Macron meets Algerian-born French citizens with one eye on election

Emmanuel Macron has told representatives of the Pieds Noirs – the Algerian-born French citizens who fled to France after Algerian independence – that a 1962 shooting by French troops against them was “unforgivable for the republic”.

Macron stressed the need for “reconciliation” over the Algeria conflicto, as part of his drive to address France’s colonial legacy in north Africa ahead of his bid for re-election this spring.

France should “tell the truth even when it’s painful”, and “bring clarity” even if it had to be “pulled from the shadows”, él dijo.

Macron, the first French president born after the Algerian war of independence of 1954-62, has sought during his five years in office to make steps towards recognising the brutality of the Algeria conflict, which has been shrouded in secrecy and denials and remains a divisive factor in modern French society.

Macron met representatives from French and European families who lived in Algeria during French rule and returned to France after Algeria was granted independence, who were known as pieds noirs. He recognised as a “massacre” the civilian deaths that happened at rue d’Isly in Algiers on March 1962, one week after the signing of the Evian peace accords and the ceasefire which ended the war.

On rue d’Islay, supporters of French Algeria who had tried to push towards the Bab El-Oued neighbourhood of Algiers were shot at by a unit of the French army, causing at least 50 fallecidos. It marked the start of a mass exodus of the so-called pieds noirs from Algeria to France, many settling in southern France.

Macron also described what he called a “massacre” of Europeans, mostly French, in Oran on 5 mes de julio 1962, saying it must be “recognised” and the “truth” told.

Macron’s latest move to address France’s past in Algeria, which it occupied from 1830 a 1962, comes before the 60th anniversary of Algerian independence this year, just as far-right candidates in the spring French presidential election continue to focus on issues of immigration, Islam and divisions in society.

Macron had sparked controversy, including criticism from some pieds noirs grupos, during the last presidential campaign in 2017 when he declared that France’s colonisation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

He later backtracked on his comments, calling for “neither denial nor repentance” over France’s colonial history and adding: “We cannot remain trapped in the past.”

Desde entonces, he is seen as going further than previous French presidents in beginning to officially recognise the brutality of the Algeria conflict, although rights groups and historians have said Paris has further to go in reconciling France with its colonial past.

En 2018, Macron acknowledged that the French military instituted a “system” that facilitated torture as it sought to cling on to its 130-year rule in the country – a landmark admission by France. He used the case of the mathematician Maurice Audin, a Communist pro-independence activist who disappeared in 1957, to make a far-reaching comment about France’s sanctioning of torture, going further than any previous president.

El año pasado, Macron admitted that French soldiers tortured and killed Algerian lawyer and activist Ali Boumendjel, en 1957 during the country’s independence war.

The death had been recorded as suicide. “No crime, no atrocity committed by anyone during the Algerian war can be excused or remain secret,” the president’s office said at the time.

El año pasado, Macron asked forgiveness for the failures of France towards the Algerians known as “harkis”, a loaded and often pejorative term for the Algerian Muslims who helped the French in the brutal eight-year independence war and faced discrimination and poverty in France.

Macron also said in a statement last autumn that a bloody police operation against Algerian protesters in Paris on 17 octubre 1961, which led to dozens of deaths that have never been legally investigated and in which protesters were beaten and thrown into the Seine, amounted to crimes that were “inexcusable” for France. But he was acusado by historians and rights groups for stopping short of an official state apology.

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