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Cheikh Mokrani

Mohamed El- Mokrani (1815–1871) was one of the principal leaders of the popular uprising at the end of 19th century following the French conquest in Algeria in 1830.

Reasons for Revolt

The revolt was triggered by extension of civil colonization authority to previously self-governing tribal Berber confederation and the abrogation of commitments made by the military government, but it clearly had its basis in more long-standing grievances. Since the Crimean War (1854–56), the demand for grain had pushed up the price of Algerian wheat to European levels. Storage silos were emptied when the world market's impact was felt in Algeria, and Muslim farmers sold their grain reserves — including seed grain — to French speculators. When serious drought struck Algeria and grain crops failed in 1866 and for several years following, Muslim areas faced starvation, and with famine also came pestilence. It was estimated that 20% of the Muslim population of Constantine died over a three-year period. In 1871 the civil authorities repudiated guarantees made to tribal chieftains by the previous military government for loans to replenish their seed supply. This act alienated even pro-French Muslim leaders, while it undercut their ability to control their people. It was against this background of misery and hopelessness that the stricken Kabyles rose in revolt.

Revolt of Cheikh Mokrani

Mohamed El-Mokrani was the son of Ahmed El-Mokrani one of the governors (Khalifa) of the area of Medjana located in the highlands of Kabylie, who was also the cheikh of Rahmania order. After the death of Ahmed El-Mokrani, the French authorities anointed Mohammed in his place. However following dissension with the French administration, he resigned from his position in March 1871. This conflict happened as a result of the colonial authorities disregarding El-Mokrani, creating a French-populated commune of Bordj Bou Arréridj and appointing a French officer as its head. The great many discontented flocked to the banners of the Cheikh aggrieved by the ravages of famine, increasing racial oppression by the French and Christianization policy pursued by the Catholic church.

In March 1871 Mohamed El-Mokrani revolted against French by carrying out his army until Bordj- Bou -Arréridj with the assistance of his brother Boumezreg and his cousin El Hadj Bouzid, and Sheik El Haddad which joined this uprising with his tribe. Using his position and influence on Rahmania brotherhood El-Mokrani was able to overcome the dissension in his camp and retake Bordj-Bou-Arreridj.

The members of the brotherhood Rahamania, disciples of the Sheik El Haddad played an eminent part in success of the insurrection of El Mokrani, in particular after Sheik El Haddad had proclaimed the jihad against the French on April 8, 1871. The insurrection acquired a total character through the increase in the number of combatants who rejoined it and his extension to the west, north and the East where considerable stations of the colonial army were encircled in several areas.

After having carried several battles Mohamed El-Mokrani was martyred on May 5, 1871 at Taouraga. His tomb is located in Beni Abbas(Béjaïa). Under the command of his brother Boumezreg, the uprising continued until January 20, 1872, date of his arrest.

Consequences of the Revolt

After the arrest of Sheik-el-Haddad, the jihad continued under Bouamama. There were also other small insurrectionary movements at Blessed-Menaceur, which forces besieged Cherchel, Zurich, Vesoul-Benian and Hammam-Rirha; this movement was also crushed. From July to September 1872, French forces had still to completely subdued Kabylie. Bou-Mezrag took refuge at Maadid, and later managed to escape the French finding allies among the Tuareg tribes of the South. The general Delacroix, with a small expeditionary force, continued to pursue the rebels until beyond Ouargla. BouMezrag Mokrani, which had remained six days without drinking nor to eat, was finally captured removed.

The insurrection, which had begun on March 16, 1871 in Medjana was finished on January 20, 1872 by the arrest of Bou-Mezrag. Although a third only of Algeria had taken part in the movement, there had been about 200.000 combatants under the rebel flag.

Exile of the brother of El-Mokrani and the whole family to the New Caledonia occurred shortly afterwards. Together with them 212 persons, called Kabyles du Pacifique, who participated in the revolt were tried and deported by French authorities to labor camps on the island of New Caledonia. Mokrani's descendants still live on the island.



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