In a ceremony at the Elysée Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Évian agreements, which came into force on March 19, 1962 to end the eight-year war in Algeria and boost the independence of That country. The president acknowledged the existing divisions around the date and once again advocated “appeasement” between the two parties. The conflict claimed the lives of 30,000 French soldiers and 200,000 Algerians.
“A victory for some, a defeat for others, which meant neither the beginning of peace nor the end of the war.” With these words, French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged the different positions that still exist 60 years after the Évian agreements, which ended eight years of war in Algeria.
On March 19, 1962, the pact between the French Army and the Algerian independence fighters entered into force, with which a ceasefire began after eight years of hostilities. More than 30,000 French soldiers and at least 200,000 Algerians died in the armed conflict.
In a speech at the Elysée Palace and after listening to the testimonies of former soldiers and relatives of the victims, among other witnesses of the conflict, Macron emphasized the need to investigate and recognize the history of a reality that “cannot be denied or forgotten “so that a reconciliation is possible.
“The irreconcilable character triumphed in the first place through denial, through silence, but this is also the life of a nation and we must move forward,” he stressed.
The president reviewed the different positions of the French government regarding that conflict and admitted the controversies surrounding the date, given that for many it was the beginning of a new series of murders and painful repatriations. An example of this, he pointed out, was the refusal to attend the event by some people who were invited, who see in the commemoration the memory of a painful past.
“Know that this date is not the end of the violence, as each of you remembered. Many also in this room think of it as the beginning of the worst, for some mayors that I invited and they told me that they did not want to be there, that It was a dark date, because it is the beginning of reprisals, massacres and painful arrivals in France,” he recalled.
Claims for changing the date of the commemoration
Leaders of the French extreme right such as Marine Le Pen -candidate in the next presidential elections- have asked to find “another date” different from March 19 to commemorate the end of the war in Algeria.
The presidential candidate of the Republicans, Valérie Pécresse, expressed herself along the same lines, pointing out that “80% of the civilian victims fell after the Evian agreements”, recalling episodes such as the shooting on Rue d’Isly in Algiers on March 26, 1962, or the Oran massacre of July 5, 1962.
However, the president stressed that the Évian agreements did mark a milestone with the ceasefire and the end of the worst for so many French soldiers who were called to fight.
The objective of this commemoration, “to reconcile” and “to appease”, remains the same as during the previous meetings organized since the beginning of the five-year period around the Algerian war, said the French head of state.
Macron acknowledges crimes against Algerians and asks for forgiveness again
The leader of the Elysee highlighted the so-called Harkis, Algerians who collaborated with France during the war and who were later abandoned by Paris, something he referred to as “errors by the French Administration in respecting the dignity and integrity of these people “, marginalized after the conflict.
The colonial power’s abandonment of Algerian fighters who had fought under the French flag gave way to a series of acts of retaliation against them for their role in the conflict.
Thousands who managed to flee and reach French territory also faced the lack of support from that government and were left in appalling living conditions.
Against this background, Macron highlighted the acts of the last governments of his country, such as that of former president Nicolas Sarkozi and Macron himself for acknowledging responsibilities, thanking and praising the work of the Harkis.
“On September 20, 2021, in front of former Harkis and other combatants, his service to France was recognized (…) the faults of the French Administration, the lack of respect and integrity of people and their own values. I also recognized the debts of the French state and asked for forgiveness,” he stressed.
As part of the reconciliation under historical memory, Macron ordered in March 2021 the declassification of hitherto protected documents, including excerpts related to the war in the African nation.
The recognition of March 19, 1962 as the end of that conflict was enshrined in 2012 by law, under the name “National Day of Remembrance and Meditation in memory of the civilian and military victims of the war in Algeria and the fighting in Tunisia and Morocco”. However, the date continues to cause divisions.
Faced with this controversy, the Elysee has referred to the commemoration as “a stage” on the road to memory despite the fact that “this is not the end”.
With AFP and local media
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