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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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French unions announce new strike dates in battle against pension reform

After a second day in which more than a million people took to the streets of France to protest over planned pension reform, unions have announced further strike days.

French unions announce new strike dates in battle against pension reform

France’s eight main trades unions federations made a joint announcement on Tuesday night of fresh strike days – Tuesday, February 7th and Saturday, February 11th. 

Tuesday marks the day that the highly controversial pension reform – which includes raising the pension age from 62 to 64 – is presented to the French parliament for the first time.

Both days are likely to see significant disruption, particularly on public transport.

The mass strike on Tuesday saw trains and city public transport services heavily disrupted, while many schools closed as teachers walked out.

Demos held in towns and cities across France saw a huge turnout – more than 1.1 million people, an increase on the turnout on the first day of pension strikes.

READ ALSO ‘We won’t stop until Macron is defeated’ say French pension demonstrators

You can find all the latest news on strikes and service disruptions in our strike section HERE.

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