We continue our #AfricanHeroesMonth series and here’s the profile for the hero we celebrate today.
Ahmed Ben Bella was an Algerian revolutionary and politician who played a leading role in gaining independence for his country. Algeria gained independence on on July 5,1962 after a long and brutal war with their colonizers, France.
Ben Bella became the first President of Algeria in September 1963 after being its first Prime Minister at independence. He was also a member of the famous ‘Casablanca 7’ group who strongly advocated for African unity in 1963.
The rule of Ahmed Ben Bella was marked by his focus on ensuring that fairness and equality underpinned his way of governing. He lived with modesty, without using the previous governor’s palace, and with an always open door for his people.
Egyptian independence leader and fellow Pan-Africanist, Gamal Abdel Nasser inspired Ben Bella greatly with the two men developing close ties even before Algerian independence was achieved. Nasser provided significant support to Algeria’s independence fight.
For strengthening relations with other colonies and former colonies, Algeria under Ben Bella’s regime forged links with fellow Pan-African African leaders such as Gamal Abdel Nasser, Kwame Nkrumah, Modibo Keita and Sekou Toure to aid independence movements throughout Africa.
Ben Bella was overthrown in a military coup led by the head of the army in June 1965. Like many other coups in Africa at the time, many observers believed there was foreign influence in organizing the overthrow of Algeria’s first leader. He was kept under house arrest until 1979. He spent the next ten years in exile but in 1990 he returned to live in Algeria.
Ahmed Ben Bella died on 11 April at his family home at the age of 95 in Algiers.
I end with a quote on Ben Bella on the importance of all Africans coming together to fight for African Unity;
“Let us all agree to die a little, or even completely so that African unity may not be a vain word”