Algeria: the (sober) funeral of ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika

The former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was buried this Sunday in the Martyrs’ Square of the El Alia cemetery in Algiers, reserved for the heroes of the war of independence, but he was entitled to much less honor than his predecessors .

Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who died Friday, was buried this Sunday in Algiers.

The funeral procession arrived at the cemetery of El Alia, after having traveled about thirty km from Zeralda, a town in the west of Algiers, where he died at the age of 84. The remains were carried on a gun carriage fired by an armored vehicle covered in flowers.

Along with family members, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who served as Prime Minister under Bouteflika, foreign ministers and diplomats were present at the cemetery, according to media reports.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s remains were buried in the Martyrs’ Square where his predecessors rest, alongside the figures of the War of Independence (1954-1962).

Much less pomp for Bouteflika

All the former heads of state had the right to a solemn funeral and eight days of national mourning, like the first president of independent Algeria Ahmed Ben Bella (1963-1965) and the third head of state Chadli Bendjedid (1979-1992), both died in 2012.

Not to mention the grandiose funeral of Bouteflika’s mentor, ex-president Houari Boumedienne (1965-1978), marked in 1978 by the firing of a hundred cannon shots and which brought together hundreds of thousands of people.

But there, for Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the authorities have rather kept a low profile. It must be said that the former president was ousted from power in 2019, contested by the street and released by the army.

Sign of a certain official embarrassment, the exhibition of the remains initially planned for a tribute of the dignitaries and the general public at the People’s Palace of Algiers, has been canceled, according to corroborating sources.

After several hours of hesitation without official reaction, Mr. Tebboune, in power since the end of 2019, ended up decreeing on Saturday the half-masting of the national flag and a three-day mourning to honor “the moudjahid Abdelaziz Bouteflika”.

The death of a simple quidam” ?

These procrastination illustrate, according to observers, fears of hostile demonstrations against a former president with a tarnished image.

Frankly, I have better things to do than be interested in the funeral of a president who left the country in a terrible state. I prefer to take care of my birds“, Fares, 62, a finance retiree who lives in Algiers, told AFP on Sunday.

For Islam, 45, postman in the capital, “this burial is a non-event. Around me, nobody talks about it anyway. It is as if it were the death of an ordinary person, who has never been president. Algerians give the impression of having forgotten Bouteflika, of having turned the page of his reign“.

Bouteflika, a 20-year presidency

Abdelaziz Bouteflika entered Algerian power circles in the 1970s, as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He reached the top of the state in 1999, with the support of the army.

He will remain in power for 20 years, before being ousted on April 2, 2019, under pressure from massive protests from the pro-democracy movement. Hirak against his intention to run for a 5th consecutive term.

For several years, his public appearances were extremely rare. He had suffered a stroke in 2013, which left him weakened and aphasic.

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