'Nostalgic colonialism': Algeria's newly issued banknotes with English irk French politicians, media
Frustration and shock gripped France's politicians and media Wednesday over Algeria's newly issued English-language banknotes.
On 1 November, the Bank of Algeria issued the first English-language banknote, a 2,000 dinars bill, to mark the 60th anniversary of the independence of the country and commemorate the 31st session of the Arab Summit hosted in the North African state.
The presence of English on the banknotes of Algeria, which was a former colony of France, apparently made Paris' politicians uncomfortable.
On Wednesday, Jean-Luc-Mélenchon, a renowned French socialist and the leader of the "France Insoumise" party, sparked off the controversy around the banknotes controversy by sharing a picture of the new Algerian 2,000 dinars bill, which includes English and Arabic descriptions, and tweeted: "This is an Algerian banknote. The common language [French] is no longer [there]. Sadness."
Ceci est un billet algérien. La langue commune ne l'est plus. Tristesse. Macron Borne ont échoué en tout et pour tout. pic.twitter.com/jSMq4FUpZR— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) November 2, 2022
"Macron [and] Borne have failed in everything and for everything," the leftist politician added, blaming a 'failed' policy of French president Emmanuel Macron and his prime minister Elisabeth Borne with Algeria.
French journalists were quick to pounce on the banknotes debate, with socio-political analysts and experts linking the use of the English language on Algeria's banknotes to represent Macon's failed attempts to win Algeria's friendship after a year-long dispute.
"When will our rulers react? When will they stop submitting to the Algiers regime!" asked Philippe David, a host at the French radio station Radio Sud.
However, the irony is that Algeria dropped the French language from its banknotes for decades.
In 1977, Arabic replaced all the usage of French on a new series of banknotes during the period in which the country started moving away from its traumatic colonial period with France.
The Algerian dinar banknotes currently in circulation do not use the French language in any way.
Il n’y a jamais eu de « langue commune » mais une langue imposée par 150 ans de colonisation et de massacres. Dire ainsi votre « tristesse » au lendemain de l'anniversaire du 1er nov 1954, c’est vous placer du côté de l’impérialisme et des nostalgiques de « l’Algérie Française ». https://t.co/VrJ0leHftL— Anasse Kazib (@AnasseKazib) November 3, 2022
In response to the French outrage, many Algerians condemned "the nostalgic-colonialist" subtext underpinning French politicians and media outlets' discourses on the topic.
For his part, Anasse Kazib, a Moroccan-French Marxist politician and ex-candidate in France's last election, remarked that there has never been a "common language" between France and Algeria since French was imposed by 150 years of colonisation and massacres.
"To say your "sadness" in the aftermath of the anniversary of 1 November 1954 is to place yourself on the side of imperialism and those nostalgic for "French Algeria"," tweeted Kazib in reference to Mélenchon's statement.
With close to 15 million French speakers according to the International Organisation for the French language, Algeria is the third-largest French-speaking country in the world.
But, the French language's continual presence was never made through consent by Algerians. It is rather a 'souvenir' of a dark era in which more than one million Algerians lost their lives in the fight for their country's independence from French colonialism and occupation.
In August, France's Macron visited Algeria to reset relations after he offended the Algerian regime when he accused them of 'instrumentalising' the colonial past.
During his visit, Macron paid particular attention to publicly supporting the Franco-Algerian community, the bedrock of the continued use of French in Algeria.
The tide might not have completely turned against the French language in Algeria.
Nevertheless, the North African state has made clear that English will dominate Algeria's future since it announced that starting next year the English language will be taught in primary schools.