HCA
The High Commission for Amazighity (HCA)

BY NORA AKROUF



Circumstances of HCA's Creation

The HCA was created by presidential decree on May 29, 1995, following the agreement of April 22, 1995, reached between the government of Algeria and the representatives of the Amazigh movements of Kabylia (MCB-Coordination Nationale), Aures (MCA), and Mzab. This agreement came as teachers and students (over a million of them) in the Kabyle region continued their eight-month school boycott to press for official recognition of the Amazigh language (Tamazight). It also came two days after the Kabyles held massive demonstrations, gathering hundreds of thousands, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Amazigh Spring of April 20, 1980, their first street demonstrations for Tamazight. The demonstrations were savagely repressed by the government forces and their leaders severly punished. But the Amazigh Cultural Movement (MCB), created in the aftermath of the Amazigh Spring, has, since then, never stopped campaigning for the recognition of the Amazigh language and culture. In September, 1994, the MCB (Coordination Nationale and Commissions Nationales factions) launched a general boycott of schools in the Kabyle region to pressure the authorities into recognizing Tamazight as an official language, alongside Arabic.

During the first months of the boycott, the Government of the then-Prime Minister Sifi and President Zeroual [Zeroual was nominated to the presidency in Dec. 1994 and took office in the provisionary government in Feb. 1994] tried to maintain the status quo by ignoring the problem and refusing to address it. When the boycott and revendication movement started to gain support from other regions of the country (Aures and Mzab), the Zeroual-Sifi Administration finally decided to deal with the issue by proposing the creation of an unofficial body called the High Council for Tamazight. But the MCB rejected the idea since it did not address the official character of Tamazight. All along, the government refused to consider granting any official status to Tamazight, arguing that this would require amending the constitution, which could occur only after a national referendum. However, the MCB refused to put Tamazight on the national ballot box affirming that the Amazigh people's right to their language is a basic human right granted by the U.N. charter. Moreover, the MCB argued that the Algerian constitution (even Article 7) in no way stipulates that Arabic is the only national language.

The direct negotiations with President Zeroual, after the departure of Sifi from the Government, did not bring any new developments at first. The Zeroual Administration lingered on the problem for another few months and persisted on the Sifi solution before finally taking a semi-conciliatory path. On April 25, 1995, the Government announced that a "body with executive powers" would be created at the presidential level to work towards the rehabilitation and the promotion of the Amazigh culture and the introduction of Tamazight into the educational and media sectors. The National Coordination of the MCB, MCA, and the Mzab High Council accepted the compromise and considered it a significant first step towards the official recognition of Tamazight, whereas the National Commissions of the MCB rejected this compromise, judging it unsatisfactory.

Structure and Mission of HCA

HCA is said to have executive powers and is directly dependent on the President. It is composed of 31 members, six of which are government representatives from the Departments of Education (Farid Adel), Higher Education and Scientific Research (Mohamed Aidoud), Professional Training (Mohamed Zoukh), Communication (Med Tahar Chebata), Culture (Nordine Saoudi), and Planning (Mahfoud Berkani). The other members are:

To further understand HCA's status, structure, and mission, we examine below some pertinent articles from its bylaws.

Article 2:

The High Commission for Amazighity is directly dependent on the President.

Article 4:

The High Commission for Amazighity has the following missions:

Article 5:

The mission of the High Commission for Amazighity is to:

Article 8:

The High Commission for Amazighity is directed by a High Commissioner appointed by presidential decree, following suggestions from the members of the commission. The Commissioner is placed under the authority of the President.

Article 9:

The High Commission for Amazighity is assisted by research directors and assistant research directors.

Article 11:

The High Commission for Amazighity can call upon consultants and experts in areas of need.

Article 12:

The State will provide the High Commission for Amazighity with all the human, material, and financial means necessary to carry out its mission.

Article 13:

The High Commission for Amazighity is financially autonomous.

Article 14:

The High Commission for Amazighity has its own budget from the State. Its financial matters are handled by an accountant, under the supervision of the High Commissioner.

Article 15:

The High Commission for Amazighity consists of
The Plenary Board for Orientation and Follow-up and the Intersectorial Coordination Committee are presided by the High Commissioner [as stipulated in articles 16 and 21, not reproduced here], while the Pedagogical, Scientific, and Cultural Committee is presided by a competent personality recognized as such in the Amazigh studies area and chosen by his/her peers (Article 28, not reproduced here). The next articles describe the missions of the above Board and committees.

Article 17:

The Plenary Board for Orientation and Follow-up consists of the members of the Intersectorial Coordination Committee and those of Pedagogical, Scientific, and Cultural Committee.

Article 18:

The Board deliberates and decides on

Article 22:

The Intersectorial Coordination Committee consists of representatives from the Departments of

Article 24:

The members of the Intersectorial Coordination Committee are appointed by executive decree. They cease to be part of this committee when they no longer possess the qualities that presided their appointments.

Article 25:

The Intersectorial Coordination Committee is charged with the tasks of

Article 27:

The Pedagogical, Scientific, and Cultural Committee is composed of 20 to 25 members chosen for their competence, experience, and work related to the Amazigh culture and language in all their dimensions.

Article 29:

The President and the members of the Pedagogical, Scientific, and Cultural Committee are appointed by presidential decree for a term of three years, renewable once.

Article 30:

The Pedagogical, Scientific, and Cultural Committee is charged with the task of assisting the High Commissioner in elaborating decisions pertaining to the High Commission's mission and evaluating the plans and actions presented by the Board.

Some Accomplishments

The HCA has established a program for the rehabilitation of Tamazight. It has set up the following as short term goals:

  1. The renaming of the department of Constantine Cirta (its name during the reign of the Amazigh King Massinissa).
  2. The renaming of the University of Constantine Massinissa University.
  3. The renaming of the University of Algiers Mouloud Mammeri University.
  4. The construction of a statue of Kahena, the Amazigh queen from Aures.
  5. The launching of pilot Tamazight classes in 16 provinces (Kabylia and Aures).
  6. The request for the presidential address of November 1st to be given in both Arabic and Tamazight.
  7. The official recognition of Mohand Ouidir Ait Amrane's song "Kker a Mmis Umazigh" as a national patriotic song.
  8. The increase of the transmitting power of the Amazigh radio station to cover the entire country.
  9. The broadcast of part of the National TV programs in Tamazight.

Note that except for item 5 none of the other projects have been given any consideration.

Note:
Special thanks go to Kamal Salhi for providing information on HCA members and A. Ali for the documentation.