By: NIAH MADIGAN
Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, will take part in “symbolic acts” aimed at reconciliation after colonial abuses in Algeria. Three days of commemorations will occur next year, marking the 60 year anniversary of the end of the Algerian War. Each day will be dedicated to a group that suffered during the war. Macron also commissioned a historian to assess “the progress made by France on the memory of the colonization of Algeria and the Algerian War,” writes Al Jazeera. The report, written by Benjamin Stora, suggests a “memory and truth” commission to address colonial abuses committed in Algeria. The commission would hold members from both France and Algeria and hear testimonies from people who suffered in Algeria’s war for independence. Stora would lead the commission and seeks to “lift the lid” on issues left behind by colonization. “If you lift all these lids one after the other, you end up with a real overview of the history of colonization,” he said.
The Algerian War for Independence, which was from 1954 – 1962, has strained the relationships between France and Algeria. Though it ended nearly sixty years ago, France’s current president Emmanuel Macron is the first president born after Algeria’s colonial period and has acknowledged more of France’s bloody history than the last six presidents. In 2017, before Macron’s election, he said that France’s colonization of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”, and a year later, in September of 2018, he acknowledged the systemic torture by French forces.
However, all of Macron’s plans avoided the problem of the systemic torture that France committed. Macron has also ruled out a formal apology, and says there will be “no repentance nor apologies.” France has struggled to acknowledge its past before: it took the country fifty years to recognize its responsibility for deporting tens of thousands of Jewish people to Nazi death camps in World War 2. Macron’s refusal of an official apology has left bitter feelings for the at least five million residents of France with ties to Algeria. “We have inherited a history that is not settled, that happened before us and of which we are suffering the consequences,” said Faïza Guène, a French writer of Algerian descent.
While Macron’s commission is a good start, his efforts will fall short of reconciliation if an official apology is missing.