Algerians angered by Macron's lack of apology over France's colonial past

Algerians angered by Macron's lack of apology over France's colonial past
A report commissioned by France has recommended that Paris dedicate more resources towards recognising and educating about its role in Algeria.
3 min read
21 January, 2021
French colonial rule in Algeria lasted 132 years [Getty]


A refusal from French President Emmanuel Macron to apologise for 132 years of French colonial rule in Algeria, which ended in 1962 with a brutal eight-year war, has elicited a strong response from those seeking for an official apology.

Kamal Belarbi, a representative in the Algerian Parliament, told The New Arab that he considered the French statement a new political provocation and an attempt to deny Algeria’s right to recognition.

"We are used to provocation and we are accustomed to French reactions to Algeria's historic demand for official recognition, an apology for its colonial crimes and compensation for them," Belarbi told The New Arab.

"This position once again confirms France’s denial of all the terrible crimes that Algeria has witnessed,” he said. Belarbi cited the plundering of Algeria’s natural resources, the placing of landmines that cause deaths to this day and the toxic effects of nuclear explosions as some of the crimes for which the French are responsible.

"This position once again confirms France’s denial of all the terrible crimes that Algeria has witnessed”

Belarbi has long fought for recognition of France's alleged colonial crimes. In January 2020 he filed a draft law signed by 140 MPs aimed at criminalising colonialism. Instead, he saw Macron’s rebuttal as an attempt to garner votes ahead of the presidential elections. “We know that the memory folder is dusted in conjunction with every presidential election," he said.  

While he is fighting a battle in parliament for the approval of the "Proposed Law on Criminalising Colonialism", he said France is doing the opposite and glorifying colonialism to honour the sacrifice of its people and preserve a nationalistic historical narrative.

Read also: How the EU's inhumane border 'pushbacks' are keeping refugees in Africa

Macron’s decision not to offer an apology came as a report commissioned by the president in July 2019 to the Algerian-born historian Benjamin Stora reached its conclusions. 

Among the recommendations delivered by Stora on Wednesday were the establishment of a commission called "Memories and Truth", the production of material regarding "disappeared" Algerians, and more time in school history classes dedicated to the French colonisation of Algeria."

Macron has gone further than his predecessors in recognising the scale of abuses by France in the North African country. While campaigning for president in 2017, he declared that the colonisation of Algeria was a "crime against humanity." A year later, he acknowledged that France had facilitated torture during the 1954-1962 Algerian war that ended the French colonial rule.

While the report was met with a statement saying there would be "no apologies," Macron instead vowed to make "symbolic acts" by opening the war archives and allowing the release of classified documents.

Algeria will celebrate 60 years of independence from France in 2022. The country's freedom from colonialism came at a huge human cost, as French colonial forces massacred hundreds of thousands of Algerian civilians and the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN).

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