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,
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.
- Dahbia Abrous: Linguist and Chairwoman of the Department of Tamazight of
the University of Bgayet.
- Mohand Ouidir Ait Amrane: One of the pioneers of the Amazigh revendication.
Writer and researcher in Amazigh Studies. Also, writer and composer of the
famous patriotic song "Kker a Mmis Umazigh." President of HCA.
- Rachid Alliche: Writer and researcher in Amazigh Studies.
- Salah Bahadi: Member of the Mzab High Council.
- El Hadi Bouras: A University of Batna official. Militant of the Amazigh
- Slimane Chabane: Professor and researcher in Amazigh studies.
- Badi Dida: Archeologist and researcher at the CRAPE.
- Mohamed El Abassi: Jurist and Law Professor at the University of Batna.
- Djamal Ferdjellah: Telecommunications Engineer. Militant of the Amazigh
cause. Spokesperson of the HCA.
- Laid Ferhaoui: Engineer. President of the Amazigh league of Aures.
- Mouloud Gaid: Historian.
- Mohand Guerfi: Journalist and director of Algerie Actualite. Former
director of the Amazigh radio station. Former President of the Cultural
Association Tala of Algiers.
- Ahmed Haddag: A Public Health Department official. Militant of the Amazigh
- Said Mazouz: Professor of Architecture at the University of Biskra.
- Yahia Medjahed: Researcher in Amazigh Studies.
- Ali Mokrani: Teacher and President of the Federation of Students' Parents
Associations. Militant of the Amazigh cause.
- Mohamed Salah Nedjai: Professor at the University of Batna. Militant of
MCA. President of HCA's Pedagogic, Scientific, and Cultural Committee.
- Abdellah Nouh: Journalist and Professor of Tamazight (Tamzabt) at the
University of Tizi Ouzou.
- Allaoua Rabhi: Linguist and Professor of Tamazight in France.
- Mebarek Rebaai: Engineer. Militant of the Amazigh cause.
- Cherif Souami: Management consultant. Militant of the Amazigh cause.
- Ahmed Tessa: Pedagogue. Director of the "Ecole et la vie" newspaper.
- Belkacem Wahbi: Film producer. Militant of the Amazigh cause (MCA).
- Madjid Yousfi: Professor of Economics at the University of Caroubier.
- Azeddine Zaalani: Jurist.
Article 2: The High Commission for Amazighity is directly dependent
on the President.
Article 4: The High Commission for Amazighity has the following
- The rehabilitation and promotion of Tamazight as one of the foundations of
- The introduction of Tamazight in the educational and media sectors.
Article 5: The mission of the High Commission for Amazighity is
- Identify, analyze, prepare, and elaborate all the elements necessary to
carry out its mission of rehabilitation of Tamazight.
- Elaborate, in conjunction with all the sectors involved, annual programs
for the introduction of Tamazight in the educational system and determine
its future status in the media.
- Ensure the coordination and execution of these programs.
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
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
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
- A Plenary Board for Orientation and Follow-up.
- An Intersectorial Coordination Committee.
- Pedagogical, Scientific, and Cultural Committee.
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
- Activity programs directly related to the High Commission and the ways and
means for their execution and follow-up.
- Every issue presented to the Board in relation to its mission.
Article 22: The Intersectorial Coordination Committee consists of
representatives from the Departments of
- Higher Education and Scientific Research,
- Professional Training,
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
- Developing cooperation between the various sectors charged with the
executions of the programs and plans put forward by the Board.
- Taking all the measures necessary for the concretization of the objectives
assigned by the High Commissioner.
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.
The HCA has established a program for the rehabilitation of Tamazight. It has
set up the following as short term goals:
Note that except for item 5 none of the other projects have been given any
- The renaming of the department of Constantine Cirta (its name during the
reign of the Amazigh King Massinissa).
- The renaming of the University of Constantine Massinissa University.
- The renaming of the University of Algiers Mouloud Mammeri University.
- The construction of a statue of Kahena, the Amazigh queen from Aures.
- The launching of pilot Tamazight classes in 16 provinces (Kabylia and
- The request for the presidential address of November 1st to be given in
both Arabic and Tamazight.
- The official recognition of Mohand Ouidir Ait Amrane's song "Kker a Mmis
Umazigh" as a national patriotic song.
- The increase of the transmitting power of the Amazigh radio station to
cover the entire country.
- The broadcast of part of the National TV programs in Tamazight.
Special thanks go to Kamal Salhi for providing information on HCA members and
A. Ali for the documentation.