May 8, 1945. While France celebrates VE Day, Muslim protesters in Sétif organize to demand Algerian independence. What begins as a march becomes a massacre: the protesters murder more than 100 European settlers, or pieds-noirs, and French armed forces retaliate by killing (according to various estimates) between 1,000 and 45,000 Muslims.
November 1, 1954. Emboldened by the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launches armed revolts throughout Algeria and issues a proclamation calling for a sovereign Algerian state. The French are unimpressed but deploy troops to monitor the situation:
In the early morning hours of All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1954, guerrillas of the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale — FLN) launched attacks in various parts of Algeria against military installations, police posts, warehouses, communications facilities, and public utilities. From Cairo, the FLN broadcast a proclamation calling on Muslims in Algeria to join in a national struggle for the “restoration of the Algerian state, sovereign, democratic, and social, within the framework of the principles of Islam.” The French minister of interior, socialist François Mitterrand, responded sharply that “the only possible negotiation is war.” It was the reaction of Premier Pierre Mendès-France that set the tone of French policy for the next five years. On November 12, he declared in the National Assembly: “One does not compromise when it comes to defending the internal peace of the nation, the unity and integrity of the Republic. The Algerian departments are part of the French Republic. They have been French for a long time, and they are irrevocably French… Between them and metropolitan France there can be no conceivable secession.”
As the FLN campaign spread through the countryside, many European farmers in the interior sold their holdings and sought refuge in Algiers, where their cry for sterner countermeasures swelled. Colon vigilante units, whose unauthorized activities were conducted with the passive cooperation of police authorities, carried out ratonnades (literally, rat-hunts; synonymous with Arab-killings) against suspected FLN members of the Muslim community. The colons demanded the proclamation of a state of emergency, the proscription of all groups advocating separation from France, and the imposition of capital punishment for politically motivated crimes.
1955. The FLN begins targeting civilians, inciting a mob that kills more than 120 people in Philippeville. Between 1,200 and 12,000 Muslims are killed in retaliation by French troops and by pied-noir “vigilante committees.” Jacques Soustelle, then governor-general of French Algeria, resolves not to compromise with the revolutionaries.
An important watershed in the War of Independence was the massacre of civilians by the FLN near the town of Philippeville in August 1955. Before this operation, FLN policy was to attack only military and government-related targets. The wilaya commander for the Constantine region, however, decided a drastic escalation was needed. The killing by the FLN and its supporters of 123 people, including old women and babies, shocked Jacques Soustelle, the French governor general, into calling for more repressive measures against the rebels. The government claimed it killed 1,273 guerrillas in retaliation; according to the FLN, 12,000 Muslims perished in an orgy of bloodletting by the armed forces and police, as well as colon gangs. After Philippeville, all-out war began in Algeria.
By 1956 France had committed more than 400,000 troops to Algeria. Although the elite airborne units and the Foreign Legion received particular notoriety, approximately 170,000 of the regular French army troops in Algeria were Muslim Algerians, most of them volunteers. France also sent air force and naval units to the Algerian theater.
During 1956 and 1957, the National Liberation Army (Armée de Libération Nationale–ALN), the FLN’s military arm, successfully applied hit-and- run tactics according to the classic canons of guerrilla warfare. Specializing in ambushes and night raids and avoiding direct contact with superior French firepower, the internal forces targeted army patrols, military encampments, police posts, and colon farms, mines, and factories, as well as transportation and communications facilities. Once an engagement was broken off, the guerrillas merged with the population in the countryside. Kidnapping was commonplace, as were the ritual murder and mutilation of captured French military, colons of both genders and every age, suspected collaborators, and traitors. At first, the revolutionary forces targeted only Muslim officials of the colonial regime; later, they coerced or killed even those civilians who simply refused to support them.
Although successful in engendering an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty within both communities in Algeria, the revolutionaries’ coercive tactics suggested that they had not as yet inspired the bulk of the Muslim people to revolt against French colonial rule. Gradually, however, the FLN/ALN gained control in certain sectors of the Aurès, the Kabylie, and other mountainous areas around Constantine and south of Algiers and Oran. In these places, the ALN established a simple but effective — although frequently temporary — military administration that was able to collect taxes and food and to recruit manpower. But it was never able to hold large fixed positions. Muslims all over the country also initiated underground social, judicial, and civil organizations, gradually building their own state.
September 30, 1956. The FLN attempts to draw international attention to the conflict by targeting urban areas. The Battle of Algiers begins when three women plant bombs in public venues. Algiers erupts into violence.
Late in 1957, General Raoul Salan, commanding the French army in Algeria, instituted a system of quadrillage, dividing the country into sectors, each permanently garrisoned by troops responsible for suppressing rebel operations in their assigned territory. Salan’s methods sharply reduced the instances of FLN terrorism but tied down a large number of troops in static defense. Salan also constructed a heavily patrolled system of barriers to limit infiltration from Tunisia and Morocco.
At the same time, the French military ruthlessly applied the principle of collective responsibility to villages suspected of sheltering, supplying, or in any way cooperating with the guerrillas. Villages that could not be reached by mobile units were subject to aerial bombardment. The French also initiated a program of concentrating large segments of the rural population, including whole villages, in camps under military supervision to prevent them from aiding the rebels — or, according to the official explanation, to protect them from FLN extortion. In the three years (1957-60) during which the regroupement program was followed, more than 2 million Algerians were removed from their villages, mostly in the mountainous areas, and resettled in the plains, where many found it impossible to reestablish their accustomed economic or social situations. Living conditions in the camps were poor.
May 1958. A mob of pieds-noirs, angered by the French government’s failure to suppress the revolution, storms the offices of the governor-general in Algiers. With the support of French army officers, they clamor for Charles de Gaulle to be installed as the leader of France. The French National Assembly approves. De Gaulle is greeted in Algeria by Muslims and Europeans alike.
In France, the feeling was widespread that another debacle like that of Indochina was in the offing and that the government would order another precipitate pullout and sacrifice French honor to political expediency. Many saw in Charles de Gaulle the only public figure capable of rallying the nation and giving direction to the French government. Europeans as well as many Muslims greeted de Gaulle’s return to power, in June 1958, as the breakthrough needed to end the hostilities. De Gaulle’s political initiatives threatened the FLN with the prospect of losing the support of the growing numbers of Muslims who were tired of the war and had never been more than lukewarm in their commitment to a totally independent Algeria.
Meanwhile, the French army shifted its tactics at the end of 1958 from dependence on quadrillage to the use of mobile forces deployed on massive search-and-destroy missions against ALN strongholds. Within the next year, Salan’s successor, General Maurice Challe, appeared to have suppressed major rebel resistance. In 1958-59 the French army had won military control in Algeria and was the closest it would be to victory. But political developments had already overtaken the French army’s successes.
During 1958-59, opposition to the conflict was growing among many segments of French society. International pressure was also building on France to grant Algeria independence. In September 1959, de Gaulle dramatically reversed his stand on Algeria and uttered the words “self-determination” in a speech. Claiming that de Gaulle had betrayed them, the colons, with backing by elements of the French army, staged insurrections in January 1960 and April 1961. De Gaulle was now prepared to abandon the colons, the group that no previous French government could have written off.
April 1961. A few prominent generals in the French army in Algeria, clinging to a hope of preserving Algérie française, attempt to overthrow de Gaulle. This “generals’ putsch” is unsuccessful.
Talks with the FLN reopened at Evian in May 1961; after several false starts, the French government decreed that a cease-fire would take effect on March 19, 1962. In their final form, the Evian Accords allowed the colons equal legal protection with Algerians over a three year period. These rights included respect for property, participation in public affairs, and a full range of civil and cultural rights. At the end of that period, however, Europeans would be obliged to become Algerian citizens or be classified as aliens with the attendant loss of rights. The French electorate approved the Evian Accords by an overwhelming 91 percent vote in a referendum held in June 1962.
March–June 1962. Despairing pieds-noirs in the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS) mount terrorist attacks against civilians (Muslim and French). The FLN and the OAS ultimately conclude a truce.
On July 1, 1962, some 6 million of a total Algerian electorate of 6.5 million cast their ballots in the referendum on independence. The vote was nearly unanimous. De Gaulle pronounced Algeria an independent country on July 3. The Provisional Executive, however, proclaimed July 5, the 132nd anniversary of the French entry into Algeria, as the day of national independence.
The FLN estimated in 1962 that nearly eight years of revolution had cost 300,000 dead from war-related causes. Algerian sources later put the figure at approximately 1.5 million dead, while French officials estimated it at 350,000. The actual figure of war dead may be far higher than the original FLN and official French estimates, even if it does not reach the 1 million adopted by the Algerian government. Uncounted thousands of Muslim civilians lost their lives in French army ratissages, bombing raids, and vigilante reprisals. The war uprooted more than 2 million Algerians, who were forced to relocate in French concentration camps or to flee to Morocco, Tunisia, and into the Algerian hinterland, where many thousands died of starvation, disease, and exposure. Additional pro-French Muslims were killed when the FLN settled accounts after independence.
1962 – Algeria gains independence from France.
1963 – Ahmed Ben Bella elected as first president.
1965 – Col Houari Boumedienne overthrows Ben Bella, pledges to end corruption.
1976 – Boumedienne introduces a new constitution which confirms commitment to socialism and role of the National Liberation Front (FLN) as the sole political party. Islam is recognised as state religion.
1976 December – Boumedienne is elected president and is instrumental in launching a programme of rapid industrialisation.
1978 – Boumedienne dies and is replaced by Col Chadli Bendjedid, as the compromise candidate of the military establishment.
1986 – Rising inflation and unemployment, exacerbated by the collapse of oil and gas prices lead to a wave of strikes and violent demonstrations.
Ban on parties lifted
1988 – Serious rioting against economic conditions.
1989 – The National People’s Assembly revokes the ban on new political parties and adopts a new electoral law allowing opposition parties to contest future elections.
1989 – Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) founded and over 20 new parties licensed.
1990 – The FIS wins 55 per cent of the vote in local elections.
1991 – Government announces parliamentary elections in June 1991 and plans changes to electoral system including restrictions on campaigning in mosques. FIS reacts by calling general strike. State of siege declared, elections postponed. FIS leaders Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj arrested and jailed.
1991 December – In the first round of general elections the FIS wins 188 seats outright, and seems virtually certain to obtain an absolute majority in the second round.
Military takes over
1992 4 January – The National People’s Assembly is dissolved by presidential decree and on 11 January President Chadli, apparently under pressure from the military leadership, resigns. A five-member Higher State Council, chaired by Mohamed Boudiaf, takes over.
Street gatherings banned, violent clashes break out on 8 and 9 February between FIS supporters and security forces. A state of emergency is declared, the FIS is ordered to disband and all 411 FIS-controlled local and regional authorities are dissolved.
1992 29 June – Boudiaf assassinated by a member of his bodyguard with alleged Islamist links. Violence increases and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) emerges as the main group behind these operations.
1994 – Liamine Zeroual, a retired army colonel, is appointed chairman of the Higher State Council.
1995 – Zeroual wins a five-year term as president of the republic with a comfortable majority.
1996 – Proposed constitutional changes approved in a referendum by over 85 per cent of voters.
1997 – Parliamentary elections won by the newly-created Democratic National Rally, followed by the moderate Islamic party, Movement of Society for Peace.
Militants ignore concord
1998 – President Zeroual announces his intention to cut short his term and hold early presidential elections.
1999 – Former foreign minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika elected as president after all opposition candidates withdraw from race, saying they had received inadequate guarantees of fair and transparent elections.
1999 – Referendum approves Bouteflika’s law on civil concord, the result of long and largely secret negotiations with the armed wing of the FIS, the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS). Thousands of members of the AIS and other armed groups are pardoned.
2000 – Attacks on civilians and security forces continue, and are thought to be the work of small groups still opposed to the civil concord. Violence is estimated to have claimed over 100,000 lives in Algeria since 1992.
2001 April/May – Scores of demonstrators are killed in violent clashes between security forces and Berber protesters in the mainly Berber region of Kabylie following the death of a teenager in police custody.
2001 May – The mainly Berber party, the Rally for Culture and Democracy, withdraws from the government in protest against the authorities’ handling of riots in Kabylie.
2001 October – Government agrees to give the Berber language official status, as part of a package of concessions.
2001 November – Several hundred people are killed as floods hit Algiers.
2002 March – President Bouteflika says the Berber language, Tamazight, is to be recognised as a national language.
2002 June – Prime Minister Ali Benflis’s National Liberation Front (FLN) wins general elections marred by violence and a low turnout. They are boycotted as a sham by four parties – two of which represent Berbers.
2003 21 May – More than 2,000 people are killed and thousands are injured by a powerful earthquake in the north. The worst-hit areas are east of Algiers.
2003 June – Leader of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) Abassi Madani and his deputy Ali Belhadj are freed after serving 12-year sentences.
2004 April – President Bouteflika is re-elected to a second term in a landslide poll victory.
2005 January – Authorities announce the arrest of rebel Armed Islamic Group (GIA) head Nourredine Boudiafi and the killing of his deputy and declare the group to be virtually dismantled.
Government makes deal with Berber leaders, promising more investment in Kabylie region and greater recognition for Tamazight language.
2005 March – Government-commissioned report says security forces were responsible for the disappearances of more than 6,000 citizens during the 1990s civil conflict.
2005 September – Reconciliation referendum: Voters back government plans to amnesty many of those involved in post-1992 killings.
2005 November – Opposition parties keep their majority in local elections in the mainly-Berber Kabylie region, held as part of a reconciliation process.
2006 March – Six-month amnesty begins, under which fugitive militants who surrender will be pardoned, except for the most serious of crimes. The authorities free a first batch of jailed Islamic militants.
2006 May – Algeria is to pay back all of its $8bn debt to the Paris Club group of rich creditor nations, in a move seen as reflecting its economic recovery.
2006 September – Leader of the banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) Rabah Kebir returns from self-imposed exile and urges rebels still fighting the state to disarm.
2006 December – Roadside bomb hits a bus carrying staff of a US oil firm, killing one man. The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) claims responsibility and shortly afterwards calls for attacks against French nationals.
2007 January – Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat renames itself the al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb.
2007 February – Seven bombs go off almost simultaneously east of Algiers, killing six.
2007 March-April – Army steps up offensive against Islamist militants to stamp out a surge in attacks.
2007 March – Three Algerians and a Russian are killed in a roadside attack on a bus carrying workers for a Russian gas pipeline construction company.
2007 April – 33 people are killed and more than 200 are injured in two bomb blasts in Algiers, one of them near the prime minister’s office. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claims responsibility.
2007 May – Parliamentary elections: dozens are killed in the run-up, in a wave of fighting between the military and armed groups. Pro-government parties retain their absolute majority in parliament.
2007 July – A suicide bomber targets a military barracks near Bouira, killing at least nine people.
2007 September – At least 50 people are killed in a series of bombings. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claims responsibility for the attacks.
Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri urges north Africa’s Muslims to ”cleanse” their land of Spaniards and French.
2007 December – Double car bombing in Algiers hits a UN building and a bus full of students, killing dozens of people.
2008 June – Four Christian converts from Islam receive suspended jail sentences for worshipping illegally.
President Bouteflika brings back twice former premier Ahmed Ouyahia as new prime minister, replacing Abdelaziz Belkhadem.
2008 August – About 60 people are killed in bombings in towns east of Algiers. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claims responsibility.
2008 November – Parliament approves constitutional changes allowing President Bouteflika to run for a third term.
2009 April – President Bouteflika wins third term at the polls.
2009 July – Nigeria, Niger and Algeria sign an agreement to build a $13bn pipeline to take Nigerian gas across the Sahara to the Mediterranean.
2009 November – Disturbances mar two international association football matches between Egypt and Algeria , leading to diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
2010 April – Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger set up joint command to tackle threat of terrorism.
2011 January – Major protests break out over food prices and unemployment, with two people being killed in clashes with security forces. The government orders cuts to the price of basic foodstuffs.
2011 February – President Abdelaziz Bouteflika says the 1992 state of emergency laws will be repealed in the “very near future”, without specifying a date.