Algerian leader suddenly reappears after weeks spent battling COVID-19

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune delivers an inauguration speech in December 2019.
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune delivers a speech at his inauguration in December 2019.
(Toufik Doudou / Associated Press)

Still recovering from COVID-19, Algeria’s president suddenly reappeared Sunday after nearly two months out of the public eye, saying in a video message that it might still be several more weeks before he is fit enough to return to his country from treatment in Germany.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune fell ill and then left for Germany in late October. He last appeared in public in mid-October, meeting France’s foreign minister during the latter’s visit to Algeria, a former French colony.

Saturday marked the anniversary of Tebboune’s first year in office. In the five-minute video issued Sunday, the 75-year-old spoke clearly and did not appear short of breath even after long phrases.


He had, however, clearly lost weight.

“I will fully recover my physical strength in perhaps one, two or three weeks,” Tebboune said. “I hope to be back among you soon.”

He appeared to be speaking off the cuff. He said he had been closely following his country’s affairs.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has not been seen in public since his evacuation to Germany more than six weeks ago for treatment of COVID-19.

Dec. 12, 2020

The long absence of Algeria’s head of state, who also serves as its defense chief, recalled the lengthy disappearances from public view of his predecessor, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, for treatment in France of a stroke in 2013 and later in Switzerland for numerous medical checkups. Those absences, accompanied by little information on Bouteflika’s whereabouts and health, fueled plenty of speculation.

Bouteflika rarely appeared in public but kept ruling. He was forced to abandon his bid for a fifth term last year before being pushed from office under pressure from street protests and the powerful army.

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad has been in charge during Tebboune’s absence as the country struggles with an economy made worse by the coronavirus and other issues.