Algeria - History

Places, tours, experience...

Algeria - History

Gửi bàigửi bởi dongdao » Thứ 4 Tháng 1 04, 2017 3:40 pm

Although Algerians have always been the mainstay of the story that is Algerian history, it was the great empires of the Mediterranean – the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottoman Turks – the armies of Islam from the east and finally the French who wrote the script. It is only since the second half of the 20th century that Algerians have been given a chance to make history for themselves.

THE GREEN SAHARA

Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Sahara was covered by expansive inland seas. Tens of millions of years ago, the Sahara was a desert larger than it is today. When the Sahara again turned green tens of thousands of years ago, and Europe shivered under the Ice Age, the Sahara became home to lakes and forests and a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Perhaps drawn by this idyllic climate, two distinct races appeared in North Africa between about 15,000 and 10,000 BC: the Oranian and then the Capsian (the former named after Oran in Algeria and the latter after Qafsah – ancient Capsa – in Tunisia). Their integration with indigenous peoples resulted in the spread of Neolithic (New Stone Age) culture and the introduction of farming techniques. The earliest evidence of lasting or semipermanent settlements in Algeria dates from this time.
. . Archaeological evidence of human habitation in Algeria has been dated back as far as 200,000 BC, and some scholars believe that the presence of Homo erectus goes back further still.

Rock paintings and carvings in the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park and elsewhere in Algeria, and across the borders in neighbouring Libya and Niger, are the greatest source of knowledge about this time when the Sahara was one of the nicest places to live in all the world. For more information on the Sahara’s climatic periods.

It is from these Neolithic peoples that the Berbers (the indigenous peoples of North Africa) are thought to descend. Taking into consideration regional variations and the lack of hard evidence, they appear to have been predominantly nomadic pastoralists, although they continued to hunt and occasionally farm. By the time of contact with the first of the outside civilisations to arrive from the east, the Phoenicians, these local tribes were already well established.

THE PHOENICIAN FOOTHOLD

The strategically located North African coast attracted the attention of the competing seagoing powers of Phoenicia and Greece, and the area’s fortunes became inextricably linked to those of its conquerors.

The Phoenicians first came cruising the North African coast around 1000 BC in search of staging posts for the lucrative trade in raw metals from Spain. These ports remained largely undeveloped and little was done to exploit the interior of the continent. From the 7th century BC settlements were established all along the southern rim of the Mediterranean, including at Hippo Regius (in Annaba), Saldae (in Bejaia) and Cesare (in what was formerly Iol, now Cherchell) in Algeria.

The foundation of the major settlement of Carthage is traditionally given as 814 BC. Long politically dependent on the mother culture in Tyre (in modern Lebanon), Carthage eventually emerged as an independent, commercial empire partly because Tyre came under increasing pressure from the Babylonians, but largely in reaction to Greek attacks on Carthage launched from Sicily. By the 6th century BC, the Phoenicians had established a settlement at Tipaza, with further ports and market towns following at Hippo Regius and Ruiscade (now Skikda).
. . Library of Congress – Country Studies (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/dztoc.html) provides a detailed overview of Algerian history in manageable, bite-sized portions.

By the 4th century BC, Carthage controlled the North African coast from Tripolitania (northwestern Libya) to the Atlantic and although the Algerian ports were important, the real power lay in Carthage. Indeed, the ongoing viability of Carthaginian Algeria depended very much on events in Carthage and beyond. The Carthaginians did develop the hinterland, but this extended little beyond the mountains shadowing the Algerian coast. Always, the primary Carthaginian concern was maintaining a safe chain of ports and guarding trade routes.

The Carthaginians are credited with teaching the Numidians and Mauri (who were later called Berbers) advanced agricultural methods. For the most part, however, the Carthaginians uprooted the local tribes and forced them into the desert and mountain hinterland. Trade links between the Carthaginians and the small handful of Berber states grew in importance, but Carthage was not averse to demanding tributes and forcibly recruiting Berber conscripts for their massive army. Berbers made up the largest single group in the Carthaginian army in the 4th century BC.

The rise of the Roman Empire saw the Carthaginians and Romans clash in Sicily, which lead to the Punic Wars and, ultimately, the downfall of Carthage. The first of the Punic Wars lasted from 263 to 241 BC, during which the Carthaginians lost numerous naval battles and finally accepted Roman terms and abandoned Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. Carthage consolidated its position in Africa but Roman armies landed at Utica (Tunisia) in 204 BC. Carthage capitulated and paid an enormous price, giving up its fleet and overseas territories.

With Carthage weakened by the failure of its overseas conquests, Berber kingdoms grew in power. These included Numidia, which encompassed much of northeastern Algeria, where the powerful King Massinissa held sway from his capital at Cirta Regia (modern Constantine) in the 2nd century BC.

Carthage hung on, despite incessant threats from Massinissa. In 149 BC, during the Third Punic War, the Roman army again landed in Utica, laid siege to Carthage and then overran the city in 146. It is unlikely that the Berbers mourned Carthage’s demise. In the meantime, in 148 BC, King Massinissa died and the Berber kingdoms fell into disarray.
. . When the Romans defeated Carthage, they were so afraid of the Carthaginians returning to power that the city was totally destroyed, sprinkled with salt as a symbol and damned forever.

ROMAN ALGERIA

Rome quickly brought Carthage under its control and by 64 BC the whole of northern Libya was in Roman hands. Roman attention turned to the west when the Numidian ruler Jugurtha, Massinissa’s grandson, massacred a number of Romans who were helping a Roman ally, Adherbal, defend the town of Cirta Regia. Jugurtha managed to resist several attempts by Rome to uproot him, but he was finally betrayed by Bocchus I, a Mauretanian king, in 105 BC. The boundaries of the Roman colony were extended and settlers (mostly veterans) were given land in the area.

Over the next 50 years, a trickle of Roman settlers moved in, and, after Julius Caesar crushed the last Numidian king, Juba I, in 46 BC, more organised state expansion got underway, fuelled by the realisation that North Africa could become the expanding empire’s breadbasket.

When Bocchus II of Mauretania died in 33 BC, bequeathing his kingdom to Rome, Augustus fostered local rule by installing Juba II (a renowned scholar married to the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony). After the murder of Juba’s son, Ptolemy, in about AD 40, the kingdom was split into two provinces – Mauretania Caesariensis, with its capital in Caesarea (in modern Algeria), and Mauretania Tingitana, with its capital at Tingis (Tangier).
. . Until the end of the 1st century AD, Rome’s North African colonies produced one million tonnes of wheat every year, of which a quarter was exported to Rome. By the 2nd century, the levels of olive oil production and export reached similar levels.

From this time until the decline of Rome in the 4th century AD, Algeria proved a stable and integral part of the empire. Agriculture was all important, and by the 1st century AD, Africa was supplying more than 60% of the empire’s grain requirements. From African ports, too, came the majority of the wild animals used in amphitheatre shows, as well as gold, olive oil, slaves, ivory, ostrich plumes and garum (a fish-sauce delicacy in Ancient Rome).

By the middle of the second century, Roman veterans had founded settlements at Tipasa (now Tipaza; p104 ), Cuicul (Djemila), Thamugadi (Timgad) and Sitifis (Sétif).

The period of Roman rule witnessed increasing urbanisation and prosperity in northern Algeria. The Roman presence saw some Berbers prosper. Some were granted Roman citizenship and many prominent Roman citizens were of Algerian origin; it was these wealthy locals who donated the monumental public buildings that graced the Roman cities of the region. The evidence of their patronage is particularly in evidence at Djemila.

At the same time, Roman encroachment created massive upheaval for the Berber tribes, with many losing agricultural lands and former autonomy. Berber uprisings were frequent. In response, the emperor Trajan (r AD 98–117) built a line of forts surrounding the Massif de Aurés and Nemencha mountains and from Vescera (modern Biskra) to Ad Majores (Hennchir Besseriani, southeast of Biskra) to mark out the southern limits of Roman rule. The southernmost point in Roman Algeria was at Castellum Dimmidi (modern Messaad, southwest of Biskra). Although it would later do so, Roman rule in the 2nd century did not extend west beyond Sitifis (modern Sétif).

With the spread of Christianity following the conversion of the emperor Constantine in AD 313, many of the Roman and Berber inhabitants embraced the new religion. Doctrinal schisms later gave prominence to one of the most famous figures of the early church, St Augustine, who became Bishop of Hippo Regius.

By the 4th century, tribal rebellion was endemic across the region, a sign that the end was near for Roman Algeria.

THE VANDALS & BYZANTINES

In AD 429, king Gaeseric (or Genseric), who had been busy marauding in southern Spain, decided to take the entire Vandal people (about 80,000 men, women and children) across to Africa, in one of the largest-scale mass migrations in history. By 430, Gaeseric had reached the gates of Hippo Regius – St Augustine died during the ensuing siege. Much of northeastern Algeria was soon in the Vandals’ possession and by the middle of the century Gaeseric’s ships were in control of much of the western Mediterranean. Rome was all but a spent force.

The Vandals confiscated large amounts of property and their exploitative policies accelerated North Africa’s economic decline. The Vandals, more adept at pillage and overseas conquests than in administering their colonies, fortified themselves in armed camps and the outlying areas fell once again under the rule of tribal chieftains. The Berbers became increasingly rebellious and, as the Vandals recoiled, small local kingdoms sprang up.

The Byzantine emperor Justinian, based in Constantinople (modern Istanbul), had in the meantime revived the eastern half of the Roman Empire and had similar plans for the lost western territories. His general Belisarius defeated the Vandals in 533. With Byzantine control limited to coastal cities and a few hinterland towns such as Timgad, Berber rebellions in the hinterland reduced the remainder of Algeria to anarchy and the potential prosperity of the provinces was squandered. Byzantine rule was deeply unpopular, not least because taxes were increased dramatically in order to pay for the colony’s military upkeep while the cities were left to decay.

THE ARRIVAL OF ISLAM

With tenuous Byzantine control over Algeria restricted to a few poorly defended coastal strongholds, the Arab horsemen under the command of Amr ibn al-As swept all before them as they made their way across North Africa after having taken Egypt in 640. However, it was not until Uqba bin Nafi al-Fihri began his campaign of conquest that the full military force of Islam was brought to bear on North Africa.
. . The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World by Ira M Lapidus and Francis Robinson is comprehensive and beautifully illustrated, and contains references to Algeria.

For three years from 669 he swept across the top of the continent, establishing Islam’s first great city in the Maghreb, Al-Qayrawan (Kairouan in modern Tunisia). With an army of Arab cavalry and Islamised Berber infantry, he marched into the Atlas and is said to have reached the Atlantic. By 698, the last remnants of Byzantine rule had disappeared and by 712 the entire region from Andalusia to the Levant came under the purview of the Umayyad caliphs (r 661–750) of Damascus. Abu al-Muhajir Dina, Uqba’s successor, cemented Islamic rule in Algeria, converting large numbers of Christian Berbers, especially around Tlemcen, Umayyad governors based in Al-Qayrawan administered eastern Algeria, with less rigorous control to the west.

Despite the rapid success enjoyed by the forces of Islam, the social character of Algeria remained overwhelmingly Berber. While largely accepting the arrival of the new religion, the Berber tribes resisted the Arabisation of the region. Although Arab rule flourished in coastal areas, the enmity between the Berbers (who saw their rulers as arrogant and brutal) and the Arabs (who scorned the Berbers as barbarians) ensured that rebellions plagued much of Algeria’s hinterland. A mass rebellion, in reaction to the tyrannical behaviour of the occupying troops and inspired by the Muslim heresy of Kharijism, set out from Morocco in 740 and conquered the Umayyad armies west of Al-Qayrawan.

With the shift of the caliphate from the Umayyads in Damascus to the Abbasids in Baghdad in 750, the Muslim west (North Africa and Spain) split from the east. Three major Islamic kingdoms finally emerged in North Africa: the Idrissids in Fès, the Aghlabids in Kairouan and the Rustamids in Tahart in Algeria.

Abd al-Rahman ibn Rustum and his elected successors ruled a vast swathe of central and northern Algeria from Tahirt, southwest of Algiers, from 761 until 909. One of history’s few examples of Kharijite or Ibadi rule, the Rustamids were also some of the most enlightened Islamic rulers of Algerian history, renowned for their patronage for the arts and scholarship in mathematics and astronomy, and for their justice and lack of corruption. Their enlightened ideals didn’t extend to forming a permanent army and they were easily swept away by the more powerful Shiite Fatimids. Finding many supporters among the Kabylie Berbers, the Fatimids defeated the Aghlabids before marching on Egypt and founding Cairo in 972.
. . A Traveller’s History of North Africa by Barnaby Rogerson is history made accessible and an ideal companion to your Algerian visit.

Before leaving for Egypt, however, the Fatimids entrusted their North African territory (Ifriqiyya, or roughly modern Tunisia and parts of Algeria and Libya) to the rule of the Berber Zirids (972–1148) who founded Algiers and made Algeria the centre of regional power almost for the first time in history. Bejaia also became one of the most important ports in North Africa. However, like the Berber Hammadids (1011–1151), their neighbours to the west, the Zirids were unable to resist pressure from within for religious orthodoxy and officially returned to Sunnism in open defiance of the Fatimids in Cairo.

The reply from Cairo was devastating: the Bani Hilal and Bani Salim (also known as the Bani Sulaim) tribes of Upper Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula were encouraged to invade the Maghreb, and over the following century North Africa was slowly reduced to ruins. The Zirids managed to hang on to a few coastal cities until 1148, while the Hammadids retreated to the coastal town of Bejaia, but northern Algeria had effectively been Arabised.

BERBER DYNASTIES

As Idrissid power in Morocco expired, a new force emerged from the Sahara. Inspired by a Quranic teacher, Abdallah bin Yasin, the Sanhadja confederation of various Berber tribes began to wage wars throughout the southern and central Sahara in a bid to retain control over trans-Saharan trade routes that were under pressure from the Zenata Berbers in the north. The Sanhadja were known as ‘the veiled ones’ (almulathamin) because of their dress, and later as the ‘people of the fortress’ (almurabitin) – the Almoravids. In 1062 their leader, Youssef bin Tachfin, founded Marrakech as his capital and led troops on a march of conquest that, at its height, saw a unified empire stretching from Senegal in Africa to Zaragoza in northern Spain and reaching east as far as Algiers.

Almoravid rule brought a measure of prosperity to the region and prompted a flourishing of the arts in Andalusia and elsewhere. It was during Almoravid rule that the Grand Mosque of Tlemcen was built; it would later be used as a prototype for the Grand Mosque of Córdoba.

Another Moroccan movement, ‘those who proclaim the unity of God’ (al-muwahhidin), known as the Almohads, denounced the religious laxness of the Almoravids and by 1160, Algeria was in Almohad hands. However, the empire grew too fast and soon began to crumble under its own weight. As it caved in, the Maghreb split into three parts: Ifriqiyya (Tunisia and parts of Libya) came under the Hafsids; Algeria under the Banu Abd al-Wad from Tlemcen; and Morocco under the Merenids. Although borders have changed and imperial rulers have come and gone, this division remains more or less intact today. The Abd al-Wadids (also known as the Zayanids) transformed Tlemcen into a major regional centre. They later formed an alliance with Granada in an effort to survive, but fell to the greater power of the Merenids in 1352.

OTTOMAN ALGERIA

Having successfully driven out the Muslims by 1492, Spain became a leading power in North Africa. They did so by establishing fortified outposts ( presidios) along the coast from where they exacted tribute from passing ships and the tribes of the interior. Some of their strongholds in Algeria included Mers el-Kebir (1505), Oran (1509), Tlemcen (1510) and Algiers (1510); the Spanish Fort of Santa Cruz remains to this day.

At around the same time, the Turkish pirate Barbarossa (or Kheireddin) and his brother Arudj were permitted to settle on the island of Jerba (Tunisia). Arudj captured Algiers from the Spanish, but they retook the city and killed Arudj in 1518. Thereupon Barbarossa allied himself with the Ottoman Turks in order to protect his Barbary possessions. With Ottoman support he secured control the entire Algerian coast from Oran to Constantine, making Algeria the most powerful foothold for the Ottomans in North Africa.

There was a flurry of activity as Spaniards and Turks fought for supremacy in North Africa. Tripoli fell to the Turks in 1551, followed by Tunis in 1574. Together with Algeria, the three provinces were governed by a pasha, assisted by a dey (administrative chief), a bey (military chief) and janissaries (soldiers, known as ojaq in Algeria). Power in fact resided more in the dey in Algeria and the bey in Tunisia, and the pashas were little more than figureheads. The dey’s power declined in Algeria with the assassination in 1671 of the last dey elected directly from Turkey.
. . The Ottoman deys (administrative chiefs) were elected for life, but between 1671 and 1830, 14 of the 29 rulers were assassinated before completing their turn.

During Ottoman rule, Algiers was the bastion of direct Ottoman power while the rest of the country was divided into three provinces with their capitals at Constantine, Médéa (south of Algiers) and later, after the Spanish abandoned it in 1791 after a massive earthquake, Oran. Further inland, local tribes enjoyed considerable autonomy and nowhere was this more true than in the Kabylie region.

In fact, almost from the beginning, Turkey’s rule over its North African possessions was little more than a formality, although it was sufficiently powerful to exclude Arabs and Berbers from any significant positions. The sultan’s name was used in the weekly sermons and new leaders sought confirmation of their nominations from Constantinople, but to all intents and purposes Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania acted independently, and frequently attacked one another.

In all three, piracy played a pivotal role in the local economies, and the Barbary pirates, operating mainly from Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, were the scourge of Europe’s Mediterranean shipping. European fleets occasionally blockaded North African ports and attacked the corsairs, but rarely with any lasting effect.
. . The Barbary Corsairs: Warfare in the Mediterranean, 1480-1580, by Jacques Heers, is filled with the skulduggery and picaresque adventures of the pirates that raided with impunity from Algeria.

FRANCE TAKES CONTROL

The French presence in North Africa started in earnest in 1830, when they blockaded and attacked Algiers, supposedly because the dey of Algiers had insulted the French consul, but a more likely motive was the need at home for a military success to revive the flagging fortunes of Charles X.

Within three weeks of the French landing, 34,000 French troops took Algiers and the government of the dey had capitulated. The victorious French soldiers wreaked havoc on the Algerian capital, killing and raping thousands of locals, desecrating mosques and cemeteries and looting more than 50 million francs from the Treasury which was located in the Casbah. The French quickly took control of prime real estate and agricultural lands, further alienating and marginalising the local population.

A couple of weeks later, Charles X himself had been overthrown, although by then the French had become entrenched in Algiers and a French parliamentary committee ruled that the occupation should be maintained for no reason other than what it called ‘national prestige’.

Another Moroccan movement, ‘those who proclaim the unity of God’ (al-muwahhidin), known as the Almohads, denounced the religious laxness of the Almoravids and by 1160, Algeria was in Almohad hands. However, the empire grew too fast and soon began to crumble under its own weight. As it caved in, the Maghreb split into three parts: Ifriqiyya (Tunisia and parts of Libya) came under the Hafsids; Algeria under the Banu Abd al-Wad from Tlemcen; and Morocco under the Merenids. Although borders have changed and imperial rulers have come and gone, this division remains more or less intact today. The Abd al-Wadids (also known as the Zayanids) transformed Tlemcen into a major regional centre. They later formed an alliance with Granada in an effort to survive, but fell to the greater power of the Merenids in 1352.

OTTOMAN ALGERIA

Having successfully driven out the Muslims by 1492, Spain became a leading power in North Africa. They did so by establishing fortified outposts ( presidios) along the coast from where they exacted tribute from passing ships and the tribes of the interior. Some of their strongholds in Algeria included Mers el-Kebir (1505), Oran (1509), Tlemcen (1510) and Algiers (1510); the Spanish Fort of Santa Cruz remains to this day.

At around the same time, the Turkish pirate Barbarossa (or Kheireddin) and his brother Arudj were permitted to settle on the island of Jerba (Tunisia). Arudj captured Algiers from the Spanish, but they retook the city and killed Arudj in 1518. Thereupon Barbarossa allied himself with the Ottoman Turks in order to protect his Barbary possessions. With Ottoman support he secured control the entire Algerian coast from Oran to Constantine, making Algeria the most powerful foothold for the Ottomans in North Africa.

There was a flurry of activity as Spaniards and Turks fought for supremacy in North Africa. Tripoli fell to the Turks in 1551, followed by Tunis in 1574. Together with Algeria, the three provinces were governed by a pasha, assisted by a dey (administrative chief), a bey (military chief) and janissaries (soldiers, known as ojaq in Algeria). Power in fact resided more in the dey in Algeria and the bey in Tunisia, and the pashas were little more than figureheads. The dey’s power declined in Algeria with the assassination in 1671 of the last dey elected directly from Turkey.
. . The Ottoman deys (administrative chiefs) were elected for life, but between 1671 and 1830, 14 of the 29 rulers were assassinated before completing their turn.

During Ottoman rule, Algiers was the bastion of direct Ottoman power while the rest of the country was divided into three provinces with their capitals at Constantine, Médéa (south of Algiers) and later, after the Spanish abandoned it in 1791 after a massive earthquake, Oran. Further inland, local tribes enjoyed considerable autonomy and nowhere was this more true than in the Kabylie region.

In fact, almost from the beginning, Turkey’s rule over its North African possessions was little more than a formality, although it was sufficiently powerful to exclude Arabs and Berbers from any significant positions. The sultan’s name was used in the weekly sermons and new leaders sought confirmation of their nominations from Constantinople, but to all intents and purposes Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania acted independently, and frequently attacked one another.
. . THE PIRATES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

In the 16th and the 17th centuries, the secluded harbours and coastal cities from Morocco to Libya were havens for pirates who terrorised seagoing traffic in the southern Mediterranean and exacted tribute (ie protection money) from foreign governments to leave some ships alone.

Also known as corsairs, the pirates even had their own trade union or taifa (community) which sought to lobby on behalf of the pirate cause. Businessmen themselves, they understood that their survival depended upon a string of safe ports where no pursuers could track them down. Algiers and Tripoli in particular were cities where the entire economy came to revolve around the profiteering of pirates. Local rulers provided sanctuary and, together with otherwise legal merchants in the home ports, took their cut of the loot.

One of the most picaresque pirates of legend was the Turkish pirate Barbarossa (‘Red Beard’ or Kheireddin) who changed the course of North African history by securing the region for the Ottoman Turks. Born on the Greek island of Lesbos in 1483, Barbarossa and his brother Arudj quickly showed that they were destined for far greater things than mere pirating.

By 1510, the brothers were some of the richest North Africans of their generation and they seized control of Algiers in 1515. After Arudj was killed in 1518 at Tlemcen, the shrewd Barbarossa sniffed the political wind and realised that Ottoman power was on the rise. After he offered them Algiers, they returned the favour and appointed him governor. Suddenly the pirate-king had become respectable. In 1533, Süleyman the Magnificent was so impressed that he summoned Barbarossa to Constantinople and proclaimed him admiral of the Ottoman fleet. Until his death in 1547, he mounted successful raids on Tunis, Majorca, Italy and Nice on behalf of his Ottoman bosses.

And the name? Although historians hold to the fact that Barbarossa beard was indeed red, there remains some speculation that ‘Barbarossa’ was simply a mispronunciation of ‘Baba Arudj’.

In all three, piracy played a pivotal role in the local economies, and the Barbary pirates, operating mainly from Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, were the scourge of Europe’s Mediterranean shipping. European fleets occasionally blockaded North African ports and attacked the corsairs, but rarely with any lasting effect.
. . The Barbary Corsairs: Warfare in the Mediterranean, 1480-1580, by Jacques Heers, is filled with the skulduggery and picaresque adventures of the pirates that raided with impunity from Algeria.

FRANCE TAKES CONTROL

The French presence in North Africa started in earnest in 1830, when they blockaded and attacked Algiers, supposedly because the dey of Algiers had insulted the French consul, but a more likely motive was the need at home for a military success to revive the flagging fortunes of Charles X.

Within three weeks of the French landing, 34,000 French troops took Algiers and the government of the dey had capitulated. The victorious French soldiers wreaked havoc on the Algerian capital, killing and raping thousands of locals, desecrating mosques and cemeteries and looting more than 50 million francs from the Treasury which was located in the Casbah. The French quickly took control of prime real estate and agricultural lands, further alienating and marginalising the local population.

A couple of weeks later, Charles X himself had been overthrown, although by then the French had become entrenched in Algiers and a French parliamentary committee ruled that the occupation should be maintained for no reason other than what it called ‘national prestige’. France annexed occupied Algeria in 1834 and administration (the régime du sabre, or ‘government of the sword’) of the colony was vested in a military governor-general.

Opposition came from Oran in 1832 and most notably from the bey of Constantine who shrewdly replaced Turkish officials with local Arabs and made Arabic the official language. When the French marched on Constantine in 1836, they were roundly defeated, although they finally took the city a year later.

Abdelkader was a Tlemcen-based sherif (descendant of the Prophet) who had been elected locally as the leader in the conflict with the invading European Christians. He was recognised by the French in the Desmichels Treaty of 1834, which effectively gave him control of western and inland central Algeria. Such was his charisma and ability to rally people that, by late 1838, the area under his control stretched from Biskra to the Moroccan border in the south, and from the Kabylie region east of Algiers to Oran in the north – almost two thirds of Algeria. This area virtually constituted a separate state, with its own judicial and administrative system.

By 1840, the French general Bugeaud had 108,000 soldiers in Algeria and one third of the French army was now on Algerian soil. By starving the local population, destroying crops and depopulating the countryside, the French began to claw back territory.

After a six-year struggle against the French, Abdelkader was forced into Morocco, where he called on the sultan, Abd ar-Rahman, for support. This was provided, but the army was trounced by the French at Isly (near Oujda in Morocco) in 1844. Abdelkader finally surrendered to the French in 1846 on condition that he be allowed to live in the Middle East. Despite this, he was imprisoned in Toulon, Pau and Amboise until 1852; he was finally allowed to settle in Damascus.
. . Algeria, by JR Morell, is an enlightening account of a journey through French-occupied Algeria in the 1850s with plenty of 19th-century sniffling and wide-eyed curiosity at local customs.

By 1847, General Bugeaud had conquered the greater part of the country and had been proclaimed governor-general of Algeria.
. . ABDELKADER’S LAST YEARS

Abdelkader was by far the greatest figure in Algeria’s nationalist movement and is a national hero today, with many streets named after him and a major statue commemorating him in central Algiers. But few Algerian nationalists in the past few centuries have enjoyed such an unlikely retirement as did Abdelkader.

After he surrendered in 1846, he was imprisoned despite having been promised exile. The reason? The French minister of war had once been a French general in Algeria and had bitter memories of having been trounced by Abdelkader. In 1852, Louis Napoleon set him free and even granted him an annual pension of 150,000 francs. Abdelkader moved to Damascus where, in 1860, he acted quickly to avert a planned massacre of Christians by the Ottomans in the Syrian capital, in the process saving an estimated 12,000 lives, including the French consul. And so it was that the French awarded a man who was once one of France’s most bitter enemies the Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honour.

He died in Damascus in 1883 after 36 years in exile. After independence, in 1966, Algeria’s government brought his remains back to Algeria to mark the 136th anniversary of the French invasion of Algeria. Two years later, the Mosque of Emil Abdelkader was also built in Constantine in his honour.

French domination of the entire north of the country was not achieved until 1871, when the people of the mountains of the Kabylie region were finally subdued.
. . The Conquest of the Sahara, by Douglas Porch, is a rollicking tale of French ambitions to conquer the Sahara, with evocative reconstructions of the last days of the ill-fated Flatters mission.

AN UNHAPPY OCCUPATION

During the first 50 years of French occupation, land was appropriated and European settlers – mainly of French, Italian, Maltese and Spanish origin – established their domination over the local inhabitants. Local culture was actively eliminated, and the Arab casbahs were replaced with streets laid out in grids. The Djemaa el-Kebir of Algiers was converted to the Cathedral of Saint Philippe, complete with a cross atop its minaret.

At a government level, the administration was dominated by Arabists who were generally more sympathetic towards the local population, a stance which led to increasing tensions between the French government and the pieds-noirs or ordinary settlers. Napoleon III, who visited Algeria in the 1860s, found a fellow nobility in local tribal chieftains and he began to grow tired of the radicalism and racism of many European settlers in Algiers. His motives were hardly pure – he dreamed of a mostly-Muslim royaume arabe (Arab kingdom) with himself as roi des Arabes (king of the Arabs). Thwarted by colonial officials sympathetic to the settlers, Napoleon’s plans came to nothing and French rule over the local population became increasingly exploitative and repressive.
. . In 1909, Muslims represented 90% of the Algerian population and produced just 20% of the country’s income, but paid at least 45% and up to 70% of the taxes levied by the French.

When Napoleon III was defeated by the Prussians in 1870, French and other European colonists seized power in Algeria. A year later, the Kabylie region began a rebellion that quickly spread across a country that had become impoverished under the French. The French response was to confiscate massive tracts of tribal land, and military rule became even more repressive. Muslim Algerians had essentially become bystanders in their own country and their only permissible contribution to the running of Algeria came in the form of paying high taxes. Needless to say, few of the benefits of tax revenues were enjoyed by locals.

Apart from the wholesale appropriation of the best agricultural land, Algerians were imprisoned without trial and the school system for Algerian children was neglected, something which the sending of a handful of (mostly upper-class) Muslim children to France to further France’s ‘civilising mission’ did nothing to conceal. This latter policy was one which the French would later regret, as the évolués (literally ‘the evolved ones’) began to wonder why French ideals of freedom only applied in France. This group of educated Algerians would plant the seeds of an Algerian nationalist movement in the lead-up to WWII. The more-than-170,000 Algerians who had fought for France during WWI also came to increasingly question French rule in Algeria. One of the most popular leaders was, for a time, Khaled ibn Hashim, the grandson of Abdelkader.
. . At the end of the 19th century, the French authorities were spending five times more on educating European schoolchildren than they were on the Muslim children who made up 85% of students. In 1870, just 5% of Algerian children attended school.

Calls for independence grew louder as predominantly younger Algerians formed nationalist groups and began agitating for autonomy or independence. These efforts culminated in the formation in 1937 of the Parti du Peuple Algérien, which was followed by the establishment of the Association of Algerian Ulama, a largely religious body, in Algeria itself. Although the first nationalist leaders pushed a largely secular line, Islamic groups also grew in popularity, thereby revealing the first signs of a major fault line in Algerian society and one which would, decades later, have a devastating impact upon the country.
. . SUBJUGATING THE SOUTH

By 1871, the French had secured effective control over all of northern Algeria, but Algeria’s vast south was a different matter altogether. For centuries, the isolated oases of the Algerian Sahara had been largely untouched by events in the north.

The Sahara was the domain of the Tuareg, the nomadic people of the desert, and they survived by serving as both the raiders and protectors of trans-Saharan caravans. Although dispersed throughout the Sahara, they formed loose confederations watched over by sultans who only had as much power as the disparate Tuareg tribes allowed them. From their capitals in Agadez in Niger and the Tassili du Hoggar, the sultans mediated in disputes between Tuareg tribes. The Tuareg known as Kel Ahaggar (the People of the Ahaggar) were, by some accounts, the largest and most powerful Tuareg in all the Sahara.

Having established northern Algeria as their own, the French decided that it was time to seize control of the Sahara and the supposed riches of Central Africa that lay beyond. With dreams of building a railway across the Sahara, the French government sent two expeditions led by Colonel Paul Flatters deep into the Sahara. After the first was turned back by menacing Tuareg and a shortage of supplies, a second reached Amguid at the northwestern limits of the Tassili N’Ajjer escarpment, east of In Salah and north of Tamanrasset. A Tuareg ambush was lying in wait and those who weren’t killed in the initial attack died slow and painful deaths on the long trek north. Just 12 out of 97 men survived the expedition. Colonel Flatters was not among them.

This attack bought the nomads time – two decades in fact – but in the first decade of the 20th century, French military expeditions succeeded in defeating the Tuareg and, for the first time, all of Algeria was under French sovereignty.

Despite ongoing repression, after WWII the French president, Charles de Gaulle, offered citizenship to certain categories of Muslims. This was considered inadequate, and an uprising near Sétif saw the massacre of more than 100 Europeans. Up to 45,000 Algerian Muslims were killed in response. By 1947, however, all Muslims had been given full French citizenship rights and the right to live and work in France. For the French, however, independence was a road too far.
. . Throughout the 1954–62 Algerian War of Independence, the National Liberation Front (FLN) was active among Algerian immigrants in France, and its feuds with other opposition groups led to what were known as the ‘café wars’ in which nearly 5000 people died.

THE ALGERIAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE

On 1 November 1954, the young guerrillas (maquisards) who had formed the new National Liberation Front (FLN) – a body whose stated aim was to bring down the French administration by military means at home and diplomacy abroad – launched a series of attacks across Algeria against a host of French government installations. On the same day, the FLN broadcast a message exhorting Algerians to join the fight for the ‘restoration of the Algerian state, sovereign, democratic, and social, within the framework of the principles of Islam’. France’s minister of the interior, one François Mitterrand, replied that ‘the only possible negotiation is war’. The Algerian War of Independence had begun.

In addition to conventional French forces, the FLN found itself up against colonial farmers vigilante groups whose brutality during ratonnades (literally ‘rat-hunts’) was largely ignored by the French authorities. With the countryside in turmoil, hundreds of thousands of colons fled to Algiers.

In a bid to curtail the war, Charles de Gaulle sent Jacques Soustelle to Algeria as governor-general with proposals for improving economic conditions for ordinary Algerians, but the FLN massacre of 123 French civilians near Philippeville (near Constantine) in August 1955 and the French retaliation that claimed up to 12,000 Muslim lives announced the outbreak of full-scale war.

By 1956, the fight for Algerian independence was being actively supported by Morocco and Tunisia, both former French protectorates, as well as Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the great emerging voice of Arab nationalism. Such support led to the construction by the French of a series of massive barbed-wire fences and observation posts to separate Algeria from both Morocco and Tunisia. The fence along the Moroccan border was over 1000km long, and the remnants can still be seen today.
. . Frantz Fanon, who wrote The Wretched of the Earth, was internationally recognised as the FLN’s leading political theorist. His theories included an eloquent justification for the use of violence in achieving national liberation.

In 1956, the FLN also began to take guerrilla warfare onto the streets of Algiers and other cities, as immortalised in the classic cult movie The Battle of Algiers. The following year, the FLN, who had more than 40,000 guerrillas under arms, called a national strike and in spring alone carried out 800 gun attacks. Their trademark became night raids and ambushes on military and civilian targets. The Massif de Aurès, the Kabylie and the mountainous areas surrounding Oran, Algiers and Constantine became FLN strongholds. In-fighting within the nationalist movement was also a feature of the war and many Muslims suspected of ties to France were also increasingly the subject of FLN attacks.

The French response was equally brutal. French troops were granted permission to use any tactics necessary to quell the rebellion and this blanket immunity was manifested in the torture of prisoners and a policy of collective punishment for villages and families suspected of supporting the FLN. More than two million Muslim Algerians were forcibly resettled. Fighting alongside the 400,000 French troops in Algeria were as many as 150,000 harkis, Muslim irregulars loyal to France.
. . The Battle of the Casbah, by Paul Aussaresses, is an unprecedented exposé of French brutality and government complicity during the Algerian War of Independence as told by a former French army officer.

In 1958, with the colons demanding an even stronger French response, Charles de Gaulle took power again and it seemed as if the colons’ wish had come true. De Gaulle was seeking an alternative to the FLN and proposed measures favourable to Muslim Algerians. By 1959, the French had secured military control over Algeria, but widespread opposition in France to the war was taking its toll, and former colonies across Africa soon began to gain independence.

The colons had meanwhile come to believe rumours that Charles de Gaulle was moving towards Algerian independence, and they led brand their erstwhile hero as a traitor. Two failed coup attempts and an escalation in terrorism by a settler terrorist organisation, the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS), were the last throws of the dice by the colons.

Their worst fears were confirmed when the French government opened negotiations with the FLN in Évian in May 1961. The result was a ceasefire due to take effect on 19 March 1962, and a referendum on independence followed in Algeria the same year. The result was six million in favour of independence and only 16,000 against. De Gaulle proclaimed Algerian independence on 3 July and it took effect on 25 September. The trickle of French settlers returning to France turned into a flood.

During eight years of war, as many as one million Muslim Algerians were killed (including 70,000 at the hands of the FLN), along with 18,000 French soldiers and 10,000 European civilians.

THE INDEPENDENCE YEARS

Ahmed ben Bella, a leading figurehead of opposition to French rule, became independent Algeria’s first elected president. He pledged a ‘revolutionary Arab-Islamic state based on the principles of socialism and collective leadership at home and anti-imperialism abroad’.
. . A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962, by Alistair Horne, is detailed and highly readable, and one of the best accounts of Algeria’s struggle to be free of French rule.

Despite the euphoria surrounding independence and Ben Bella’s popularity, many of the old rivalries that simmered away during the war continued to plague the country and Ben Bella’s leadership style did not foster orderly administration in a country still devastated by war. He was overthrown in 1965 by the defence minister and FLN chief of staff, Colonel Houari Boumedienne. Ben Bella spent many years in exile in Switzerland, but he would later return to lead his party, the Movement for Democracy in Algeria (MDA), in 1990.

Boumedienne was a cautious pragmatist. He set about rebuilding the country’s economy, which had come unstuck at the time of independence with the departure of the majority of the country’s administrators and technical experts, all of whom were Europeans. Unemployment and underemployment remained serious problems and many Algerians were forced to work in France, despite the ill-feeling which existed there towards them.

There was very little political change in Algeria under Boumedienne. The FLN was the sole political party, pursuing basically secular, socialist policies. Bad planning by the lumbering centralised bureaucracy saw agricultural production fall below levels achieved under the French. The economy was saved by the discovery of large gas and oil reserves in the Sahara, but few of the proceeds reached ordinary Algerians.

THE ROAD TO WAR

Colonel Boumedienne died in December 1978 and, at a meeting of the FLN in Algiers, Colonel Chadli Benjedid was elected president. Chadli inherited a country brimming with discontent.

Berber university students and others from the Kabylie region increasingly agitated against the government’s Arabisation of government and education. When the government made extremely limited concessions to the Berbers, however, Islamists mounted vociferous protests. A deteriorating economy also pushed many Algerians into the Islamist fold, although how many did so out of disaffection with the failed promises of the independence-era elite rather than genuine religious conviction is not known. Once-liberal Algeria became a social battleground as conservative activists took their protests to the streets, targeting ‘indecency’ and what they saw as the country’s moral decline.

The police cracked down hard on the Islamists. At the same time, the government sought to highlight their own Islamic credentials and drain popular support from the Islamists by opening new mosques and introducing family laws that seriously diminished the rights of women.

With the economy in freefall, Chadli abolished the central planning authority, the bastion of socialist economic control. The new legislation removed most public companies from direct government control and freed up the banking system. Chadli moved slowly for fear of opposition within the ruling FLN, as the party’s old-timers regarded any moves away from central control of the economy with deep suspicion.

Massive strikes in October 1988 in Algiers quickly turned into riots and spread to Annaba, Blida and Oran. More than 500 people were killed in the resulting violence in what is still remembered as ‘Black October’.

The government tried further changes and the 1989 reforms blew through Algerian society like a breath of fresh air. New press freedoms were married to a liberalising of the political system and in 1989, Abbassi Madani and Ali Belhadj founded the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut; FIS). The FIS quickly outpolled the ruling FLN in local elections.

The first round of Algeria’s first free multiparty elections, held on 26 December 1991, produced another landslide for the FIS. Of the 231 seats decided (out of 430 in the National Assembly), the FIS took 188. The FLN won just 15 seats, 10 fewer than the Socialist Forces Front (FFS) – a Berber party.

The army stepped in, dissolving parliament, persuading Chadli to step down and replacing him with a five-man Haut Conseil d’Etat (HCE) led by President Mohammed Boudiaf. The second round of elections was cancelled, FIS leaders Abbas Madani and Ali Belhadj were arrested and others fled into exile.
. . London-based Darf Publishers (www.darfpublishers.co.uk) should be your first stop when trying to track down hard-to-find travellers’ accounts of North Africa; there’s a Libya focus but plenty available on Algeria.

Boudiaf lasted barely six months before he was assassinated in bizarre circumstances while opening a cultural centre in Annaba. The official line was that Boudiaf had been shot by a lone gunman, who also managed to wound 40-odd members of the audience before escaping undetected by the legions of security guards at the scene. Adding that the gunman had acted out of religious conviction didn’t make the story any more plausible. There were suggestions that Boudiaf was the victim of an establishment plot hatched by people opposed to his attempts to tackle institutionalised corruption.

Whatever the truth of the matter, he was replaced by a hardliner in former FLN stalwart Ali Kafi, who remained at the helm until he was replaced by a former general, Liamine Zéroual, on 31 January 1994, with the country on the brink of civil war.

CIVIL WAR OR THE ‘SECOND WAR OF LIBERATION’

Initial reports that Islamic leaders had rejected violence as a means of taking power from the military soon proved ill-founded. By the end of April 1994, more than 3000 people had died in the civil war that militants were calling the second war of liberation.

The rising death toll included a growing list of foreigners, most of them resident in the country. Among the victims were 12 Croatian engineers whose throats were slit after their attackers confirmed that the victims were Christians. Eight others were spared after convincing their attackers that they were Bosnian Muslims. Attacks against foreigners have been justified on two grounds: firstly, to sabotage Algeria’s already troubled economy – which many regard as being propped up by the West; and secondly, as vengeance on the ‘spies of the unbelievers in the land of Islam’.

The vast majority of victims, however, were Algerians. Particularly targeted by guerrillas were policemen, mayors, judges and Francophile intellectuals. The attacks were claimed by various underground groups such as the Groupes Islamiques Armés (GIA) and the Mouvement Islamique Armé (MIA). The government responded with displays of force and the mass arrests of suspects. There was also irrefutable evidence that the government set up its own shadowy paramilitary groups which operated like South American–style death squads as they carried out (often collective) revenge killings.

The blood-letting peaked at 300 deaths a week in early 1994, signaling the failure of a so-called commission of national dialogue to have any impact on proceedings. It also signalled the end of the road for President Kafi.

President Liamine Zéroual proved unable to stem the tide of violence and in July 1995, the GIA exploded a bomb on the Paris Metro and in December hijacked an Air France airliner in Algiers. A November 1996 referendum approved constitutional reforms but for Algeria at the time it was one step forward, two steps back. During the first two weeks of Ramadan in 1997, more than 300 people were killed and grisly ritual massacres, reportedly by both sides, kept the country in a state of terror. In elections in 1997, legal Islamist parties such as the Movement of Society for Peace and the Islamic Renaissance Movement won around 22% of the vote.

With the population exhausted by almost a decade of war in which nearly 100,000 people were killed, the FIS offered to disband its military wing, although another group, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) vowed to continue the reign of terror. In April 1999, the military’s preferred candidate, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, won elections boycotted by opposition parties.

The killings continued.

ALGERIA TODAY

Although no-one can say for certain when the war ended, by 2002 the main guerrilla groups had either been defeated or had accepted the offers of a government amnesty. That’s not to say that Algeria’s problems are over.
. . Modern Algeria, by John Ruedy, is one of few English-language histories of Algeria to have been updated in recent years (make sure you have the second edition published in 2005) and includes the 2004 elections.

The Algerian economy has been devastated by war and unemployment, and social dislocation remains high. In the predominantly Berber (Amazigh) Kabylie region, there is increasing discontent over unheeded demands for autonomy and recognition of Berber languages and culture. Security forces clashed repeatedly with the Kabylie Citizens’ Movement into 2003 with a mounting death toll the only discernible result.

President Bouteflika consolidated his hold on power in parliamentary elections in May 2003 and in 2004 he became the first-ever Algerian president to be re-elected by popular vote. The elections were, however, marred by allegations of vote-rigging.

A feature of President Bouteflika’s rule has been attempts to heal the deep scars that still divide Algeria. Although there was some disquiet about such moves among human rights groups and victims’ groups, the Civil Harmony Act and Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation were approved by 97% of voters in a referendum in September 2005. The laws provided an amnesty for most crimes committed in the course of the war, and under the law Ali Belhadj, one of the founders of the FIS, was released.
. . AllAfrica.com (www.allafrica.com) is the place to go for nonmainstream news coverage of Algerian history as it happens.

The spectre of terrorism also remains a primary concern for Algerians. Although the GSPC announced in March 2005 that it could be prepared to disarm and accept the government’s offers of amnesty, it then formally allied itself with Al-Qaeda in September 2006. In January 2007, the GSPC formally changed its name to Al-Qaeda. GSPC militants were responsible for kidnapping 32 European travellers in the Algerian Sahara in 2003 and Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the serious bomb attacks of April 2007 which killed dozens and injured more than 100 people. They are believed to still have their base in Algeria’s extreme southwest, close to the border with Mali.
dongdao
Mod
 
Bài viết: 242
Ngày tham gia: Thứ 6 Tháng 7 10, 2015 1:32 pm

Quay về Travel

Ai đang trực tuyến?

Đang xem chuyên mục này: Không có thành viên nào đang trực tuyến2 khách

cron