] ] Bouteflika and a legacy for Africa
The re-election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika to a fourth term in office was widely anticipated due to the entrenched reach of the political machine which nominated him as its candidate. The National Liberation Front, FLN, fought a prolonged and brutal war against France from 1952 to 1962. Over one million Algerian died.
Houari Boumediene’s 15 years rule sustained a culture of intensive use of intelligence to anchor daily administration and survival inherited from the liberation struggle. His “left wing’’ group in the ruling FLN adopted state socialism as its goal, thereby, spreading control by the party over economic institutions. Control of power at the top of FLN guaranteed winning elections. On 12th November, 2008, Bouteflika’s group succeeded in amending the constitution to end a twoterm limit for the presidency after 2009. The view that the 2009 election was ‘’carefully choreographed’’ seems plausible; while assertions that official turnout was raised by ‘’at least 45 per cent’’ were probably lavish.
The decline in Bouteflika’s vote tally from 90 per cent in 1999 to 81 in 2014 - while turnout fell from 75 per cent in 2009 to 52 per cent in 2014 - indicated a hint of that malaise in African politics, namely: a growing contest between rulers; their policies, and lifestyles, against legitimacy in the eyes of the people. The people had spoken in 1992 through massive support for candidates of the Islamic Salvation Front – a group whose resort to religious injunctions had been nurtured by President Chadli Bendjedid while he reversed State Socialism after 1978. An abrupt and panicky cancellation of the 1992 elections by the army sparked a civil war which killed 200,000 people. A seed of Al-Qaeda was born. It killed 14 soldiers one day after Bouteflika’s 2014 victory.
In 1992, the problem of governing Algeria was not longevity in power but that of failure to overcome the French-settler culture of using political power to monopolise economic benefits by a minority. Unlike Cuba where a deep ideological and moral asceticism sustained commitment to people-focused economic programmes, the leadership of the FLN stumbled in favour of serving themselves after a ‘’right wing’’ group – to which Bouteflika belongs – assumed dominance.
In those African countries where power was not won through a liberation war, only Tanzania escaped the burden of porous leaders easily eroded by ethnic, religious strings and bribery by foreign intelligence operatives. The colonial virus by which only European fellow tribesmen of colonial rulers ‘’ate from power’’in utter indifference to the impoverishment of the majority Africans – drowned the first generation of independence rulers. Military coups promoted by Cold War economics; inheritors of Europe’s ‘ real politick’ and diplomatic racism, often injected bloodshed into power struggles.
It is not clear if this phenomenon urged FNL to create a scheme for training current and future leaders. Kwame Nkrumah and Mwalimu Nyerere built such structures, with Nyerere achieving greater success in conducting constant training of party officials under TANU’s ‘’Leadership Code’’. It barred leaders from owning houses for rent; buying shares in business enterprises; and owning landed property, etc. It was difficult to uphold in the face of a culture of ‘’it is our turn to eat’’ rampant in neighbouring Kenya; and intelligence operatives from racist regimes in Southern Africa and NATO who detested Nyerere’s stubborn support for liberation movements against apartheid and racist rule. The scheme never crossed Tanzania’s borders.
Tanzania lacked the human, financial and technological resources to undertake mapping future change across Africa; let alone measures for engineering both defensive and promotional change. A failed military coup of 1964 enabled it to disband the colonial army and recruit only TANU members. Subsequently, the military could vote among themselves for their representatives in the national parliament. It is not clear if TANU and FLN ever conducted such joint political, economic and political engineering.
The disastrous collapse of political management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo despite its strategic location in Africa and what Nzongola-Ntalaja calls the “scandal’’ of abundant natural resources in it, was paradoxical. Despite being a direct neighbour of Tanzania -which hosted the African Liberation Committee - Nyerere focused on fighting racism in the south rather than Mobutu’s megalomania and corruption next door. Che Guevara’s brief war in Eastern Congo to depose Mobutu may have enjoyed TANU’s blessing. The OAU’s Liberation Committee lacked a mandate to liberate Africa from failed governance; and capacity for mapping out conflict-prevention diplomacy.
Conflict resolution came to mark Bouteflika’s career. After exclusion from inner circles of power after 1978, he would be recalled in 1994 by the military to assume the presidency. The FLN was facing a brutal challenge by the Islamists. On being elected in 1999, he pioneered a road to internal peace. In 2000 he won peace between warring Ethiopia and Eritrea – led by Zenawe and Afewerki, who probably received inspiration from Algeria’s liberation war against a powerful NATO.
I first met Bouteflika’s name in 1972 inside the New York office of a diplomat taking up a United Nations job in Geneva. It would save him from death if he obeyed an order to report at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kampala. It was a reward for matching the depth of discipline shown by Algerian and Cuban diplomats. Algeria has, however, not yet established an institute for training ‘ Liberation panAfrican diplomacy’.