In our collection of letters from African journalists, Algerian-Canadian journalist Maher Mezahi displays on the current strikes by France to restore relations with its former colony Algeria, particularly regarding the bitter struggle of independence.
Does French President Emmanuel Macron, actually perceive the legacy of colonialism?
I ask this within the wake of his current admission – after 60 years of official denial – that the French military tortured and murdered the Algerian nationalist hero Ali Boumendjel.
This recognition got here as a part of a collection of measures geared toward reconciling France and Algeria after greater than a century of colonisation that resulted in 1962, following an eight-year struggle.
The response to Mr Macron’s assertion right here in Algeria was tepid.
That could also be due to the blended messages he is despatched in regards to the affect of the previous.
The first time most Algerians had heard of Mr Macron was when he visited the nation in February 2017 when he was working for president.
In an interview he went additional than any French president ever had and described colonisation as a “crime against humanity”.
The braveness of his remarks took most Algerians unexpectedly. And that they had ramifications for the political struggle with the right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen
For the primary time in my life, I felt there was the opportunity of a French president sincerely inspecting French-Algerian historical past, thus setting a brand new stage for relations between the 2 nations.
Yet since turning into president, Mr Macron has blown cold and hot on the Algeria concern.
The French in Algeria – key dates
1830: France occupies Algiers
1848: After an rebellion led by insurgent chief Abd-el-Kader, Paris declares Algeria to be an integral a part of France
1940: France falls to Germany in World War Two
1942: Allied landings in Algeria
1945: Allied forces defeat Germany. Thousands are killed in pro-independence demonstrations in Sétif
1962: Algeria turns into an unbiased state
The admission over the loss of life of Boumendjel elicited little response right here as a result of, as historians and intellectuals wrote, it appeared futile to say sure victims and miss numerous others.
One went so far as to say that this was a “Franco-French” concern, indicating that Mr Macron’s assertion was not a revelation for Algerians.
Furthermore, his workplace has stated an official apology shouldn’t be within the works.
Less than a 12 months after visiting Algeria as a candidate, Mr Macron returned as president.
Buttressed by a delegation of politicians, historians and a heavy safety element, the charismatic chief strolled by means of downtown Algiers.
He shook palms and took selfies with onlookers earlier than being accosted by a younger man who stated: “France must come to terms with its colonial past in Algeria”.
After a fast change, Mr Macron replied: “But you have never known colonisation!
“Why are you bothering me with that? Your era has to look in direction of the long run.”
After hearing those brief sentences, I quickly realised that despite his apparent progressive policies towards Algeria, Mr Macron had not entirely understood the issue he was trying to tackle.
In several West African countries, he repeated the same sentiment.
“Three-quarters of your nation has by no means identified colonisation,” he said in Ivory Coast.
In Burkina Faso he told students that neither they nor he were from a generation that had known colonisation.
Such observations could only be made by someone who has not lived in a post-colonial state.
Every single Algerian is directly linked to the trauma caused by French colonisation.
Our schools, streets and stadiums are named after famous revolutionary figures and dates.
Our architecture, food and language are all heavily influenced by the 132-year presence of a million European citizens.
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I do not come from a revolutionary family, yet my grandfather’s brother was one of thousands of Algerian victims of the Ligne Morice – a minefield laid by the French along Algeria’s eastern border.
As a boy growing up in Tebessa, he fiddled with a booby trap which exploded in his face.
I think of him every time I call my father, who was named after him.
The French government did not officially share the maps of the minefields it laid out across Algeria’s eastern border until 2007.
Throughout the 1960s the French army tested 17 atomic bombs in the Algerian Sahara.
Tens of thousands of local inhabitants have suffered as a consequence, either birth defects or various cancers.
The French government is yet to hand over the maps revealing the location of nuclear waste.
Historian Alastair Horne’s description of the Algerian war of independence always seemed the most pertinent to me.
In the preface to A Savage War of Peace, Horne wrote: “Above all, the struggle was marked by an unholy marriage of revolutionary terror and state torture.”
If the war itself was an unholy union then what can be said about its divorce?
Most of us young Algerians are not holding our breath for an official apology or reparations.
We are simply asking Mr Macron’s government to drop its condescension and tell the truth about the crimes committed in Algeria and across the continent.
A few weeks ago, it was reported that strong winds carrying radioactive dust left over from French nuclear testing in the Sahara desert blew across the Mediterranean, contaminating the French atmosphere.
For me it was nature’s way of reminding Mr Macron that the impact of colonial crimes is not contained in the history books.
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