Messali Hadj

Article publié dans le quotidien britannique The Times, le 6 juin 1974.

Messali Hadj, sometimes known as the Patriarch of Algerian Nationalism, died in France on Monday at the age of 76.

It was calculated that he had spent over 30 years in prison, in internment, or under house arrest. In 1962 he was freed after the signing of the Evian Agreement.

In the years after the First World War when political discontent was awakening in Algeria, the main trends in Muslim thinking sought to explore all possibilities of integration with France. Messali Hadj was opposed to all such policies. as early as 1925 he founded l’Etoile Nord-Africaine which demanded complete independence, withdrawal of all occupying troops, and the creation of a national army.

Born in 1898 of working class parents at Tlemcen he saw service in the French Army in the First World War and stayed on in France at the end of hostilities, marrying a Frenchwoman. He was for a time a member of the Communist Party and the training the party gave him left its imprint on him. He later founded Al Oumma, a nationalist paper and in 1929 was imprisoned for the first time and the paper banned.

After further brushes with authority ; he spent some time in Switzerland returning to France under an amnesty granted by the Popular Front government, although his nationalistic movement was still banned. In 1936 he founded at Nanterre the Algerian People’s Party which gained great support from poorer Muslims whose enthusiasm led to disorders which were serious enough to land Messali Hadj once more in prison. He was in the toils of the Vichy Government but in 1943 was pardoned by General Giraud. At the end of the war he was restored in triumph principal nationalist leader but in the aftermath of the Setif rising was yet again arrested together with most other Algerian leaders and deported to Brazzaville. By the time he was released in 1947 other younger men had come to the fore to lay the foundations of a seizure of independence through rebellion.

In the year of his release he founded the movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties (MTLD) from which both the Algerian Nationalist Movement (MNA) and the FLN were to emerge. The irrepressible Messali Hadj was arrested for the last time in 1952 and taken to France where his movements were restricted until 1962, when Algerian independence was finally achieved.

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