The Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) fought a bloody war of liberation against her French colonisers which resulted in the country’s independence in 1962. The liberation struggle was influential within French domestic politics and was a significant factor in the collapse of the French Fourth Republic and the subsequent reinstatement of Charles de Gaulle as Prime minister. At independence, over a million French nationals (the 'pied noir') left Algeria for France. Algerian immigration to France remains high.
Ahmed Ben Bella – the country’s first President - served for 3 years and the government under his leadership became increasingly Socialist and authoritarian. Ben Bella was subsequently overthrown by defence Minister Houari Boumédienne who relied greatly on the army to maintain control and ruled through a military council. Boumédienne remained Algeria's undisputed ruler until his death in 1978, as all potential rivals within the regime were gradually purged or relegated to symbolic posts.
The Algerian economy became increasingly dependent on its nationalised oil industry as part of the regime’s systematic and planned programme of state-driven industrialization. After Boumédienne’s succession by Chadli Bendjedid, the Algerian state became little more open, and continued to be both bureaucratic and corrupt.
The 1980s saw demographic changes and the development of a better educated urban population capable of political organisation. Anti-government protest movements included the political awakening of the Berbers; and Islamic 'intégristes'. Both groups protested against one-party rule but also clashed with each other in universities and on the streets during the 1980s. Mass protests from both camps in autumn 1988 forced Bendjedid to concede the end of one-party rule.
Elections in 1991 saw the Islamic Salvation Front victorious in the first round, and the subsequent intervention by the military which cancelled the second round, and forced the then-President Bendjedid to resign. All political parties based on religion were banned, which led to a violent political conflict manifested in the Algerian Civil War. The war lasted for a decade and was largely fought between armed Islamist guerrilla organisations and the incumbent military regime. Estimates on the number of deaths vary from 100,000 – 200,000. Initial attacks were aimed at the army and police, but as the war progressed, civilians were both caught up and targeted.
In 1999 - following the election of President Bouteflika – an amnesty was declared for most guerillas and many ‘repented’ their role in the conflict. Fighting and terrorism has continued in the country with the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) refusing to give up the struggle, allying itself with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in fighting the Algerian government. The guerrilla insurgency has continued at a low level, although bombings have occurred in the Capital Algiers.
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