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Text Box: Ahmed Ben Bella    1916?-
Text Box:  Mohamed Ahmed Ben Bella (Muhammad Ahmad Bin Balla) (Arabic: أحمد بن بلّة‎) (born December 25, 1918, Maghnia, Algeria) was the first President of Algeria, and seen by many as the Father of the Nation. Ben Bella was born in a small village in western Algeria during the height of the French colonial period to a Sufi Muslim family. 
He attended school in Tlemclen and was disturbed by the discrimination towards Muslims by his European teacher. He failed his brevet exam, and subsequently dropped out of school. He was called to French military service in 1936, two years early because his father had altered his civil status when he was to sit for his exams in Maghnia from 1918 to 1916. 
He was sent to Marseille, and while there he played center mid-field for the l'Olympique de Marseille. He was offered a professional spot on the team, but he rejected the offer. Ben Bella returned to Algeria to find his father and three of his brothers dead and the fourth dying. He was soon called back to the army. 
He joined the Italian Campaign to liberate Italy. Service in the French military benefitted Ben Bella in two major ways: he learned military skills and saw first hand the discrimination and inequality of the Algerian people under French colonial control.[edit]
Before independence
During the Second World War he served in the Free French army, and was decorated for bravery. He was one of the founding members of the Front de Libération Nationale. He was arrested by the French in 1956, after his airplane had been controversially intercepted and brought to France, and spent until 1962 in prison. While in prison he was elected a vice-premier of the Algerian provisional government. 
Ben Bella's first language was French, not Arabic. He learned Arabic while in prison. While in Egypt, Ben Bella met the Egyptian president, Gamel Abdel Nasser. When Nasser brought Ben Bella to speak for the first time to an Egyptian audience, he broke into tears because he could not speak Arabic. 
It has been said that he refused to teach his own daughter French because he wanted her to learn Arabic first and not be in the same position he was. Like many Arab militants of the time, he would come to describe himself as a "Nasserist" and developed close ties to Egypt even before independence was achieved. 
Nasser's material, emotional and political support of the Algerian movement would come to cause him troubles, as it played a major role in France's choice to wage war on him during the 1956 Suez Crisis. [edit]
Algerian independence
After Algeria's independence was recognized, Ben Bella quickly became more popular, and thereby more powerful. In June 1962, he challenged the leadership of Premier Benyoucef Ben Khedda; this led to several disputes among his rivals in the FLN, which were quickly suppressed by Ben Bella's rapidly growing number of supporters, most notably within the armed forces. By September, Bella was in control of Algeria by all but name, and was elected as premier in a one-sided election on 20 September, which was recognized by the United States on September 29. 
Algeria was admitted as the 109th member of the United Nations on 8 October 1962. Afterwards, Ben Bella declared that Algeria would follow a neutral course in world politics; within a week he met with U.S. President John F. Kennedy requesting more aid for Algeria, and with Fidel Castro, expressing approval of Castro's demands for the abandonment of Guantanamo Bay, and returned to Algeria requesting that France withdraw from its bases there.
In 1963 he was elected President in an uncontested election, and also led Algeria's costly but ultimately victorious defense against Moroccan invasion in the Sand war. After stabilizing the country, Ben Bella embarked on a series of popular but somewhat anarchic land reforms to the benefit of landless farmers, and increasingly turned to socialist rhetoric. 
His policy of Autogestion, or self-management, was adopted after the peasants seized former French lands. In balancing factions within the Algerian government, notably the FLN army, the former guerrillas and the state bureaucracy, his rule became increasingly autocratic. 
Eccentric and arrogant behaviour towards colleagues is said to have alienated many former supporters, and, while he promoted the development of his own cult of personality, by 1964 he was dedicating more time to foriegn affairs than local political developments. In 1965, Ben Bella was deposed by army strongman and close friend Houari Boumédiènne in 1965, and placed under house arrest until 1980, when he was granted exile in Switzerland. He lived for 10 years in Lausanne, but was allowed to return to his homeland in 1990.[edit]
Recent activities
Ben Bella was elected President of the International Campaign Against Aggression on Iraq at its Cairo Conference. Ben Bella has described himself numerous times in interviews as an Islamist of a mild and peace loving flavour. 
Despite his former one party state he now vocally advocates democracy in Algeria. He has described the militant voice rising in the Islamic world as having developed from an incorrect and faulty interpretation of Islam. 
He is a controversial figure, but widely respected for his role in the anti-colonial struggle, and seen by many Arab intellectuals as one of the last original Arab nationalists.
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Quotes:
Ahmed Ben Bella,  a soldier in the French army during World War 2, decorated for bravery and one of the high figures of Arab nationalism,  was a friend of the late Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) with whom they sealed an alliance in 1956.   After the end of World War 2 , Ben Bella, joined  Algeria’s 9 member revolutionary committee that developed into FLN (Front de Libération Nationale).
 Active in the Algerian battle for independence, Ben Bella was arrested,   imprisoned, and served  years of his life in French prisons, in order to liberate Algeria of 132 years of French colonisation. 
Yet Ahmed Ben Bella was able to state with confidence: “I do not regard myself  as a theorist, but like a man of action, who, once engaged, is ready to dearly pay the price of his ideas.”  Asked in 1999 what has changed in the world since the Algerian Revolution and his presidency in 1962: "Everything has changed and nothing has changed. Fifty million people die of starvation annually. One quarter of the world's population suffers from curable tropical diseases. Three quarters of the world's population owe USD$4,000 billion in debt and cannot possibly pay interest let alone pay the debt back. We struggle against imperialism, against the men who are the symbols of this barbaric system. We must continue to fight." - Ahmed Ben Bella
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Credit: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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