DOMESTIC SECURITY CONCERNS

Algeria Table of Contents

During the 1960s and 1970s, Ben Bella and Boumediene were primarily concerned with threats to their leadership from other figures who had been prominent in the struggle of the FLN against the French colonial presence. During the War of Independence, the FLN had never been a truly unified force; instead, it operated as a coalition of groups based on different ideological, personality, or ethnoregional considerations. As a result, first Ben Bella and then Boumediene were opposed by a range of individuals with strong revolutionary credentials. When Boumediene overthrew Ben Bella and assumed power in 1965, his tight grip on the military enabled him to dominate the opposition elements. After the abortive attempt in late 1967 by armed forces chief of staff Taher Zbiri to depose him, Boumediene's control appeared to be complete, and the opposition was forced either underground or abroad.

To maintain his hold on power, Boumediene relied heavily on the security forces--particularly the intelligence service of the ANP known as Military Security (SÚcuritÚ Militaire), which maintained strict surveillance within and beyond the national boundaries of people whose ideologies were considered questionable. All political organizations outside the FLN were considered illegal because the FLN was defined as representing all legitimate political tendencies. Open criticism of the regime was not permitted, and violators were subject to arrest and severe punishment. The murders in Europe of two former FLN leaders, Belkacem Krim and Mohamed Khider, were blamed on Algerian security forces. Many suspected that deaths of other well-known FLN personalities were linked to vengeance exacted through the SÚcuritÚ Militaire.

Benjedid, having been designated the FLN nominee for president at an FLN party congress in 1979, had greater legitimacy than his predecessors because of the wide support he enjoyed from fellow military officers. Reinforcing his position over time, he shunted his rivals and potential rivals into minor positions or out of the ruling apparatus altogether. By the mid1980s , the government felt confident enough to release from prison or house arrest all political prisoners including Ben Bella, in detention at the time Benjedid assumed office. Amnesties were also granted to those, among them Zbiri, who had been involved in the plots against Boumediene. Former FLN leaders living abroad were invited to return home.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress