Algeria: President Tebboune presents a memorial to all French colonialism (Stora to AFP)
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune proposed a joint “memory work” during the French colonial period in Algeria, during an interview with French historian Benjamin Stora, the latter told AFP.
The interview was unprecedented, as Benjamin Stora’s report on the memory of colonialism and the Algerian war, presented in January 2021 to Emmanuel Macron, was received in Algeria.
President Tebboune received the historian, who was carrying a message from the French president, for more than an hour Monday in Algiers, on the eve of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Algeria’s independence, amid great fanfare.
Benjamin Stora stressed that “this is the first time that an objective discussion” has taken place from the Algerian side on these memorial issues since the publication of the report.
The report, on which Emmanuel Macron relied on the policy of remembrance, does not call for apology or repentance, which has been widely criticized in Algeria, especially by veterans’ associations.
Franco-Algerian relations also experienced a major chill when, in September 2021, President Macron criticized the Algerian “political-military” regime for maintaining a “memorial lease” around the war of independence.
– ‘Deadly conquest’ –
The interview attests to the continued warmth in French-Algerian relations over the past few weeks.
“I think there is a will to relaunch, I don’t know if this is the word, but to continue the dialogue,” said Benjamin Stora, referring to a “change of tone” between Paris and Algeria.
President Tebboune explained to him the “great importance of memory work throughout the entire colonial period”, after the only war in Algeria (1954-1962), an opinion shared by the historian.
The war of conquest was very long and very deadly. It lasted nearly half a century,” from 1830 to 1871, Benjamin Stora recalls.
It was marked by the “dispossession of land and identity” – “when people lost their land, they lost their name” – and by the establishment of a “settlement colony”, eventually one million Europeans out of nine million people.
Many shocks that still persist today in the mutual view of the two peoples, which “explain the difficulty of French-Algerian relations,” he said.
“People do not know what happened. This is the problem of passing on to the younger generations and working together ”, confirms Benjamin Stora.
– ‘Polarization in 1962’ –
“In Algeria, the focus was mainly on the war of national liberation. In France as in Algeria there was a strong polarization around the unique sequence of the war until the end of the war, the years from 1960 to 1962,” he notes.
Against the background of the “memorial group confrontations” over the various massacres, the exodus of the black feet, the power struggle within Algerian nationalism.
“We all focused on 1962,” he says, from the Evian Accords in March to Algeria’s independence on 5 July. But he is of the opinion that “we cannot remain prisoners of one history, 1962, we must broaden the field of thought.”
During the interview, President Tebboune did not return to the controversial statements of Emmanuel Macron, who also questioned the existence of an “Algerian nation” before French colonialism.
The subject of the monument could be the subject of future exchanges between the two heads of state.
In the letter sent by Benjamin Stora, the French president called for “the strengthening of the already strong relations” between the two countries and reiterates his “commitment to continuing the process of recognizing truth and reconciling memories.” He also referred to his “next” visit to Algeria.
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