter of the budget to cater for the nation’s education needs, and initiated various major agrarian reforms, for example, the nationalization of the former colonial firms. However, the leadership strategies employed by Ben Bella were not suitable for the Algerians who wanted more economical and political freedom. According to Prashad “But the FLN failed the legions of anticolonial supporters who wanted a role in the creation of a new Algeria” (122). To make matters worse, the government under Bella abolished the multiparty system although the other parties were in line with FLN’s socialist practices. The FLN took two of its former military heads to prison, a move which made most Algerian citizens angry and discontent with the country’s leadership.
As a result, the Algerian military became the biggest internal threat to the independent government’s quest in ensuring political and economic development. As Prashad states, “From July to September 1962, the FLN members fought among themselves” (Prashad 123). The fights were triggered by the fact that the military wanted to have full authority like the president on the pretext that they had fought for independence together. Prashad further states that “The great flaws in the national liberation project came from the assumption that political power could be centralized in the state, that the national liberation party should dominate the state (123).” The military leaders developed different opinions on the country’s leadership causing division in the FLN. So, Ben Bella was unable to have full control of the FLN, and this prevented him from having the party’s support. In 196, Bella was ousted by a military coup organized Houari Boumedienne, who declared himself as president, forcing Bella into detention with little contact.
Boumedienne’s reign as the second Algerian president was a welcome move from the Algerian people. He was successful in consolidating his power reorganizing the FLN. Over the years, Boumedienne focused on democracy by allowing for constitutional implementation such as the elections which were held in 1967. The planned attempts by the military to overthrow Boumedienne in 1967 were futile because he was famous, and was affiliated to the national liberation movement, a cause most of the Algerian people identified with. To undermine his political rivals in the military, Boumediene distanced himself from the army base and spent a lot of time advocating for a populist set of economic and social policies. For instance, he came up with plans for mass industrialization, advocated for the development of public enterprises through socialism, encouraged agrarian revolution, and the provision of Free State services such as health care, and universal education.
He pursued socialism by launching the agrarian reform in 1971. The move focused on redistributing the state-owned lands to the landless peasants as well as nationalizing most of the French private owned arms. What’s’ more, Boumedienne’s government had full autonomy over the country’s economy and resources. For example, it nationalized the natural gas and petroleum companies owned by the French government. Besides, Algeria was able to raise high revenues from oil exportation, particularly after an increase in prices of oil in 1973. The economic boost was used to finance Algeria’s ambitious industrialization program. For instance, the major industry branches became state corporations with the oil corporation being the most powerful. Unfortunately, Boumediene’s leadership strategy did not reflect on the wish of the Algerians after independence because he changed from a charismatic and caring leader to an individual who forcefully expressed the aspirations and fully advocated for a one-party state which was against the reasons for political independence.
Boumedienne’s presidency came to an end in 198 following his death. The army and the FLN agreed to back up Colonel Chadli Bendjedid, also a former guerilla fighter as president following a referendum in 1979. Bendjedid was eager to ensure more democracy, and as a result, he loosened the governments control on the country’s economy. For instance, the state corporations were broken down into smaller companies, while the private businesses were promoted through the introduction of new regulations and provision of financial incentives. He challenged most of the socialist policies, and by mid-1980s, the state encouraged the press to denounce socialism, altering the county’s independence foundations.
Bendjedid faced serious setbacks. At that time, the Iranian revolution of 1979 influenced the Algerian people thus triggering Islamic militancy. The breaking down of the socialist system by the government accelerated the rise of Islamist groups. On matters of the economy, there was a sharp decline in petroleum prices in the mid-1980s which affected the country’s financial capacity. The government had no money to pay the employees, and there was an immense lack of basic needs in many households.
Additionally, the country’s public debt rose tremendously in 1988, and the rates of unemployment became high. The interference of the state in Agriculture crippled the sector, and water shortage made urban life and industry a nightmare. The Algerian public became resentful to the government’s lack to come up with solutions to their problems, and there was a mass riot against the country’s increasing corruption. But, the government was able to provide a few answers. For instance, it changed the FLN’s political monopoly by passing a new constitution that supported multiparty politics, and an abolition of the socialist policies.
After the Second World War, most countries under colonial rule were determined to gain political and economic freedom from their colonial masters. Algeria was among the French African colonies, and after the war experience, some Algerian national tired with the oppression of the French rule decided to fight for freedom. The French de Liberation Nationale (FLN) was the official liberation party developed in 1994 by various Algerian nationalists among them Ben Bella, Boumedienne, and Bendjedid, who later served as presidents respectively. The three leaders experienced success as well as failures in their quest to ensure political and economic independence from 1945-1990. Their involvement in guerilla warfare was what led to the country’s independence in 1962.
Additionally, they encouraged the development of the country’s economy through socialist practices. However, the major problem facing the country‘s attainment of political and economic growth was internal conflicts among the leaders, military interference and the rise of Islamism. Some of these issues are still rampant in modern day Algeria, and they continue to influence the country’s economic and political agenda negatively.
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