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Oujda Group

OUJDA GROUP

algerian nationalists instrumental in winning independence and in governing the new nation.

The term Oujda group refers to Houari Boumédienne and a circle of colleagues that emerged in Oujda, Morocco, during the later years of the Algerian War of Independence. The best-known members of that circle included Ahmed Kaid, Ahmed Medeghri, Cherif Belkacem, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Mohamed Tayebi, and Ali Mendjli.

As French repression of Algerian guerrillas intensified during 1957 and 1958, more and more of them were forced across the borders into Tunisia and Morocco. Boumédienne, who had begun his revolutionary career fighting in Wilaya Five, the western Algeria military district, ended up in Oujda, about 7 miles (12 km) from the Algerian border. There he helped to organize the Moroccan branch of the external Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN; National Liberation Army), which he eventually rose to command. When the separate commands of the ALN were unified in December 1959, Boumédienne became chief of its general staff, bringing members of the Oujda group with him.

In 1960 and 1961, factional divisions within the political leadership of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN; National Liberation Front) began to lessen the effectiveness of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (Gouvernement Provisoir de la République Algérienne; GPRA). The ALN general staff, dominated by the Oujda group, emerged as the most cohesive of the revolutionary institutions. It was frequently in conflict with the civilian leadership. Within days of independence in 1962, Ben Youssef Ben Khedda, president of the GPRA, fired Colonel Boumédienne, and Majors Kaid and Mendjli. The officers refused to recognize the GPRA's authority to take such action and instead entered Algeria to begin building internal support.

At Tlemcen, near the Moroccan border, there coalesced a group hostile to Ben Khedda and the GPRA that was headed by Ahmed Ben Bella. Support for Ben Bella, who had spent most of the war years in French prisons, came from disillusioned liberal politicians, some radical socialists, and especially from Boumédienne and the Oujda group. The latter provided the military support that enabled Ben Bella to take over Algiers and manage his election as Algeria's first president in September 1962.

Ben Bella was to remain in power until June 1965, devoting much of his time to attempts to eliminate political competitors inside the government and the party. By October 1963 he had managed to eliminate many opponents. By then, power was about equally divided between his own followers and those of Boumédienne. Thereafter, he moved gradually to eliminate the latter, until, by early 1965, only Boumédienne in the War Ministry and Bouteflika in the Foreign Ministry survived. During May and June, Ben Bella moved to undercut the authority of Bouteflika, threatening to dismiss both him and Boumédienne, but the latter intervened.

On 19 July 1965, the military overthrew Ben Bella in a bloodless coup engineered in the name of a body called Council of the Revolution. The heart of this council was the Oujda group, which also took over key posts in the cabinet (defense, interior, foreign affairs, finance). Boumédienne headed both the Council of the Revolution and the government. These allies helped him, through the remainder of the decade, to consolidate his own power. But, between 1972 and 1976, as cleavages developed in the inner circle over difficult political choices, Boumédienne eliminated one after another the members of the Oujda group from his government.

see also algerian war of independence; armÉe de libÉration nationale (aln); belkacem, cherif; ben bella, ahmed; ben khedda, ben youssef; boumÉdienne, houari; bouteflika, abdelaziz; front de libÉration nationale (fln); kaid, ahmed.


Bibliography


Quandt, William B. Revolution and Political Leadership. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969.

Ruedy, John. Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

john ruedy

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