Key figure in Algeria’s struggle for independence is laid to rest in village that bears his name
Tens of thousands of people have gathered in an Algerian village for the burial of Hocine Aït Ahmed, a key figure in the country’s struggle for independence and later in the political opposition.
Aït Ahmed died last week in Switzerland at the age of 89. A state funeral was held in Algiers on Thursday; his body was transferred to his home village, which bears his name, for burial on Friday.
He was the last of the nine so-called sons of Toussaint, who launched an uprising against French rule on 1 November 1954. Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, also a veteran of the struggle for independence, declared eight days of mourning after Aït Ahmed’s death.
Draped in Algeria’s national flag, the coffin was carried in an ambulance through the village, where huge crowds filled the streets. “Today and tomorrow, Hocine lives!” they chanted. “Algeria, free and democratic!”
The crowd surged forward as the coffin was brought out of the ambulance in preparation for the burial, which was expected to take place in the early afternoon.
The state funeral was broadcast live on television and a wake was later held at the headquarters of the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), the party founded by Aït Ahmed in 1963. The funeral cortege then travelled 100 miles (160km) south-east to his village.
Aït Ahmed, who was jailed by the French in 1956, was freed after a ceasefire in 1962. He went into opposition when Ahmed Ben Bella became president of Algeria the following year. He was arrested in 1964 and condemned to death, but he was later freed and left for exile in Lausanne in 1966.
He returned to Algeria in 1989 after the FFS was legalised and stood as a candidate in the 1999 presidential elections; he withdrew mid-campaign, arguing that the vote was rigged in favour of Bouteflika.
Aït Ahmed’s health began to fail in 2012 and he resigned the following year as head of the FFS. He died in Lausanne on 23 December.