Death of Adbelaziz Bouteflika: embarrassed authorities and hostile citizens

The death of former Algerian President Adbelaziz Bouteflika, ousted from power in April 2019 by the protests of the pro-democracy movement Hirak, drew little comment in Algiers on Saturday, both in the media and in the streets, apart from a some palpable resentment.

Mr. Bouteflika, who remained at the head of Algeria for 20 years (1999-2019), a record for longevity in this country, died on Friday at the age of 84, two and a half years after his spectacular departure from power.

Omnipresent for decades but become almost invisible since a stroke in 2013, Mr. Bouteflika had given no sign of life since the street and the army forced him to resign on April 2, 2019 .

The authorities, silent until late Saturday morning, announced that the flags would be half-masted “for three days” starting Saturday. This was decided by President Abdelmajid Tebboune, after “the death of the former president the Moudjahid (independence fighter, editor’s note) Abdelaziz Bouteflika”, according to a press release from the presidency.

During the night, the presidency was satisfied with a terse press release announcing the death of Mr. Bouteflika, born March 2, 1937, “at his place of residence”.

Saturday morning, radios and televisions still stuck to a brief, without devoting a special program to it. The radios broadcast music and entertainment like a normal weekend.

Information was also absent from almost all the print editions of the newspapers, the news having been announced after their closure.

But some, like the government daily The Mujahideen, reported on it in a short section in their electronic edition.

The date and place of his burial have not yet been officially announced. But according to the site in Arabic Sabqpress, generally well informed, Mr. Bouteflika will be buried Sunday in the square of the martyrs of the cemetery of El-Alia, in the east of Algiers.

This is where all his predecessors rest, alongside the great figures and martyrs of the War of Independence (1954-1962).

Acrimonious comments

In the street, Algerians were not indifferent to the death of the ousted president, greeted by a flood of acrimonious comments.

“Peace to his soul. But he deserves no homage because he has done absolutely nothing for the country”, told AFP Rabah, a fruit and vegetable merchant in El Achour, on the heights of the capital.

For Malek, a telecommunications employee, Mr. Bouteflika “was unable to reform the country despite his long reign” at the head of Algeria.

“He was entitled to a golden life, including since he was ousted from power. But it is clear that his legacy is not the brightest.”, abounds Mohamed, a 46-year-old carpenter.

Others believe, on the contrary, that “the country got better when he became president”, alluding to the reconciliation process after the black decade, told AFP TV Amer, a diver in a restaurant.

“He was received in any country in the world”, added the 46-year-old man, in reference to his past as the former head of diplomacy of Ahmed Ben Bella and Houari Boumédienne.

Mustapha, a 19-year-old high school student in Biskra district who only knew him as president, believes he “brought positive”.

Since his spectacular fall in April 2019 under pressure from the army and the street, the one Algerians colloquially called “Boutef” had locked himself in the solitude of his nursing home in Zeralda, where he continued to enjoy all the privileges, according to media reports.

According to this news site, Mr. Bouteflika died in Zeralda, surrounded by his sister Zhor, his brother Nacer and other members of his family. Another of his brothers, Said, jailed on corruption charges, asked to attend the funeral, according to the site Sabqpress.

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