Recalling and celebrating Algeria’s ‘Victory Day’

Makwaia Wa Kuhenga

LAST weekend, the 19th of March to be precise, was a very special day for the people of Algeria.

They marked and celebrated it as a ‘VICTORY DAY’ - against French colonialism, which lasted in that country for 130 years – that is from 1830 – 1962. Indeed, it was on 19th March 1962 that a formal ceasefire was proclaimed between the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) and France following the signature of the “Evian Agreement” that ended more than seven years of armed struggle of Algerian people spearheaded by the FLN. This armed struggle had bore the fruits of a referendum that led to the full sovereignty and independence of the Algeria people.

But in a wider picture, looking at developments on the African continent those early days of Algerian liberation, a catalyst was launched right in the Algerian capital, Algiers, for the total liberation of Africa from colonialism, minority rule and apartheid.

Indeed, ever since, Algeria had played a subtle but effective role that brought to an end both colonialism and minority rule in Africa. But few people know this and if they know, it is via a book by Nelson Mandela himself: ‘LONG WALK TO FREEDOM’.

In his book, one sees Mandela leaving his country, South Africa to Algeria, via Tanzania in the early sixties. It was in Algeria where Mandela was trained as a soldier as is reflected at the quotation at the launch of this article.

Following is my reading on Mandela’s life: “During his lifetime, Mandela always maintained an intense and privileged relationship with Algeria.

This special link was born in the early 1960s and stayed strong until his death in December 2013. “Convinced that there was no other choice but to fight against apartheid at a time its viciousness was escalating in his country, Mandela chose to flee his country to go and learn guerrilla warfare somewhere to prepare himself for the struggle ahead. The country that came immediately to his mind was Algeria, qualified those days by the father of the independence of Guinea Bissau, Amilcar Cabral as the “Mecca of Revolutionaries.”

“It was in Algeria that Mandela received his initial military training from the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). He trained at FLN bases along the border with Morocco.” In his book, Long Walk to Freedom Mandela says he was very much inspired by the Algerian Revolution.

In 1990, visiting Algeria after 27 years in prison, Mandela declared: “It is the Algerian army which transformed me into a combatant, a real man”, going ahead to praise Algeria for standing up to the values of freedom and liberation movements allover the world.

” Indeed, it is in this context that we should applaud Algerians as they celebrated last weekend their ‘Victory Day’ Against French colonialism. For us in this part of Africa, we recall Algerian leaders such as former Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the seventies, now President of his country, who stood up at the UN to demand the expulsion of apartheid South Africa from UN councils. What is instructive to Tanzania, being a country, which was in the forefront in Africa’s liberation being; the seat of the Liberation Committee of the Organisation of African Union (OAU) are recent resolutions by the present day African Union (AU) that have called for erection of signals identifying places where freedom fighters from elsewhere in Africa stayed or trained.

Right here in Dar as Salaam, buildings exist of former office premises of liberation movements in Africa, which were in the forefront in the liberation struggle such as FRELIMO of Mozambique and ANC of South Africa, to mention only a couple of them.

But one sees no signposts on top of buildings along the well-known Nkrumah street in Dar es Salaam which formerly housed offices of these liberation movements as mentioned above. Not only that, this country had welcomed and offered military training to cadres of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa and others from Africa at Mazimbu in Morogoro, for instance, which former freedom fighters who trained at that spot in this country remember only too well.

Are there signposts in place to identify these places for the interest of future generations? I am sure, not yet! This drawback makes AU resolutions most important to have signposts identifying former bases and offices of liberation movements.

And a seminar in Algiers recently came up with related resolutions supreme of which was the call to African countries and elsewhere in the Third World to intensify support for the cause of the Sahrawi people for independence and self-determination in accordance with resolutions of the United Nations and the African Union.

Here we have a strange form of colonialism – of one African country colonising another – unlike in the past where colonialists came from metropolitan powers in Europe. Africans need not only to contemptuously laugh off this form of colonialism, but close ranks to end it.

As we followed Algerians marking their Victory Day last weekend, it is high time we took a hard look at what is going on globally so that we do not turn back the clock of history where majority Third World countries are free today thanks to the early support of countries such as Algeria and Tanzania.

In the words of the Algerian Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Saad Belabed to this columnist: “The March 19 celebrations is an occasion for Algerian people to remember and cherish those who lost their lives during the war for independence to achieve dignity in freedom.

“It is an occasion to mobilise global support for other people still denied their basic rights for independence and self-determination as are the people of Western Sahara and Palestine.” -

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