ZEROUAL, Liamine

Born on 3 July 1941 in Batna in the Aures (north eastern region of Algeria), Liamine Zeroual signed up, at the age of 16, in the National Liberation Army (ALN) to oppose the French colonial power. After Algerian independence in 1962, he signed up for military training in Cairo and subsequently in Moscow and Paris. In 1975, he was put in command of a military training school in Batna and, in 1981, of the Cherchell Military Academy. He was then successively put in charge of different military regions: the Sahara (Tamanrasset) in 1982, the Moroccan border in 1984 and Constantine in 1987. He became general in 1988 and was promoted to head of the armed forces. After a disagreement with his superiors and President Chadli, he resigned in December 1989 and was nominated ambassador to Romania. Less than a year later he retired from public life.

In July 1993, he was called on to become Minister of Defence in the government of the High Committee of the State created following the January 1992 military coup. A supporter at the time of dialogue between all the country’s political parties in order to find a consensual solution to the crisis, he met, on several occasions, the main leaders of the FIS who were in prison.

His nomination by the High Security Council to the State presidency in January 1994 appears to be a compromise between the « conciliatory » military – supporters of dialogue – and the « eradicators » – or supporters of outright repression regarding the Islamic fundamentalists. It was endorsed by the presidential elections of November 1995 (shunned by the major opposition political parties).

His many attempts to find common ground with the opposition parties have been unsuccessful. After recognising the failure of an attempt to bring the moderate representatives of the dissolved FIS closer together, he considered there was nothing to be expected of dialogue between the Islamic fundamentalists. In January 1997, he condemned the November 1996 « Appeal for Peace » (see i.a. FFS), speaking of a « conspiracy » by « Algerian personalities » seeking to « maintain Algeria in a spiral of violence and degradation »; amongst other things he promised the « extermination » of « terrorist » groups.

The constitutional review of November 1996 considerably increased the powers of the Algerian President and tended to close the political field to opposition parties. It would appear that through Liamine Zeroual, the camp of the « eradicators » is governing Algeria today. The National Union for Democracy (RND), created in February 1997, won the majority of seats in the legislative elections of 5 June 1997.

In September 1998, President Zeroual announced anticipated presidential elections for February 1999, previously schedulded to be held in the Autumn of 2000. Following these elections, he was succeeded by Abdelaziz Bouteflika.