Algerian President Asks France for an Official Apology
By: Yasmina Hage/Arab America Contributing Writer
Algeria celebrates its independence on July 5 because on this day it finally was freed from the French control it had been under since 1830. Since then, the relationship between these two countries has been one of appeasement, but not total peace. This is why the President of Algeria asked Emmanuel Macron to officially apologize for the colonial past, which still creates tensions today.
A Path to Stronger Relations
During a visit to Algiers in December 2017, the French president pledged to return the Algerian human remains stored in the Musée de l’Homme. That same year before his election, Emmanuel Macron had described the colonization of Algeria in Algiers as a “crime against humanity.” The question of memory remains at the heart of relations between France and Algeria, which are still volatile.
It was on Friday, July 3, that France made a great gesture of appeasement with regard to memory by returning the remains of 24 Algerian combatants killed at the beginning of French colonization in the 19th century. This restitution makes it possible to relax the relations between Algeria and France, which have been somewhat complicated since independence in 1962.
On Saturday, July 4, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the acting Algerian president, said he was expecting an apology from France for the colonization of Algeria: “We have already received half apologies. It is necessary to take another step.” “This will make it possible to calm the climate and make it more serene for economic relations, cultural relations, and neighborhood relations,” continued the president, recalling that more than six million Algerians live in France.
An Ever-Present Resentment
As mentioned above, there are still tensions between these two countries and their people. Algerians also accuse France of not telling the story exactly as it happened. Indeed, when students study the Algerian war, those of Algerian origin who know the history of their country realize that many of the things that took place during this period are not told. This creates a sense of hatred and injustice in the minds of these students who feel that their history is minimized.
In the Face of this Request for an Apology, Opinions Differ Little
On July 5, 2020, Le Figaro carried out a poll with the following question: “Should France apologize for its colonial past, as requested by Algeria?” There were 198,255 voters, and among them, 85.83% voted no.
After questioning several people, here is the answer of a French student as to why this is the case:
[sic] “There is no question that France apologizes to Algeria. It would be a step backward for us (French) as well as for this nation that is Algeria. We would only be attributed to our time, something that belongs to another era. Moreover, we cannot judge ‘History’ with a capital “H” from today’s view. We are nobody today to judge our ancestors, but of course, like all the great countries of this world, we have had glorious times and much darker times. However, beware, we do not deny what happened, and it seems shameful to us today, but excuses are not possible. It was the race between the great countries, and if it hadn’t been France, it would have been another country.
Now, as a Frenchman, I’m going to ask the Vikings, the Hungarians, and the Prussians for an apology while we’re at it! The Roman Empire, I don’t even talk about it, those who slaughtered the Gauls, the women, the children, etc. with their swords! The Indians should also do the same with the Americans because everything that happened during the West’s conquest was worse. Once again, is that what they are doing? The answer is no! Because they are looking to the future!
So no, I’m against it. I hope we won’t apologize and that we’ll move forward. You should know that millions of Algerians live in France. Let’s leave the past in the past, and let’s go toward the future! In order to judge the past, we would have had to live there, and we are nobody to condemn them. Today’s generations owe nothing to Algeria.”
Reasons to Not Apologize
Moreover, if the French feel that they should not apologize it is because they think that Algeria is doing this in order to “humiliate” France on the international scene. They also think that once France apologizes publicly, the Algerians will ask for other things afterward as compensation, while the French think they are already doing enough for the Algerians. Finally, they also believe that apologizing will not help to reduce tensions between the two peoples and will actually stir up more tensions.
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