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Kabylia (Algeria)

Last modified: 2016-02-13 by ivan sache
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Flag adopted by the Kabyle Provisional Government in exile - Image by Ivan Sache, 29 March 2015

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Kabylia since the independence of Algeria

The Berbers of Kabylia expected acknowledgement of their specificity as a reward for their contribution to the War of Independence (1954-1962). However, president Ben Bella said in 1962: "We are all Arabs".
Following the arrestation of the writer Mouloud Mammeri, who had attempted to give a lecture on classical Berber poetry, the "Kabyle Spring" started in Tizi-Ouzou in 1980 (with the birth of MCB), and thousands of demonstrators were arrested. President Chadli claimed: "We are all Berbers arabized by Islam".
In 1994-1995, thousands of Berber students stopped attending classes in a movement known as the "satchel strike" involved . In the aftermath of the strike, teaching Berber language in the Berber-speaking areas was proposed and the High Commission for Amazighity, attached to the Presidency of Republic, was created. However, lack of funds prevented the establishment of effective teraching in Berber.
The main claim of the Berbers, the acknowledgement of Berber as the second national language of Algeria, was once again rejected when the Constitution of Algerai was revised in 1996.
On 30 April 2001, President Bouteflika said: "Identitary revendication also has a constitutional component, which can be accounted for only by a constitutional revision". His loose speech, unfortunately, bitterly disappointed the young Kabyls.

Since the independence of Algeria, Kabyles have been represented by two political parties and different movements.
The FFS (Front des Forces Socialistes - Socialist Forces' Front) was founded in 1963 by Hocine Ait-Ahmed (1926-2015), an historical leader of FLN, who chaired the party until his death. Legalized in 1989, the FFS fights for democratization and secularization of the society, free elections and national reconciliation. The FFS approved the dialogue with Islamists movements.
The RCD (Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie - Union for Culture and Democracy) was founded in 1989 by Said Saidi (b. 1947), who chaired the party until 2012. The RCD supported the "eradication" movement, which called for the suppression of Islamist movement by force. The RCD left the government one week after the onset of the riots in Kabylia in Spring 2001.

The MCB (Mouvement pour la Culture Berbère - Movement for Berber Culture), founded in 1980, advocates the transliteration of the Berber alphabet in Latin alphabet. Its members might support either the FFS or the RCD. The MCB claimed to be part of the "Movement of the Amazigh people, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Egyptian oasis of Siwa". The MCB was soons superseded by another Kabyle movment, the MAK.
The MAK (Mouvement pour l'Autodétermination de la Kabylie - Mouvement for the Self-Determination of Kabylia) was founded by the singer Ferhat M'henni and the linguist SalemChaker in 2002, during the "Kabyle Black Spring", a period of unrest that followed the unexplained death of a Berber student in an Algerian gendarmerie post. The movement held its first congress at Ighil Ali in August 2007. The MAK calls for the wide autonomy of Kabylia, not accounting for the other Berber areas. In his book Algérie : La question kabyle (2004), M'henni, President of the MAK, writes: "It is not the duty of the Kabyles to liberate the Chaouias, the Chleuhs and the Berbers from the oasis of Siwa. [...] The grievances of Kabylia should be considered only within its natural borders." This is a clear (counter) reference to the ideology of the MCB.
According to the sociologist Abdenasser Djabi, the "withdrawal to Kabylia" of the MAK is a consequence of the failure of the MCB. The historian Daho Djerbal considers the MAK as a radicalized Kabyle movement, mostly operating outside Kabylia and not supported by the local elites, who accuse the MAK to try to solve the Kabyle question from abroad. Daho further adds that the "natural borders" of Kabylia claimed by the MAK were indeed set up by the French colonial administration and that population transfers ordered by the Ottoman administration prevents a clear definition of the "Kabyle people".

Ivan Sache, 24 February 2013

Flag adopted by the Kabyle Provisional Government in exile

The Kabyle Provisional Government in exile unveiled the flag of Kabylia on 10 March 2015, 35 years after of the organization in Kabylia of the first protest march against the Algerian power [Siwel Info, 10 March 2015].

The Kabyle Provisional Government in exile (ANAVAD - Anavaḍ Aqvayli Uεḍil; official website) was proclaimed on 21 April 2010 in Paris by the MAK. The ANAVAD is presided by Ferhat M'henni, also President of the MAK. The official gazette of ANAVAD (bilingual, Kabyle and French) was established on 23 May 2010. M'henni delivered the presidential address of the ANAVAD on 4 June 2010, presenting the government appointed on 1 June 2010.
On 1 June 2011, the government was dissolved by Decree No. GZM/2011/01/ ASAN/06. This was the result of the resignation of five out of the ten ministers in conflict with the president. A new government was appointed the same day by Decree No. GZM/2011/02/ASAN/06.

The search for a Kabyle flag was decided on 19 November 2012 by the Council of Ministers of the ANAVAD. The call for proposals was launched on 20 February 2013. Citizens were invited to submit proposals including "symbols and colours of their own". However, "the ANAVAD believes that the Kabyle national emblem should be based on the today's Amazigh flag, from which it should be differentiated by Kabyle specific features. For example, it would be appropriate that the olive tree, symbolizing ANAVAD, is included in the proposals".
The call yielded 83 submissions (image). Secret ballot was organized in Kabylia and among the Kabyle diaspora all along year 2014. The Council of Ministers of the ANAVAD validated the vote on 30 November 2014.

The results were proclaimed on 11 December 2014:
No. 6: 31.70% of the votes, eventually adopted.
No. 2: 17.16% of the votes - the flag is similar to the Amazigh flag, with a the black symbol of the ANAVAD added in upper fly.
No. 14: 4.20% of the votes - the flag is horizontally divided white-blue-green-yellow-white with a wreath of olive all over and the symbol of the ANAVAD at the top [Siwel Info, 11 December 2014].

The flag is prescribed by a Presidential Decree published on 10 March 2015 in the official gazette of the ANAVAD, as follows:

Article 1.
Anay unṣiv aqvayli, the official flag of Kabylia, shall be as follows.
     Article 1.1. The flag is made of the two national colours, arranged in vertical stripes of equal dimensions, so that azure (liberty blue) is at hoist and or (Kabylia yellow) is at fly.
     Article 1.2. The proportions of the flag are 3:5 - 3 units for the hoist and 5 units for the fly, the base unit being the height of letter "aza".
     Article 1.3.The belonging of Kabylia to the Amazigh great family is highlighted by a letter "aza" gules (red for life and aspiration to serve the homeland), centered at equal distance of the flag's top and bottom and at equal distance of the flag's lateral borders.
     Article 1.4. The letter "aza" is supported, all along its height and starting from its base, by two crossed olive branches. The lozenge leaves are ten per branch, by pairs, except at the top and bottom; they are representing in turn with two circles apart from each other, forming eight olives per branch, emphasizing the attachment of the Kabyles to the olive-tree, their nourishing tree. The branch on the blue stripe is yellow while the branch on the golden stripe is blue.

Article 2.
The specimen attached to this Decree is the definitive model of the flag.

Article 3.
The flag described in the previous Articles, whose specimen is attached to this Decree, is proclaimed Anay unṣiv aqvayli.
     Article 3.1. The flag shall be the Kabyle national emblem until the election of a Kabyle Constituent Assembly, which will decide of its preservation or re-assessment.
     Article 3.2. The Kabyle flag shall be hoisted in all official meetings of the ANAVAD, of the MAK and of the ANAVAD Network.
     Article 3.3. The Kabyle official flag shall be hoisted in all demonstrations of the resistance of the Kabyle people to the Algerian colonial power.

Article 4.
Kabylia has two brother flags: its proper official flag, prescribed by this Decree, and the flag common to all the Amazigh people, elaborated by the Berber Academy and called the "Amazigh flag".

Article 5.
The members of the Kabyle Provisional Government are commissioned, everyone in his domain of competence, to officially use the flag and to exploit its colours in the logotype of their respective services.

The ANAVAD set up on 10 December 2014 a technical commission tasked to fit the selected proposal to the international norms of heraldry and vexillology.


Construction sheet for the flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 29 March 2015

The construction sheet is based on the following variables:
Z = 1
B = 3 x Z
A = 5 x Z
C = D = A/2
W = 10/7 x Z
E = 2 x W
F = 3/2 x Z

The colours specifications are given as follows:

Colour	   CMYK (%)	       RGB 
Blue    100 47   0 26      0   101 189
Yellow    0 15 100  5    242   205   0
Red       0 91  73 14    220    20  60

Ivan Sache, 30 March 2015

Flags seen during the commemoration of the "Kabyle Spring"

[Kabyle flag, 2000]         [Kabyle flag, 2000]

Flags seen during the commemoration of the "Kabyle Spring" - Images by Nicolas Rucks, 20 April 2000

TV5 showed images of the Kabyle people commemorating the "Kabyle Spring" today in what seems to have been a huge demonstration. One flag was quite similar to other Berber flags, only the shade of blue was darker and the symbol was definitely drawn at right angles.
The other flag I saw was the Algerian national flag defaced with the same symbol, in yellow, on the white portion of the flag.

Nicolas Rucks, 20 April 2000

Kabyle flags outside Algeria

[Kabyle flag in Montreal]

Kabyle flag seen in Montreal, Canada - Image by Luc Baronian, 20 June 1997

I saw this flag in a nice litte Kabyle restaurant in Montreal, L'étoile Kabyle. The owner first told me it was the Berber flag, but when I asked him if it was used outside Algeria, he said he didn't know.
The flag is 2:3 (approx.), gold, with the black symbol that was reproduced everywhere in the restaurant (on a calendar, on the walls, on the ceiling with colourful clothes). The owner told me that the flag is a symbol of liberty, democracy and prosperity.

Luc Baronian, 20 June 1997