Boumedienne, Houari (Algeria)
Houari Boumedienne was leader of Algeria from 1965–78 (initially as chairman of a Revolutionary Council and, from 1976, as president). He died in office from a rare blood disorder.
Boumedienne was born Mohammed Ben Brahim Boukharouba on 23 Aug. 1932 in Clauzel, eastern Algeria. He adopted his nom de guerre, Houari Boumedienne, in 1957. He had avoided conscription to the French colonial army in 1952 because he was studying at Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.
A prominent member of the Algerian independence movement from 1955, he became chief of staff of the National Liberation Army in 1960. After Algeria gained independence in July 1962, Boumedienne served as defence minister and deputy to President Ahmed Ben Bella. However, he became increasingly dissatisfied with Ben Bella’s rule and led a bloodless coup in June 1965.
Boumedienne initially headed a revolutionary council of 26 members, most of whom came from the military. He moved away from Ben Bella’s agrarian-focused political programme in a bid to spur the nation’s industrial development. While initially content to co-operate on equal terms with France-the former colonial power-relations soured when in 1971 Boumedienne nationalized the oil industry that had previously been two-thirds owned by French interests. He reinvested the resulting oil and gas wealth into his industrialization efforts. Meanwhile, on the international stage he fostered closer ties with the USA, and in 1974 the two nations exchanged ambassadors for the first time in 7 years.
Following a failed coup against him in 1967 and an assassination attempt the following year, Boumedienne took an increasingly hard line against his opponents, demoting potential enemies and regularly purging his political ranks. In 1976 a new constitution paved the way for a directly-elected president. In Dec. that year Boumedienne was duly elected to the post. However, his public appearances became infrequent. In Nov. 1978 he lapsed into a coma having contracted Waldenstrom’s disease, an illness that attacks the blood and bone marrow. With rule effectively in the hands of the ministry of defence, he died on 22 Dec. 1978.