Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Abd el-Kader, First War of (1832–1834)

Abd el-Kader, First War of (1832–1834)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Muslim nationalists led by Amir Abd el-Kader vs. French colonial forces

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Oran and Mostaganem, Algeria

DECLARATION: No formal declaration

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Independence from French colonial rule

OUTCOME: The French conceded control of the interior of Oran to Abd el-Kader.

APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS: 3,200 French legionnaires; number of Muslim nationals:unknown

CASUALTIES: French casualties in Algeria from 1830 to 1847 were nearly 10,000 killed and 35,000 wounded.Untold numbers of foreign legionnaires also died. Algerian casualties were in the tens of thousands.

TREATIES: Desmichels Treaty, 1834

In 1827 the dey of Algiers accosted the French consul with a fly-whisk, an act for which he refused to apologize, thereby giving the French a pretext for invading the North African country, which they did in 1830. Offering little resistance, the dey went into exile, and a loosely organized French colonial government was established. Lacking experience in ruling a Muslim society, the French were able to exercise control only in the coastal areas around Algiers, leaving considerable authority in the hands of provincial leaders in the hinterlands. Among those leaders was Abd el-Kader (1808–83), a young Algerian nationalist who ruled Mascara. A brilliant military strategist and devout Muslim, Abd el-Kader organized a relentless campaign of harassment against the French that resulted in a 15-year series of wars. The First War of Abd el-Kader lasted from 1832 to 1834 and was triggered by the violence with which the French attempted to impose their policies on the Algerians after King Louis-Philippe (1773–1850) created the French Foreign Legion on March 10, 1831, to battle colonial insurgency. Some 3,000 legionnaires, 2,196 of them German and 571 Italian, had arrived in Algeria by December 1, 1832. Abd el-Kader organized small bands of guerrillas to attack French troops around Oran and Mostaganem. Riding the growing tide of nationalism in Algeria, he was able to transform the guerrilla resistance movement into a fullfledged struggle for independence. The French, poorly organized, finally conceded to Abd el-Kader in 1834 by signing the Desmichels Treaty, which not only gave him the whole interior of Oran but also the title of Commander of the Believers. More importantly, the Desmichels Treaty secured Abd el-Kader’s position as champion of Arab Algerian nationalism, a movement that would sweep aside the fragile peace of Desmichels within less than a year.


Further reading: Charles Henry Churchill, The Life of Abdel Kader, Ex-Sultan of the Arabs of Algeria (London: Chapman and Hall, 1867); Roland Oliver and Anthony Atmore, Africa since 1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

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