ALGIERS – Veteran Algerian dissident Hocine Ait Ahmed is to step down as leader of the Socialist Forces Front which he has led since founding it in 1963, he said in a letter.
Ait Ahmed, 86, is the sole surviving member of the nationalist leadership that launched the war for independence from French colonial rule on November 1, 1954.
“The time has come for me to pass the baton. I will not present myself for the party leadership next year,” he wrote in the letter to the party’s national council which met in Algiers Friday.
But he pledged to continue to “listen to the activists and militants and to remain in close contact with the ethics committee and the national secretariat.”
Born on August 20, 1926 in Ain El-Hamman in the Kabylie region, east of the capital, Ait Ahmed was elected to Algeria’s first post-independence parliament but fell out with president Ahmed Ben Bella and founded the FFS to lead an uprising against his rule.
He was arrested in 1964 and sentenced to death but later pardoned.
He escaped in April 1966 to settle in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he lived in exile for 23 years before returning to Algiers in December 1989.
In July 1992, shortly after the outbreak of Algeria’s devastating civil war, he went back into exile, from where he was a leading champion of dialogue with the Islamist opposition.
In January 1995, he signed the Sant’Egidio agreement with the Islamic Salvation Front in Rome.
He had planned to stand for president in 1999 but he and five other candidates withdrew alleging fraud.
He still lives in Switzerland. The FFS holds 27 seats in the 462-member national assembly. – AFP