Chronology (part 1)
published by Algeria-Watch*, 12 April 2006
1830-1962: Colonisation of Algeria by France.
1 November 1954: National Liberation Front (FLN) starts the war of liberation.
5 July 1962: Algeria gains independence; Ahmed Ben Bella becomes the first president of the popular democratic republic, the FLN being its only political party.
19 June 1965: Colonel Houari Boumediene seizes power after a coup d’état.
27 December 1978: Death of Houari Boumediene.
January 1979: A military committee appoints colonel Chadli Bendjedid head of state.
5-10 October 1988: Demonstrations and uprisings by youth in all the large towns, brutally put down by the army, killing more than 500 people and injuring thousands more. Use of torture becomes systematic. President Chadli promises political and economic reform.
16 November 1988: General Khaled Nezzar is appointed army chief of staff.
23 February 1989: The new constitution recognising multipartism is approved by referendum. The army withdraws from the FLN's central committee. Numerous political parties are set up and legally approved: the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) was certified in February, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in September, and the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), which had operated as an underground movement since 1963, in November.
9 September 1989: Mouloud Hamrouche was appointed prime minister, replacing Kasdi Merbah; his cabinet announced an ambitious programme of reforms, in particular regarding the economy.
12 June 1990: First multipartite local elections: the FIS takes a 54.25% share of the poll, the FLN 28.13%, and the RCD 2.08%. The FFS and the Movement for Democracy in Algeria (MDA) boycotted the poll. The rate of abstention was 34.85%.
25 July 1990: General Khaled Nezzar was appointed minister of defence.
4 September 1990: The intelligence services were merged, bringing them under the authority of general Nezzar, to form the Intelligence and Security Department (DRS), thus reconstituting the former military security unit (split up in 1987). General Mohamed Médiène, aka Toufik, was appointed head of the DRS. The service comprised three directorates: the Counter-Espionage Directorate (DCE), commanded by general Smaïl Lamari, aka Smaïn; the Documentation and External Security Directorate (DDSE), under general Saïdi Fodhil; and the Central Military Security Directorate (DCSA), under general Kamel Abderrahmane.
25 May 1991: The FIS calls an unlimited general strike demanding changes in the electoral law for the general elections and a presidential election before the scheduled date.
5 June 1991: The Hamrouche government resigns, the general election is postponed, and a state of emergency declared. Thousands of demonstrators are imprisoned in open-air camps in the Sahara.
30 June 1991: The two leaders of the FIS, Abassi Madani and Ali Benhadj, are arrested.
13 October 1991: Parliament passes a new electoral law for the general election.
29 November 1991: The army outpost at Guemmar, close to the border with Tunisia, is attacked by an armed group.
26 December 1991: First round of the general election: 7,822,625 voters out of a total of 13,258,554 registered (abstention: 41.00%; blank or spoilt ballot papers: 6.97%). Of the 6,897,719 votes cast, the FIS takes 3,260,222 (47.27%), the FLN 1,612,947 (23.38%), the FFS 510,661 (7.40%), Hamas 368,697 (5.35%) and the RCD 200 267 (1.51%). The first round decides 232 seats (out of 430), with the FIS taking 188, the FFS 25 and the FLN 16. The second round of the election is due to be held on 16 January 1992.
2 January 1992 : Several hundred people demonstrate in Algiers in answer to a call from the FFS and its president Hocine Aït-Ahmed to save democracy and mobilise voters for the second round.
11 January 1992: President Chadli announces his resignation. It emerges that Parliament was dissolved on 4 January. The Constitutional Council (CC) refers to a presidential decree, dated 4 January, on dissolution of the national assembly. Following calls for him to act as the interim president, the CC chair replies that it the constitution does not allow him to take such a responsibility.
12 January 1992: The Security Council (HCS), comprising six people (including three generals, in particular general Nezzar) "notes" that it is impossible to continue the election.
14 January 1992: The Committee of State (HCE) is set up, with five members: Mohamed Boudiaf, returning from exile in Morocco; general Nezzar, minister of defence; Ali Haroun, minister of human rights; Ali Kafi, chairman of the Society of Former Mujahidins (AAM); Tidjani Haddam, rector of the Paris mosque. The HCE announces that it will take over the powers of the president until the end of the president term in December 1993.
Protests follow all over the country. Start of mass arrests.
20 January 1992: A law banning public gatherings near mosques is passed. On four Fridays in succession the security forces prevent the faithful from praying outside. Dozens of people are killed, hundreds injured and thousands arrested.
22 January 1992: Arrest of Abdelkader Hachani, FIS third in command. Ali Haroun indicates that 5,000 people have been arrested. The FIS says 14,000.
9 February 1992: State of emergency proclaimed.
13 February 1992: The authorities announce the opening of seven detention centres in the south.
4 March 1992: The administrative court of Algiers dissolves the FIS.
29 March 1992: The government dissolves the municipal assemblies, in which the FIS held the majority. Municipalities will be governed by Local Executive Delegations (DEC), named by the minister of the interior, general Larbi Belkheir. They subsequently gained a reputation for widespread corruption.
29 June 1992: President Mohamed Boudiaf assassinated by one of his bodyguards during a trip to Annaba.
15 July 1992: Abassi Madani and Ali Benhadj, the two leaders of the FIS, sentenced to 12 years in prison.
26 August 1992: First blind attack, as a bomb explodes at Algiers airport killing nine people and injuring 123.
September 1992: At the instigation of general Nezzar, the Centre for the Conduct and Coordination of Anti-Subversive Action (CCC/ALAS) is set up, with general Mohamed Lamari at its head. It brings together under a single command the army's various "special forces" responsible for combating terrorism.
30 September 1992: Issue of the "anti-terrorist" decree, n° 92-03, on the fight against subversion and terrorism.
5 December 1992: Curfew introduced in the Algiers area.
8 January 1993: Military tribunal tries 79 soldiers, sentencing 20 to death.
7 February 1993: State of emergency prolonged for an unspecified period.
2 March 1993: Amnesty International publishes a report expressing concern at the serious deterioration in civil rights and increasingly widespread torture following the introduction of the state of emergency.
3 March 1993: The National Human Rights Observatory (ONDH) responds that it has registered "10 probable cases" of torture in Algeria.
13 February 1993: Visit by the French minister for the economy and finance, confirming economic aid and trade subsidies for Algeria (value 5 billion francs for 1993).
6 May 1993: Emergency court starts trial of the suspects in the attack on Algiers airport. In a travesty of justice, seven of them are sentenced to death (executed on 31 August 1993).
17 May 1993: An "emergency text" drawn up by the government bans people from wearing Islamic dress in companies and administrative bodies.
26 May 1993: The writer and journalist Tahar Djaout suffers an attack subsequently attributed to the Islamists. He dies of his injuries on 2 June. Many other similar killings occurred in the following months, targeting in particular intellectuals and public figures having support the suspension of the electoral process.
29 May 1993: The curfew is extended to the M’sila, Chlef and Djelfa areas.
July 1993: Signature of several oil and gas contracts, with Portugal, for the supply of gas, and with French, Japanese and US firms for the supply of equipment and construction of facilities.
10 July 1993: General Liamine Zéroual is appointed minister of defence, replacing general Nezzar, who remains a member of the HCE. General Lamari is appointed army chief of staff.
22 August 1993: Assassination of Kasdi Merbah, the former head of military security and leader of a political party. He had just appealed to the insurgents and political leaders to negotiate, while suggesting the military withdraw from politics. The Islamists were blamed for his murder, but there is every reason to suppose that, as a key player in reconciliation, he was liquidated by one of the clans in power.
September 1993: A "national commission for dialogue" was set up to prepare the "national conference on reconciliation", following which a successor to the HCE was due to be chosen.
14 September 1993: Creation of the executive body of the FIS abroad, chaired by Rabah Kébir.
26 September 1993: Algeria reopened talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to obtain a stand-by loan of $4bn, spread over three years.
23 October 1993: Three officials from the French consul kidnapped by a supposedly Islamist group and released four days later. At the same time their kidnappers publish a communiqué urging foreigners to leave the country before 1 December. Many accounts, including by the hostages themselves, suggest the operation was mounted by the Intelligence and Security Department (DRS) to ensure France would continue supporting the regime.
9 November 1993: 98 Islamists arrested in France, in a huge operation codenamed "Chrysanthème", organised by the minister of the interior Charles Pasqua. Many of them were deported to Burkina-Faso, despite there being no serious charges against them.
December 1993: Visit by an IMF delegation to Algeria, recommending 50% devaluation of the dinar, privatisation of the public sector, reduction of the budget deficit and deregulation of foreign trade.
Visit by a delegation of French MPs to secure increased financial support for Algeria.
January 1994: Most of the political parties boycott the national conference. The HCE is dissolved and on the 30th Zéroual is appointed president of the republic for three years.
4 January 1994: Human Rights Watch publishes a report on Algeria's worsening human rights record and deplores France's tacit approval of the excessive repression. HRW calls on Algeria's creditors to make their assistance conditional on a return to democracy and the end of human rights violations.
23 February 1994: The IMF director-general, Mr Camdessus, visits Algiers to discuss rescheduling of the foreign debt.
3 March 1994: Algeria's finance minister visits France to negotiate rescheduling.
10 March 1994: Almost 1,000 prisoners escape from Tazoult prison (formerly Lambèse) under mysterious circumstances. Over the next three months security forces step up arrests of civilians all over the country, particularly around Algiers. Several thousand people are killed or "disappeared". Eye-witness accounts suggest the operation was masterminded by the DRS to reinforce and infiltrate the ranks of the insurgents.
12 March 1994: A communiqué posted by the Islamic Action Group (GIA) on the walls of the town of Berrouaghia imposes a curfew after 21.00. In fact it is a fake, a means of concealing a vast campaign of summary arrests and executions. The following day the military based in Berrouaghia arrest more than 170 civilians.
Following the Tazoult break-out the army carries out a large-scale search and destroy operation in the Batna area. The surrounding hills, with their scattered settlements, are heavily bombed with high explosive and napalm. Some 100 civilians are thought to have died.
21 March 1994: The army chief of staff, general Lamari, is given authority to sign on behalf of the head of state "all official documents and rulings, including decrees". Two days later the minister of the interior, colonel Salim Sadi, announces that reservists may be mobilised "to assist security forces".
26 March 1994: General Mohamed Betchine, a former head of the intelligence service, is appointed as advisor to the head of state.
April 1994: Signature with the Paris Club of an agreement on rescheduling of foreign debt (roughly $26bn). The dinar is devalued by 40%. France encourages its G7 partners, the European Union and the United States to continue economic support for Algeria.
June 1994: Start of one of the first militia groups in the village of Bouderbala (Bouira district), led by a shopkeeper belonging to the local nomenklatura, one Ammi Mekhfi Zidane, aged 60. The militia, commanded by the army, attracts substantial media attention thanks to the propaganda department.
7 June 1994: The interior minister sends a confidential decree on the "treatment of security information" to media directors.
29 June 1994: A bomb explodes near Mustapha hospital in Algiers, just as a march, organised by the RCD to mark the second anniversary of the death of Boudiaf, is passing. It kills three civilians. An RCD party leader accuses the "political and financial mafia" of trying to assassinate him.
July 1994: Start of the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS)
11 July 1994: France announces plans to earmark a credit of Fr6bn for Algeria in 1994.
31 July 1994: Western chancelleries cite the figure of 30,000 deaths since the coup d’état on 11 January 1992.
22 September 1994: The press announces that 120 schools have so far been burned down in the locality of Chlef.
25 September 1994: The [Berber] singer Matoub Lounès is kidnapped by an armed group near Taourirt Moussa, 35 kilometres from the town of Tizi-Ouzou. The fraction of the Berber Cultural Movement close to the RCD threatens to start an all-out war against the Islamists, unless Lounès is released by 28 September. The ultimatum is cancelled a few days later and Lounès is released. Some Berber militants subsequently concluded it was all part of a plan invented by the authorities assisted by local activists.
October 1994: After releasing the two leaders of the FIS, held under house arrest, president Zéroual announces the start of discussions with them.
31 October 1994: Lamari is promoted to major-general. Zéroual announces the failure of discussions with opposition parties, announcing plans for a presidential election "before the end of 1995".
1 November 1994: A bomb explodes at Sidi-Ali cemetery (Mostaganem) during a ceremony in memory of those who gave their lives in the war of national liberation. It kills five young scouts and injures 17 others. Oddly the television cameras were set up well before the explosion, enabling them to broadcast the carnage almost live.
11 November 1994: The BBC broadcasts a programme on the dramatic situation in Algeria produced by its reporter Phil Reeds. It denounces the torture and summary executions carried out by government agents.
13 November 1994: Police slaughter more than 50 inmates of Berrouaghia prison. According to subsequent accounts, this was a quick way of liquidating imprisoned Islamists.
24 December 1994: A GIA commando hijacks an Air France Airbus at Algiers airport, executing three hostages. The plane lands at Marignane airport, outside Marseille, then is stormed by a crack police unit (GIGN), killing the hijackers and releasing the passengers. This was yet another DRS operation to put pressure on Paris.
13 January 1995: Meeting in Rome the main opposition leaders (FLN, FFS, FIS, MDA, PT, etc.) sign a common platform for a "peaceful political solution to the crisis".
17 January 1995: In its annual report the National Human Rights Observatory notes 327 violations committed by members of the security forces.
30 January 1995: A car bomb explodes outside the main police station in Algiers killing 42 and injuring dozens of other people.
February 1995: The special forces are disbanded, but the provisions of decree n° 92-03 of 30 September 1992 (on the fight against subversion and terrorism) are added to the penal code.
The US State Department publishes an estimate suggesting that the war claimed 30,000 lives between February 1992 and February 1995.
22 February 1995: Police slaughter more than 100 inmates of Serkadji prison, apparently a repeat of the Berrouaghia prison killings.
26 March 1995: Agreement reached with Italy on rescheduling of part of public foreign debt.
3 April 1995: Decision to set up four "exclusion zones" in the south of Algeria, to protect gas and oil fields.
27 April 1995: French intellectuals launch an appeal for "peace and democracy in Algeria", demanding that the government stop "all military assistance to the [Algiers] authorities".
12 May 1995: Agreement with the banks on rescheduling of more than $3bn in trade debt.
3 June 1995: Lembarek Boumaârafi, suspected of assassinating president Boudiaf, is sentenced to death by the emergency court of Algiers. Boudiaf's widow refuses to attend the trial, referring to it as a "masquerade". The sentence is not carried out.
10 July 1995: The government bans the human rights open day organised by the parties that signed the National Contract in Rome. The event would have been held in an Algiers cinema, L’Algéria.
11 July 1995: Sheikh Abdelbaki Sahraoui, aged 85, a founding member of the FIS, is murdered in his mosque, on Rue Myrha, in the 18th district of Paris.
21 July 1995: Paris Club reschedules Algerian debt amounting to about $7.5bn, covering payments up to May 1998.
25 July 1995: Bomb attack on Saint-Michel Metro station in Paris, killing eight and injuring 150. It marks the start of a series of attacks blamed on the GIA. Several men are arrested and given long prison sentences but the masterminds are never identified. Many clues suggest the DRS is in some way implicated in the attacks.
October 1995: The FFS and FIS report 70,000 deaths since 1992.
November 1995: Public announcement that several FIS leaders, including Mohamed Saïd and Abderrezak Redjam, have been killed by the GIA.
16 November 1995: Presidential election: Liamine Zéroual is elected, with 61% of the vote. The signatories of the Rome agreement boycott the election. 350,000 soldiers and militia are deployed all over the country to ensure an "orderly" presidential election.
23 December 1995: Confirmation of the signature of a $3bn contract with British Petroleum lasting 30 years for the exploitation of seven gas wells at Aïn-Salah.
17 January 1996: Abdelhamid Mehri sacked from his job as FLN general secretary. The party is drawn into the ruling military clique.
15 February 1996: Signature of a contract with the US firm Arco for the sharing out of the Rhourd El-Baguel oilfield.
18 February 1996: Curfew in force since December 1992 lifted.
27 March 1996: A GIA commando kidnaps seven French monks kidnapped from the monastery at Tibhirine (announcing their death on 23 May; their bodies are found a week later). Subsequent accounts suggest that the operation was masterminded by the DRS.
April-June 1996: Agreements on rescheduling of public debt with France ($1.5bn) and Italy ($1.7bn), and of $2.2bn private debt with the London Club.
1 August 1996: The bishop of Oran, Monseigneur Pierre Claverie, and his driver are killed by a bomb at his residence. Claverie was not convinced by the official account of the murder of the Tibhirine monks put about in France and Algeria, and was probably assassinated by the DRS to prevent him from voicing his doubts.
November 1996: Official opening of a gas pipeline to Spain.
28 November 1996: New constitution approved by referendum granting far-reaching powers to the president.
23 December 1996: Two weeklies, La Nation and El Hourrya, well known for their courageous stance in favour of genuine peace and democracy, are temporarily closed on the strength of an administrative detail (unpaid debts).
4 January 1997: The Provisional National Council (CNT) passes a law organising and setting guidelines for the militia (referred to a Legitimate Defence Groups), the setting up of which had been encouraged by the army in 1994.
28 January 1997: Assassination of Abdelhak Benhammouda, general secretary of the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA). He was set to take the head the National Democratic Rally (RND), a new party supporting president Zeroual. The man suspected of murdering Rachid Medjahed had been tortured and murdered at police premises. The death of Benhammouda has never been explained.
11 February 1997: Amnesty International condemns the daily killing of civilians and asked for detailed, transparent investigations to be carried out to ensure those responsible for the atrocities were brought to justice.
February 1997: Start of R&D, the party of president Zéroual created to prevent the FLN provisionally rallying the democratic camp.
5 June 1997: In the general election the RND takes the majority (155 seats), followed by Hamas (69 seats). Many opposition parties complained of massive fraud.
7 July 1997: Abdelkader Hachani, the FIS number three, in custody since January 1992, is tried on a charge of inciting disobedience to the military; sentenced to five years in prison, he is released immediately.
July-September 1997: All through the summer dozens of killings of civilians occur in the Algiers area. They are blamed on Islamist terror groups.
28 August 1997: Massacre in Raïs, in the Algiers area – in a heavily militarised zone – killing 200 to 400 people.
5 September 1997: Massacre in Béni-Messous, in the inner suburbs of Algiers, claiming almost 150 dead.
22 September 1997: Massacre in Bentalha, with more than 400 dead. Army forces stationed around the locality did not intervene. On the contrary it drove fleeing inhabitants back towards the killing.
30 September 1997: After an interview with Algeria's foreign minister, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said she was very concerned about the deterioration in human rights in Algeria.
1 October 1997: Unilateral truce decided by AIS comes into force. Other armed troops joined the truce shortly afterwards.
13 October 1997: The World Organisation Against Torture appealed to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to convene an extraordinary session to study the dramatic human rights situation in Algeria.
14 October 1997: Four non-governmental organisations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International League of Human Rights, and Reporters sans Frontières) called for an international enquiry to be set up to investigate the massacres of civilians in Algeria and asked the OHCHR to convene an extraordinary session to examine the situation in Algeria.
23 October 1997: Local elections, marked by massive abstention (60%) and widespread fraud. The RND won the majority of local council seats.
30 December 1997: Massacres in three villages in the Relizane area (Kherarba, Ouled Sahnine and Ouled Tayeb): 386 civilians killed.
4 January 1998: More than 150 civilians massacred in three villages (Meknessa, Souk El-Had and Had Chekala) near Rélizane, according to sources in hospitals. According to some sources the massacres in the Rélizane area caused almost 1,000 deaths.
5 January 1998: The US State Department said it would be in favour of an international commission of enquiry on the massacres in Algeria. The United Kingdom endorsed the UK request. The UN secretary-general said he was very concerned about the deteriorating situation in Algeria.
11 January 1998: Massacre in the village of Sidi-Hamed (near Algiers): more than 100 civilians killed.
19 January 1998: The EU troika, made up of three secretaries of state from member states, visited Algeria following a series of massacres but made no firm condemnation.
22 January 1998: Speaking in parliament the prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia provided figures on paramilitary forces: almost 5,000 militia (self-defence groups) had been set up since 1993, with 2,313 brigades of communal guards, since 1994, making a total of 200,000 men under arms.
8 February 1998: Five-day visit by a delegation of nine European MPs led by André Soulier (France), who reported that the massacres were being committed by the GIA.
4 March 1998: Newspaper censorship committees disbanded.
9 May 1998: G8 foreign ministers meeting in London ask the Algerian government to authorise a visit by a UN mission.
25 June 1998: Assassination of Lounès Matoub, a very popular singer. For weeks there was rioting in Kabylia to protester against the killing. Demonstrators chanted "government killers" and demanded to a halt to the law on Arabisation. Officially the GIA was blamed for the killing, but the true circumstances were never explained. Two men arrested in 1999 are still in custody six years later.
20 July 1998: Following arbitrary arrests by the security forces the families of the disappeared demonstrated outside the OHCHR headquarters in Geneva. Several demonstrations followed in Algeria, some of which were brutally put down.
22 July 1998: UN delegation, comprising a panel of five personalities, carries out a two-week mission of information. The report only contained very mild criticism of security forces' responsibility in the violence.
11 September 1998: President Zéroual announces his resignation. A presidential election will be held early, in February 1999, but subsequently postponed till April.
4 October 1998: US-Algerian military manoeuvres in the Mediterranean.
6 October 1998: In a report to parliament prime minister Ouyahia confirms that 1,000 public companies have been closed and 380,000 people made redundant.
17 October 1998: Several dailies ordered to pay their printing debts within 48 hours or risk closure. Seven newspapers stop appearing for three weeks.
19 October 1998: General Mohamed Betchine, advisor to president Zéroual, forced to resign.
16 March 1999: The minister of trade and industry reports that 14 million Algerians (out of a total of 30 million) are living below the poverty line and 7 million are illiterate. Unemployment stands at 29%.
15 April 1999: Abdelaziz Bouteflika, proposed by the military hierarchy, elected president. The six other candidates withdrew the day before the poll in protest at the organised fraud. On taking office Bouteflika announced that since 1992 the Algerian tragedy had caused 100,000 deaths and almost 10,000 disappearances.
23 April 1999: Signature of a contract between In Salah Gaz (Sonatrach and BP joint venture) and Edison (Italy) for the supply, from 2003, of 4bn cubic metres of gas a year, over a 15-year period.
6 June 1999: The AIS announces that it will lay down its arms and surrender to the state. Since October 1997 the AIS had been respecting a truce, later joined by other armed groups.
17 June 1999: French parliament passes a law officially recognising the Algerian war.
7 July 1999: In an interview on RFI, Bouteflika rules out any immediate end to the state of emergency.
3 July 1999: Former presidential candidate A. Taleb Ibrahimi starts a new party called Wafa, but it was never authorised.
5 July 1999: To mark the 37th anniversary of Algeria's independence Bouteflika ordered the release of various prisoners sentenced for supporting terrorism. The number released is disputed: some officials say 5,000, Bouteflika says he ordered 2,400 people to be released, the FIS says that only 300 were released. In the vast majority of cases they had served almost all of their sentence.
8 July 1999: In an interview with Europe 1 [radio] Bouteflika says: "I am applying the army's policy".
20 July 1999: The "civil concord" law is published, pardoning or reducing the punishment for members of armed groups who surrender, provided they are not guilty of murder or rape. The law is to be approved by referendum, setting 13 January 2000 as the deadline for giving oneself up.
16 September 1999: A plebiscite approves Bouteflika's action, with 99% voting "yes" in a referendum on the civil concord. The question before electors is: "Do you agree with the overall approach taken by the President of the Republic to achieve peace and civil concord?"
22 November 1999: Abdelkader Hachani, the leader of the FIS, is murdered at the dentists'. He took over at the head of the party after its two leaders, Abassi Madani and Ali Benhadj, were imprisoned in June 1991 and prepared the party to run in the general election of December 1991. Arrested at the end of January 1992 he spent more than five years in custody before being tried and sentenced to five years in prison. He was seen as a man of dialogue, who supported all genuine attempts to restore peace and bring about national reconciliation. The man assumed to be his murderer, a GIA member, was brought to justice but the people behind the killing were never identified. Many think the government was implicated.
* Chronology drawn up by Salima Mellah and published in the annex to the work by Habib Souaïdia, Le Procès de La Sale Guerre, La Découverte, Paris, 2002. She added to the chronology for Lounis Aggoun and Jean-Baptiste Rivoire, Françagérie: Crimes et mensonges d'Etats, La Découverte, Paris 2005 and also to this publication.