Show caption Bouteflika, a veteran of Algeria’s war for independence, resigned in April 2019 amid outcry over his plan to seek a fifth term. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika, former Algerian president, dies aged 84 Bouteflika, an independence war veteran, resigned amid pro-democracy protests in 2019 Staff and agencies Sat 18 Sep 2021 05.06 BST Share on Facebook
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Algeria’s longest-serving president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned in 2019 amid pro-democracy protests after two decades in power, has died aged 84.
The state television announcement on Friday, citing a statement from the office of the current president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, did not provide the cause of death.
A three-day period of mourning starting on Saturday has been declared for the former president. Flags were to fly at half-mast during the mourning period, the president’s office said.
Bouteflika, a veteran of Algeria’s war for independence, resigned in April 2019 amid outcry over his plan to seek a fifth term. He had rarely been seen in public since a stroke in 2013.
Bouteflika was born on 2 March 1937, to Algerian parents in the border town of Oujda, Morocco. In 1956, he joined the National Liberation Army in the war against French rule. After Algeria’s independence in 1962, Bouteflika became the country’s first foreign minister at just 25.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika with US secretary of state Henry Kissinger in 1975. Photograph: Dave Pickoff/AP
He kept that post for 16 years, defining the country as a leader of the Third World and the Non-Aligned Movement and presiding over the UN general assembly in 1974.
Bouteflika successfully negotiated with the terrorist Carlos the Jackal to free oil ministers taken hostage in a 1975 attack on Opec headquarters and invited the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to address the UN general assembly in 1974.
Bouteflika and Yasser Arafat in 2001. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
“I’m a nonconformist politician. I’m a revolutionary,” Bouteflika told the Associated Press on the eve of his first presidential victory in 1999.
In the early 80s, Bouteflika went into exile in Dubai after the death of ex-president Houari Boumédiène. He returned in the 90s when Algeria was being ravaged by a war between the army and Islamist militants that killed at least 200,000 people.
Bouteflika and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 1999. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
Elected president, Bouteflika negotiated a truce with the Islamists and launched a national reconciliation process allowing the country to restore peace. He was re-elected in 2009 and 2013, amid charges of fraud and a lack of powerful challengers.
Bouteflika had used oil and gas revenues to soothe internal discontent, and the state he ruled became more peaceful and prosperous, allowing it to sidestep, for a while, the Arab spring unrest that toppled leaders across the region in 2011. But corruption flourished and Algerians grew increasingly angry at the political and economic torpor, fuelling the mass protests that finally brought Bouteflika’s presidency to an end.
After his resignation, authorities launched investigations into corruption, leading to the imprisonment of several senior officials, including Bouteflika’s powerful brother and adviser, Saïd.
Little is known about Bouteflika’s private life. Official records mention no wife, though some accounts say a marriage took place in 1990.
With Reuters and Associated Press