Algeria and France may well be set for a gargantuan collision as both countries take the tentative steps to examine and seek conciliation for France’s brutal colonial period in the country, something that Emmanuel Macron said in January he would not apologize for.
Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune said on May 7th that he hopes the talks with France on the colonial-era files (1830/1962) will achieve progress, without any “bargaining or concessions.”
This came in a message by President Tebboune to the Algerian people on the 78th anniversary of the massacres of 8 May 1945, committed by the French colonial army against Algerian demonstrators. The presidency published the text of the message on its official website, reports Middle East Monitor (MOM).
The Algerian President said that “the state, in fidelity to the immense sacrifices made by the Algerian people, is determined to put the history and memory file on a path where we can ensure it to be fully transparent, righteous, and objective, without any bargaining or concessions.”
He added: “In the near future, we look forward to achieving the desired progress on this path, taking into account the significance of the work entrusted to the joint committee (with France) of historians in addressing all issues, including those related to the recovery of archives and properties, the remains of resistance fighters, as well as the files on nuclear experiments and missing persons.”
Previously, the Algerian president and French President Emmanuel Macron have announced the formation of a joint committee consisting of ten historians (five from each country) to investigate contentious issues and files dating back to the colonial era (1830-1962) in order to keep them far from “political exploitation.”
According to a joint statement from both countries, this committee will work on “addressing all issues, including those related to the opening and recovery of archives and properties, as well as the remains of Algerian resistance fighters, nuclear experiments, and missing persons, while respecting the memory of both sides. It was agreed the committee’s work be subject to regular assessments on a semi-annual basis.”
Files from the French colonial era in Algeria usually represent a source of tension between the two countries, as Algeria demands an apology for colonial crimes. At the same time, Paris argues that it is time to turn the page and look towards the future so it is unclear just how cooperative France will be with the exercise.
According to AFP, speaking in Algiers shortly after arriving for a three-day visit in August 2022, Macron expressed the hope that France and Algeria would be able to “look back at the past with humility” in order to establish trust and cooperation in the future.
“We have a complex, painful common past. And it has at times prevented us from looking to the future,” said Macron.