After Algeria gained independence in 1962, Bouteflika was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports in the government of Ahmed Ben Bella, Algeria’s first elected president. He led Algerian delegations to negotiations with the French in 1963 and was appointed Foreign Minister that year.
In 1965, he was a key player in a bloodless coup led by Boumedienne, who overthrew President Ben Bella. Bouteflika remained in charge of the Foreign Ministry until Boumediene’s death in December 1978. He was a gifted and urgent foreign minister who led a policy of anti-colonialism and non-interference and made Algeria the leader of the non-aligned movement and one of the founders of the African Union. .
For a while, Bouteflika was mentioned as a potential successor to Boumedienne, until he was arrested on charges of having used millions of dollars from the Foreign Ministry’s budget for years and tried by the Court of Auditors. He decided – or was forced – to go into exile abroad for six years.
When he returned to Algeria in 1987, he returned to the Central Committee of the National Liberation Front, the political arm of the independence movement. But he remained a backstage figure for most of the 1990s, when military and intelligence figures dominated the government in the midst of Algeria’s war with Islamist insurgency.
The uprising began when the government suspended the election to avert a landslide victory of the Islamist party, the Islamic Salvation Front, also known by its French abbreviation, FIS
Mr Bouteflika returned to the forefront when the civil war was coming to an end. When he ran for president in 1999, he found himself the only candidate left after six rivals withdrew in protest, saying the terms of the election were unfair.
As president, he promoted the concept of “national reconciliation” and introduced a de facto amnesty for all antagonists of the war, whether Islamists or the military. Both sides had been accused by human rights organizations of having committed atrocities during the war, which has estimated 200,000 Algerians dead.