The Berber Spring

An Englishwoman in Algeria

Vous ne pouvez pas nous tuer. Nous sommes déjà morts.

(You can’t kill us. We’re already dead.)

 – One of the slogans used during the Berber Spring demonstrations.

 In 1978, President Boumèdiene died in somewhat mysterious circumstances. As was usual in Algeria, nothing was known about the personal lives of those in power, with Mrs. Boumediène only surfacing after her husband’s demise. So when Boumediene’s death, officially from a rare blood disease, was announced, it came as a great shock to everyone.

He had been in a coma for months, although nobody knew it at the time. Even now, rumours still persist that he died from lithium poisoning, the lithium having been administered supposedly during an official visit to Baghdad. Make of that what you will.

Underlying the shock was apprehension about the future. The party rapidly elected a compromise candidate for the presidency, Colonel Benjedid Chadli, head of…

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