A funeral for Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the oldest president of the North African country, began in Algeria on Sunday in a cemetery for his heroes of independence, but without the honors bestowed on the leaders who died before him.
Bouteflika passed away on Friday at the age of 84, having lived in seclusion since he was ousted from power more than two years ago.
The veteran strongman resigned from office in April 2019 after the military left him after weeks of street protests sparked by his attempt to run for a fifth presidential term.
He had come to power in 1999 thanks to a wave of popular support, as his offer of amnesty to Islamist militants helped end a decade-long civil war.
An armored vehicle towed the flag-draped coffin in a flower-adorned gun carriage and escorted by lines of policemen on motorcycles.
His successor, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, members of the government and foreign diplomats have gathered at the cemetery, guarded by security officers in blue and black uniforms.
The procession traveled from the Bouteflika nursing home to the cemetery east of the center of Algiers, while passers-by filmed it with their mobile phones.
Only journalists from Algeria’s national public media have had access to the ceremony itself, and the official mourning period will last only three days instead of eight.
Without fanfare, in contrast to previous presidential deaths, state television had announced that Bouteflika would be buried in El-Alia, where his predecessors are buried.
The People’s Palace, where other presidents had remained in state, appeared to have been prepared to display their remains prior to burial. However, the lie in the state was canceled, according to sources.
Isabelle Werenfels, a Maghreb specialist at the German SWP institute, told AFP that the country’s leaders are probably nervous “because there is a lot of hatred around the figure of Bouteflika on social media.”
He added that decision makers did not know very well what to do “because among the political, administrative and economic elites there are quite a large number who are products or profiteers of the Bouteflika era.”
>> Possession of Bouteflika of Algeria marked by the recognition of the French presidents of the colonial past