The French president admits on the 60th anniversary of that conflict that there is a “matrix of resentments”, but hopes that Algiers will also take steps towards a solution
French President Emmanuel Macron commemorated this Saturday at the Elysée Palace the 60th anniversary of the Evian agreements between France and Algeria, signed on March 18, 1962 and which marked the beginning of the end of the war of independence of this former French colony. . He thus took another step in his attempt to “reconcile the memories” of colonialism and the Algerian war. There is no unified historical account of what happened, but rather many memories, according to the different groups that lived through the conflict and that often seem irreconcilable.
“For decades, the memories of the Algerian war have remained compartmentalized and divided,” explained Macron, who acknowledged that “the Algerian war and what has not been said have become the matrix of resentments.” That is why, six decades after its independence, he once again extended his hand to Algiers. «Many will tell me: you do all that, but you are not serious because Algeria does not move. Each time, my predecessors have been faced with the same thing. I think the day will come when Algeria will follow that path,” the president told 200 guests.
But, for now, Algiers is not willing to take that step. In fact, the Algerian ambassador to France, Mohamed Antar Daoud, was not present at the commemoration of the signing of the Evian agreements, even though the Elysée Palace had invited him.
Since 2012, France has celebrated March 19, the anniversary of the ceasefire in Algeria, as a “national day of remembrance and recollection in memory of the civilian and military victims of the war in Algeria and the fighting in Tunisia and Morocco”.
However, this date is controversial. It is rejected by the “harkis” (the Algerians who fought alongside France against Algerian independence) and their descendants, because many “harkis” were killed after that date. It is also rejected by many French returnees.
For this reason, the moderate conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse and the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen demand that another date be chosen to commemorate the end of the Algerian war. Pécresse recalled that “80% of the civilian victims fell after the Evian agreements.”
This conflict is not seen the same from Paris as from Algiers. Furthermore, it remains a very painful episode in the memory of many French and Algerian families. It is not the same for the Algerians who fought for independence, nor the “harkis”, nor the former French combatants nor the “pieds-noirs” (black feet), families of mainly French origin who were born or lived in colonial times in Algeria. . After independence, the “black feet” had to emigrate in 1962 to France, where they were not always received with open arms and whose integration was difficult and traumatic.
Since Macron arrived at the Elysée Palace, he has made symbolic gestures to try to reconcile all these memories. “There will inevitably be moments of anger, but we will get there,” promised the French president, who is running for re-election in April.
The head of the French Executive commissioned the historian Benjamin Stora a report on the memory of colonization (1830-1962) and the war in Algeria (1954-1962). In January 2021, Stora made 22 proposals to promote reconciliation and build bridges between France and Algeria.
Last September, the French president celebrated the national day of the «harkis», and in October he participated in the 60th anniversary of the bloody repression of a demonstration in favor of the independence of Algeria held in Paris. He has also ordered the Algerian war archives to be partially opened so that historians can study them.
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