– Maroc Hebdo: everywhere in Algeria but also abroad, especially in France, the April 20th, 2016 saw tens of thousands of Kabyles took the streets in order to claim the right to self-determination of Kabylia. Do you think that it is, on the whole, a success?
– Ferhat Mehenni : Indeed, there are hundreds of thousands of Kabyles who took the streets, especially the young people. In Kabylia, in France and in Montreal particularly. They claimed the right of Kabylia to her self-determination. We are proud of this success and we will not stop there. It must find its expression and its effects in diplomatic actions in preparation for an international support of which we already have some encouraging signs. But I would not say more for the moment.
– Maroc Hebdo: What do you think of the policy of the Algerian state regarding the Imazighen, namely the speakers of the dialects of the amazigh language?
– Ferhat Mehenni : The algerian state is the son of the French colonialism. He treats the Imazighen as the colonized ones and considers them as a permanent danger for his survival. He thinks that there is no other future for the Berbers outside of their arabization. It leads a genocidal cultural policy. It is, among others, the reason for which we came to proclaim the Anavad and claim our right for a kabyle independent state. However, where you speak about dialects, we speak about languages. There is not one amazigh language but amazigh languages. Tamazight is a family of sisters’ languages, beautiful and significant. Speak about dialects returns to belittle them, to depreciate them and so that means prejudice against the peoples who speak them.
– Maroc Hebdo: Initially, you were claiming only the autonomy of Kabylia. Why the independence now?
– Ferhat Mehenni: The claim of autonomy for Kabylia was never heard by the algerian government even if it was likely to consolidate him. Actually, he was taking pleasure behind the closed doors that this option guaranteed him. With the self-determination, the issue becomes international one. We need witnesses and supports within the international community in order to achieve a legitimate right, admitted by all the pacts between states, the right of a people to exercise self determination, approved by the second convention of the MAK (Movement for Self-determination of Kabylia) on December 9th, 2011 and reaffirmed by the third one which took place on February 26th, 2016.
– Maroc Hebdo: Elsewhere in North Africa, several of Imazighen blame your separatist leanings to the extent that you would « betrayed », to repeat some critics, the millenary battle of the region populations for a reunification under one and same banner, that is to say the one of «Tamazgha». They accuse you of wanting bringing out some kabyle «particularism», if I dare say, instead of highlighting the stand of the common membership. What do think about it?
Ferhat Mehenni: We respect the opinions of our imazighen brothers and I think that today, they respect ours. I recall that starting from 2001, after we claimed a regional autonomy following the bloody episode of the “Black Spring” during which Kabylia lost more than one hundred of her children, killed by the Algerian government, that we heard some amazigh recriminations against our approach, considered at that time a betrayal. Obviously, there was a misunderstanding. Kabylia have a vocation for defending the amazighity and not dissolving inside it. She has a duty of moral solidarity towards all Imazighen but she will have to fight firstly for herself.
– Maroc Hebdo: You installed, starting from 2010, a provisional government, the Anavad, without actually being elected. According to you, doesn’t this raise a legitimacy problem?
– Ferhat Mehenni: There is no provisional government in the world that has been elected. A government of this nature is installed when the political conditions forbid electing one. It is currently the case of Kabylia. However, the election of the president of the Anavad is an internal issue to the activists of the MAK from whom it gets its legitimacy. Since 2010, I was elected twice, in 2011 and in 2016, unanimously by our delegates for a four years term. The popular demonstrations that we have been organizing since 2010 and those of April 20th, 2016 in Kabylia have widely legitimated the MAK and the Anavad, their presidents as well as their claim of a self-determination referendum for Kabylia.
– Maroc Hebdo: The Moroccan government is one of the few to support officially your cause. What do you think ?
– Ferhat Mehenni: Morocco opened the way to the international recognition for the kabyle people to exercise his right to self-determination. We congratulate him for that and we express him the esteem of Kabylia who would wish to strengthen her brotherly relations with him. The future is to be built with our two wills.
– Maroc Hebdo: Do you think that the independence of Kabylia is actually possible one day?
– Ferhat Mehenni: I am 65 years old but I am sure to see it in my lifetime.
Translated from French by Muhend U Rezqi