State funeral for Algeria's Bouteflika

A state funeral has been held for controversial former Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
A state funeral has been held for controversial former Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Former Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, ousted in 2019 after mass protests, has been given a state funeral attended by senior officials but received little of the attention given to such occasions in the past.

Bouteflika died on Friday, aged 84.

On Sunday, an armoured vehicle decked with flowers pulled his coffin, covered with the national flag, on a gun carriage from his home in Zeralda, west of the capital, to the el-Alia cemetery in Algiers where five of his predecessors are buried.

Bouteflika was first elected in 1999, and is widely credited with a national reconciliation policy that restored peace after a war with armed Islamists in the 1990s killed an estimated 200,000 people.

But many Algerians blame him for the economic stagnation of his latter years in power, when he was rarely seen in public after suffering a stroke, and widespread corruption led to the looting of tens of billions of dollars from a state that depends heavily on its large gas and oil reserves.

He stepped down in April 2019 after mass demonstrations to reject his plan to seek a fifth term, and demand political and economic reforms.

State media gave little attention to the funeral, and state television did not broadcast live pictures of the burial ceremony, as it has the funerals of past presidents. It later showed recorded footage.

Until 2014, Bouteflika was able to use the export earnings from high energy prices to pay off foreign debt and keep spending on subsidies at high levels to avoid social unrest.

"The years of Bouteflika's rule were a good period. He accomplished major projects, rid the country of foreign debt and brought back peace," said schoolteacher Mohamed Hachi.

But his stroke, and a decline in energy prices, ushered in a more difficult time.

"Bouteflika's period witnessed a terrible spread of corruption that the public couldn't see until after he was forced out of power," said state bank employee Djamel Harchi.

Several former senior officials, including prime ministers, ministers and army generals, have been jailed for corruption since Bouteflika resigned in April 2019 under pressure from a protest movement known as Hirak.

Thousands of members of the leaderless movement continued to take to the streets every week until authorities banned rallies because of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

Australian Associated Press