Boumédienne Seizes Power from Dictator in Algeria Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Algerian defense minister Houari Boumédienne, disillusioned with President Ahmed Ben Bella’s ever increasing dictatorial approach to government, perpetrated a bloodless coup, placed Ben Bella under house arrest, and assumed power of the country. During his presidency, he established a socialist program of state control of industry and a policy of international nonalignment that brought stability and economic growth to Algeria.

Summary of Event

In May, 1962, the Conseil National de la Révolution Algérienne (CNRA; National Council of the Algerian Revolution) met to devise a program for transforming the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN; Front for National Liberation) Front for National Liberation, Algerian into a political party. The major planks of the platform supported land reform, nationalization of the country’s industries, a policy of nonalignment in international politics, and anticolonialism. Although the leadership believed that all factions could be thus united, such was not the case. The various splinter groups not only failed to come together but also engaged in serious confrontation over both ideological and personal issues. The Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN; National Liberation Army) National Liberation Army, Algerian and the Gouvernement Provisionel de la République Algérienne (GPRA; Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic) faced off in a power struggle. Revolutions and coups;Algeria Algerian coup of 1965 Postcolonialism;Algeria [kw]Boumédienne Seizes Power from Dictator in Algeria (June 19, 1965) [kw]Power from Dictator in Algeria, Boumédienne Seizes (June 19, 1965) [kw]Dictator in Algeria, Boumédienne Seizes Power from (June 19, 1965) [kw]Algeria, Boumédienne Seizes Power from Dictator in (June 19, 1965) Revolutions and coups;Algeria Algerian coup of 1965 Postcolonialism;Algeria [g]Africa;June 19, 1965: Boumédienne Seizes Power from Dictator in Algeria[08420] [g]Algeria;June 19, 1965: Boumédienne Seizes Power from Dictator in Algeria[08420] [c]Government and politics;June 19, 1965: Boumédienne Seizes Power from Dictator in Algeria[08420] [c]Social issues and reform;June 19, 1965: Boumédienne Seizes Power from Dictator in Algeria[08420] [c]Economics;June 19, 1965: Boumédienne Seizes Power from Dictator in Algeria[08420] Boumédienne, Houari Ben Bella, Ahmed Bendjedid, Chadli

Colonel Houari Boumédienne, who had served as chief of staff of the exiled army of the FLN since 1960, found himself in danger of being dismissed from his post. Boumédienne entered into an alliance with Ahmed Ben Bella, leader of the socialist radicals, who was being challenged by Ferhat Abbas Abbas, Ferhat , a moderate and head of the government in exile. Ben Bella and Boumédienne joined forces with Rabah Bitat Bitat, Rabah and Mohamed Khider Khider, Mohamed to establish the Bureau Politique (Political Bureau), which challenged the authority of the GPRA. Boumédienne moved his military forces into Algiers in September and Ben Bella followed shortly thereafter. On September 25, the national assembly created the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, and Ben Bella was elected prime minister. He formed a cabinet and named Boumédienne minister of defense. In 1963, Ben Bella was elected president, and Boumédienne continued as minister of defense.

For a time, the country was under the control of Ben Bella, Boumédienne, and Khider, bringing together a three-part power base: the governmental unit, the army, and the FLN. Dissension arose rather quickly among the three leaders, particularly between Ben Bella and Khider. By April of 1963, Ben Bella had managed to replace Khider as party general secretary. In September, a referendum approved a new constitution for the country and, supported by the FLN, Ben Bella was elected president. Increasingly intent on power, he brought the functions of chief of state, of government leader, and of commander of the army together under the office of the president. Boumédienne continued as minister of defense, but Ben Bella began to bypass him in military decisions and established direct communication between himself and local police authority. Disappointed and alarmed by Ben Bella’s obsession with radical socialist views and a greater shift toward single rule, Boumédienne removed Ben Bella from power in a bloodless coup on June 19, 1965. Having thus seized power, Boumédienne took control of the country. Ben Bella was placed under house arrest and remained so throughout Boumédienne’s presidency.

Once at the head of the government, Boumédienne immediately made changes in the political and governmental structures of the country. The national assembly was dissolved and the 1963 constitution suspended. Both the militia and the Bureau Politique were eliminated. Boumédienne established the Council of the Revolution to supervise governmental activities until a new constitution could be formulated and adopted. He also appointed a council of ministers to actually conduct the business of government.

Initially, Boumédienne was not recognized as a strong leader because he lacked a power base outside the army. This situation changed drastically in 1967 when a group of military officers attempted a coup against Boumédienne. Exiling or imprisoning his opposition, Boumédienne strengthened his control over both the military and the FLN and solidified his position such that he was the unquestioned leader of Algeria until his death in 1978.

As leader of Algeria, Boumédienne initiated a socialist program that nationalized industry. The country had virtually no industrial base because industry had been under colonial control. Boumédienne’s program led to steady economic growth for the country. In 1971, he nationalized the oil industry, which made Algeria and its government even stronger economically. Agricultural production remained a problem, however. The crop harvests continued to be inadequate to the country’s needs. Although Boumédienne had shifted emphasis from concern with rural development to industrialization, in 1971 he confiscated more privately owned land and reallocated it to cooperative farms. Internationally, Boumédienne followed a policy of nonalignment and maintained a good relationship with both the Communist bloc and the capitalist countries while promoting cooperation among developing countries.

When he seized power and suspended the country’s constitution, Boumédienne had assured the Algerian people that a new constitution would be formulated. This document was very slow in appearing. It was not until April, 1976, some eleven years later, that he presented the national charter, which stated the principles of the promised constitution. Extensive public debate followed, but by November the new constitution was in place and Boumédienne’s continued popularity brought him reelection as president. He received 95 percent of the votes.

Boumédienne died on December 27, 1978. The FLN, faced with proposing a successor, eventually chose Colonel Chadli Bendjedid, a moderate who had been Boumédienne’s main collaborator in the coup against Ben Bella.


Boumédienne’s takeover of the Algerian government brought economic growth and stability to the country. With nationalization of industry, he provided the country with a sound economic base. His seizure of power assured the interests and the role of the military in Algeria’s future. While he relied heavily upon the military and governed the country under a one-party system, he included representatives of the Algerian army, the Bureau Politique, the various factions of the FLN, the exiled revolutionary army, and civilians in his advisory political councils so that cooperation and unity developed among the disparate groups. Boumédienne reemphasized Islamic values and Algerian nationalism and Arabization of government and education.

Under his leadership, Algeria became a leader among the countries of North Africa. His foreign policy made Algeria a major supporter of anticolonialism and of free Arab states. In spite of the prosperous and cooperative atmosphere that permeated Algeria during his reign, certain key issues remained unresolved. Arab and Berber factions began to demand greater privileges and recognition for themselves. Islamic fundamentalists sought greater influence in the government and stricter adherence to Islamic law.

Boumédienne’s legacy of strong government control of the economy no longer met the economic needs of the country, and the 1980’s saw an economic crisis with problems of unemployment and shortages of consumer goods. Although the Algerian government faced new and significant problems shortly after Boumédienne’s presidency, his takeover of the government and ensuing period of leadership made an immense contribution that transformed Algeria from a French colonial possession to an independent nation. Revolutions and coups;Algeria Algerian coup of 1965 Postcolonialism;Algeria

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bougherira, Rodha M. Algeria in Transition. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004. Considers contemporary Algeria a member of the global community, and critically examines the policies of Boumédienne’s presidency.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Feraoun, Mouloud. Journal, 1955-1962: Reflections on the Algerian War. Translated by Mary Ellen Wolf and Claude Fouillade. Omaha: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. Provides insight into the turmoil and upheaval experienced by Algeria during the war that led to the presidencies of Ben Bella and Boumédienne. Describes everyday life in Algeria and a view of Algerian identity through the eyes of a Muslim Kabylie writer who was a close friend of French writers such as Albert Camus.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Naylor, Phillip C. France and Algeria: A History of Decolonization and Transformation. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000. A scholarly account of the historical relationship between France and Algeria.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stone, Martin. The Agony of Algeria. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Focuses on three major periods of the postcolonial history of Algeria. Contains a chapter on the presidencies of Ben Bella and Boumédienne, and discusses the national charter and Bendjedid’s presidency in light of the thesis that Ben Bella and Boumédienne did not resolve issues facing Algeria at end of war.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Willis, Michael. The Islamist Challenge in Algeria: A Political History. New York: New York University Press, 1999. Chapter 2 examines the role of Islam during the Boumédienne presidency.

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