Algeria’s first president, Ahmed Ben Bella, has passed away at the age of 96.
Algeria’s state news agency reported the news this morning. Ben Bella passed away at his family home in Algiers. The Globe and Mail reports that Bella had been admitted to the hospital twice in the last month for pain and discomfort. A cause of death has not been released.
Reuters reports that Bella was one of the leading figures as Algeria fought for independence from France after World War II. He spent several years in a french prison and eventually became president of Algeria in 1963. Ben Bella only served a few years as president as he was overthrown by a military coup in 1965, lead by the head of his army, General Houari Boudemiene. Bella was placed under house arrest until 1980 and went into self exile in Switzerland. It wasn’t until 1997 that he returned to Algeria.
Bella’s death comes 50 years after Algeria gained its independence. Reuters writes:
“His death coincides with the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence, a date which many Algerians see as bitter-sweet because they feel the aspirations of the country’s founding fathers, embodied by Ben Bella, have not been fully realized.”
The BBC reports that Bella’s policies while in office were controversial but Algerians widely respected him for his fight against French rule.