Text of the conference by Ferhat Mehenni, president of the Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylia (MAK) and of the Provisional Kabyle Government in Exile (Anavad), held on Saturday 13 May 2023 in San Francisco, California, USA:
Kabylia-Algeria: The impossible marriage
By Ferhat MEHENNI
Marriages are, in principle and above all, a matter of consent and respect between partners. Whether they are of love or of reason, the acceptance of the parties is vital for their solidity and stability. On the other hand, any forced union is a rape, a crime; and this is unfortunately what characterises the tumultuous relationship between Algeria and Kabylia. For 166 years now, Kabylia has been trying to escape from Algerian colonialism, which prevents it from doing so more and more violently. If this continues, it is obvious that their history will inevitably end in a Rwandan-style bloodbath that the MAK, notably through its resolutely pacifist approach, is trying to avoid.
Our communication on this subject is an appeal to lucidity and reason on the Algerian side. We are neither in the business of manoeuvring and manipulation nor in victimisation. We just want to share this simple and clear observation: Kabylia is not soluble in Algeria. It is not soluble in any political entity other than its own. If it were possible, this could have been the case since the Romans, at whose time it was already a remarkable political organisation that was called: the confederation of Quinquegentians. After the Romans, neither the Banu Hilal nor the Turks were able to reduce it. As for the French episode in Kabylia, it only shows, if need be, that a military defeat is not necessarily a political victory. Although Kabylia was militarily crushed, it never had to recognise itself as an integral part of French Algeria. And those who recklessly assert nowadays that “there is no Algeria without Kabylia and there is no Kabylia without Algeria” are talking nonsense. This reminds us of Mitterrand when, in 1956, he said: “Algeria is France”. In reality, it is neither more nor less than a trap set for Kabylia to keep it captive of an Algeria that will only drain it of its sap while making it an eternal scapegoat.
Kabylia existed for two millennia before the birth of Algeria and the two entities coexisted side by side for 28 years (14/10/1839-24/06/1857). It is likely that Kabylia will outlive Algeria.
The Algerian war, contrary to what some of our opponents claim, did not seal a contract of union between Kabylia and Algeria. If the war effort was essentially Kabyle from 1954 to 1962, it was due to the fact that Kabylia was the only nation to be aware of itself and to express its unshakeable will to decolonise itself. It was for reasons of political efficiency that Kabylia had tried to drag all the indigenous peoples of Algeria with it in its decolonisation enterprise. The Declaration of 1 November 1954 was drafted, printed and distributed in Kabylia. It was the Kabyles who tried to disguise the insurrection in Kabylia as an insurrection of the whole of Algeria against French colonialism, by sending troops and leaders of the rebellion to the four corners of Algeria: Colonel Ali Mellah, Commander Si Salah (Zamoum), Colonel Didouche Mourad, Amirouche, Krim Belkacem, Ouamrane, Mohammedi Said, Amar At Chikh, Mohand Oulhadj … are all emblematic military figures of this war, as much as Abane Ramdane, Krim Belkacem and Hocine Ait Ahmed, or even Ferhat Abbas, were politically… It was in Kabylia that the Soummam Congress was held (20/08/1956) and that the principle of the preservation of Kabylia as a distinct politico-military entity, Wilaya III, was affirmed. By proceeding in this way, the Kabyles intended to ensure a future for Kabylia that it would control itself.
Moreover, Algeria, during the French period and since 1962, does not recognise itself in the Kabyle heroes that it systematically transforms into traitors, while it elevates its own traitors to the rank of heroes. Thus, during the French period, Emir Abdelkader and Bouamama, who had surrendered, were valued and Fadma N Summer, the Kabyle heroine, was treated as a witch by those who had defeated her in 1857. Her companion and war general is called ‘Boubaghla’ to ridicule his name. The same applies to the Kabyle King, Agellid Amuqran (Mokrani), who is reduced to the rank of Bachagha, a vulgar feudal who only rose up against French colonisation for his confiscated lands. What a great deal! Here is a landowner who had nevertheless raised the whole of Kabylia in 1871 and raised an army of over 250,000 men!
Since independence, Amirouche has become a “bloodthirsty criminal”, Abane Ramdane and Krim Belkacem “traitors”, to which we contrast Ben Badis who, in his time, was totally opposed to the decolonisation of Algeria, as shown by his publications in “Echihab”.
Worse still! All the Kabyles are nowadays treated as ‘Zouaves’, in other words, as auxiliaries of the French colonial army, which facilitated the landing of the latter at Sidi Ferruch in June 1830, even though they were the only ones to have mobilised more than 15,000 men to repel it.
The rejection of the very idea of the existence of Kabylia in Algeria is enough to show that it is not a marriage that is sought with it but its assassination. All the policies carried out by Algeria against Kabylia aim, since 1963, at only one thing: its disappearance. Political assassinations, Arabisation and salafisation of Kabylian children, economic sabotage and fiscal racket, identity and cultural oppression, falsification of history, permanent repression of the Kabyle fact, including in the sports field where the case of the JSK is edifying… Nothing is spared to humiliate Kabylians, to belittle them, to make them transparent, or even non-existent, to make them disgusted with what they are!
The FFS war (1963-65), the fierce repression and dictatorship of the 1970s, that of the 1980s, the extermination of the Kabyle elites during the 1990s, the massacre of young Kabyle people during the Black Spring of 2001-2003 and the current political terrorism that represses, imprisons and tortures in turn, The extermination of Kabyle elites during the 1990s, the massacre of Kabyle youth during the Black Spring of 2001-2003 and the current political terrorism that has been repressing, imprisoning and torturing for the past two years, and Article 87 Bis, which was promulgated specifically against Kabyle demands for freedom and independence, are all objective elements that show the failure of the integration of a subjugated Kabylia into Algeria. They are also walls erected by history between the two entities that have never respected each other until now. Finally, they testify to the constant Algerian determination to break Kabylia’s back without succeeding.
On the other hand, Kabylia defended itself as it could. Violently in 1963, then peacefully by turning its back on its assassin. The refusal of its linguistic and cultural depersonalisation, the boycott of colonial elections, the fact that each Kabyle lives first as a Kabyle and not as an Algerian are all proof of the resilience of the Kabyle people and their will to reconquer their sovereignty in the face of Algeria.
It must be recognised that all this is not part of a policy of integration between the two parties. Algeria aims not to respect Kabylia in a loyal union with it but to obtain its surrender or death. Hence this paradox: Kabylia and the Kabyles are at the same time demonised, denounced and rejected by the majority of Algerian official bodies and at the same time prevented from exercising their right to self-determination and independence. This toxic and schizophrenic couple, especially on the Algerian side, should therefore be seen as projections of premeditated murder. The current project entitled “Operation Zero Kabyle”, which has reached the top of the state, is proof of this. The marriage between two enemies, Algeria and Kabylia, is a criminal project for the former and a suicidal act for the latter, at least for all those Kabyles who continue to believe they are Algerians.
This cannot continue. The victim of this union still refuses to submit and colonial Algeria redoubles its ferocity against him to make him his Eid sheep. However, Kabylia has been aware of the murderous intentions of its jailer for more than a century and a half and if its dilution in Algeria could not be achieved during the French period when the Kabyles were more vulnerable politically, it is not today that it could be achieved. The assimilation of Kabylia by Algeria is now impossible. We do not need a war to verify this.
Today, with the Kabyle national awareness of our rights as an accomplished people, a national awareness that has spread to the families of senior officers of Kabyle origin in the Algerian army, only an amicable separation is the way out of this impossible forced union.
This would allow us to envisage with serenity a future of peace, prosperity and fruitful cooperation between the two countries (Kabylia and Algeria) and their neighbourhood. Kabylia would no longer pose a problem for this ‘national unity’, which has been impossible until now, and Algeria would no longer drag this Kabyle ball and chain that has prevented it from joining the ‘Arab world’ as it wishes.
The right to self-determination of Kabylia is therefore the solution and not the problem. If there was another solution, we would have found it already. Kabylia will only cease to be a problem for Algeria the day it would totally detach itself from it. Any other artifice, autonomy or federalism, is doomed to failure in advance.
This would also make it possible not to insult the future and to preserve all the chances of a reunion between the two neighbouring countries, on the basis of imperative mutual interests.
San Francisco, 13/05/2023
By Ferhat MEHENNI
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