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POLITICS

Macron: No apology for French abuses in Algeria

French President Emmanuel Macron has ruled out issuing an official apology for abuses in Algeria, his office said on Wednesday, ahead of a major report on how France is facing up to its colonial past in the country.

Macron: No apology for French abuses in Algeria
French president Emmanuel Macron has commissioned a major report on the colonisation of Algeria and subsequent war. Photo: AFP

There will “no repentance nor apologies” for the occupation of Algeria or the bloody eight-year war that ended French rule, Macron's office said, adding that the French leader would instead take part in “symbolic acts” aimed at promoting reconciliation.

The atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the two countries six decades later.

Macron, the first president born after the colonial period, has gone further than any of his predecessors in recognising French crimes in Algeria.

Later on Wednesday, a historian commissioned by Macron last year with assessing “the progress made by France on the memory of the colonisation of Algeria and the Algerian war,” will submit his findings.

Benjamin Stora's report is not however expected to recommend that France issue an apology but rather suggest ways of shedding light on one of the darker chapters of French history and propose ways of promoting healing.

The presidency said Macron would take part in three days of commemorations next year marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Algerian war.

Each day will be dedicated to a different group that suffered in the conflict, presidential aides added.

No other event in France's colonial history had as deep an impact on the national psyche as the Algerian war.

More than one million French conscripts saw service in the conflict, which claimed hundreds of thousands of Algerian lives.

After it ended hundreds of thousands of European settlers fled to France, a wrenching exodus that sowed the seeds of lingering anti-Arab sentiment.

Tens of thousands of Algerians who fought alongside French forces also crossed the Mediterranean after the war to escape nationalist lynch mobs.

While campaigning for president in 2017 Macron caused a sensation by declaring that the colonisation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

A year later, he acknowledged that France had instigated a system that facilitated torture during the Algerian war.

It was a rare admission in a country where the colonisation of Algeria was long seen as benign.

“In French political culture, anti-colonialism has always been an extremely fringe movement,” historian Sylvie Thenault told AFP.

“There is a profound conviction that the French Republic is a force for good that thwarts the possibility of criticising what is done in the name of the Republic,” she added.

During the war French forces cracked down on independence fighters and sympathisers. A French general later admitted to the use of torture.

Algerian nationalists also targeted civilians and mistreated prisoners during a complex conflict characterised by guerrilla warfare.

France's actions in Algeria left a deep well of bitterness and resentment that has been blamed by some experts for the drift of some second- and third-generation immigrants into extremism.

In a speech in October on combatting radicalisation, Macron acknowledged that France's colonial past and the Algerian war had “fed resentment” against France.

Speaking to Jeune Afrique magazine in November, Macron described France as being “locked in a sort of pendulum between two stances: apologising and repentance on the one hand and denial and pride on the other.

“As for myself I would like truth and reconciliation,” he said.

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POLITICS

Macron rules out ‘national unity government’ for France

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised a new style of government based on 'listening and respect' - but did not announce an alliance with any other parties that would give him a majority in parliament.

Macron rules out 'national unity government' for France

Macron has been holding meetings with all other party leaders in an attempt to break the deadlock in parliament after his group lost its majority in Sunday’s elections, but in a live TV address to the nation he did not announce an alliance.

Instead he said that a new style of government was called for, saying: “The responsibility of the presidential majority is therefore to expand, either by building a coalition contract or by building majorities text by text.”

He rejected the idea of forming a “government of national unity” with all parties, saying that the present situation does not justify it.

READ ALSO Can Macron dissolve the French parliament?

But he said that opposition groups have signalled that: “They are available to advance on major topics” such as the cost of living, jobs, energy, climate and health.”

He said: “We must learn how to govern differently, by dialogue, respect, and listening

“This must mean making agreements, through dialogue, respect, and hard work. The country has made its desire for change clear.”  

Speaking for just eight minutes in the gardens of the Elysée, Macron added: “I cannot ignore the fractures and strong divisions that traverse our country.”   

He said urgent draft laws, especially to alleviate the impact of inflation and rising energy prices, would be submitted to parliament over the summer.

Macron called on the opposition parties to “clarify in all transparency, in the coming days, how far they are willing to go” in their support of such measures, which he said would not be financed by higher taxes.

He added that he himself had been re-elected in April on a platform of “ambitious reform” which he expected to carry out.

The parliamentary impasse should not lead to “stagnation”, Macron said, but to “dialogue and the willingness to listen to each other”.

Macron’s centrist group Ensemble (Together) ended Sunday’s elections as the largest group in parliament – but with 245 seats they are 44 short of an absolute majority.

The leftist coalition Nupes – an electoral alliance of the hard-left La France Insoumise, the centre-left Parti Socialiste, the Greens and the Communists – got a total of 131.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National got 89 seats and the centre-right Les Républicains got 61 seats. 

With deadlock in parliament, Macron has been holding meetings over the last two days with the party leaders in the attempt to create an alliance that will allow him to pass legislation over the next five years.

Reacting to Macron’s speech, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the leftist alliance which is the second largest group in parliament, said: “He was elected because most French people did not want the extreme right – the French people have rejected the president’s proposals.

“Nothing can change the choice of the French people.”

Macron’s position as president is not directly threatened by the lack of a majority, but it will mean that passing any legislation – which must be agreed by parliament – will be very difficult.

While negotiations between all parties will continue, Macron himself heads to Brussels on Thursday for an EU summit.

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