France asks “forgiveness” for its abandonment of the Algerian harkis


PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron, continuing his attempt to resolve some of his country’s most painful colonial legacies, today asked for “forgiveness” on behalf of France for the abandonment of the hundreds of thousands of Algerian Arabs who have fought alongside France in Algeria. independance War.

At the end of the Eight Years’ War in 1962, the more than 200,000 Algerians who had sided with the French army were abandoned to their fate, while France had indicated that it would take care of them. them. Many have been tortured and massacred by the Algerian authorities after a war characterized by singular brutality.

Algerian anger against the “Harkis,” as they are called in France, was so deep that even in 2000, during a visit to Paris, former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika compared them to Nazi collaborators.

Regarded as traitors in their homeland, around 90,000 Harkis managed to flee to France – as did around 800,000 “Pieds-Noirs”, French Algerians of European origin – but they met with a hostile reception. They were a reminder of a lost war. Former President Charles de Gaulle, who ended the war, despised them. Undesirable foreigners, the Harkis were held in camps with their families, often in appalling conditions.

” I ask forgiveness. We will not forget, “Macron said during a ceremony at the Élysée. France has” failed in its duty, “he told around 300 Harkis and their families.” I want to express our gratitude to our fighters. ”

The president, who faces an election in just over six months, said his government would draft a law providing “reparations” for the Harkis. It was a formal recognition of state responsibility, first accepted by the previous president, François Hollande.

The Harki organizations said that only such a law could end “60 years of certain hypocrisy”.

Mr. Macron, 43, is the first French president born after the Algerian war of independence. He took several steps to shed light belatedly on a painful chapter in French history, including acknowledging the widespread use of torture and the brutal murder of a prominent Algerian lawyer, Ali Boumendjel. France had claimed for decades that he had committed suicide.

Ending 132 years of French colonization, the Algerian War, fought from 1954 to 1962, left half a million dead according to French accounts, and 1.5 million dead according to Algeria. He divided France into fiercely opposing factions that threatened to tear the country apart, with rumors of a military coup in 1958 and an attempted coup in 1961.

A peace agreement was signed on March 18, 1962 and approved by an overwhelming majority by French voters, paving the way for Algerian independence.

A report on the war commissioned by Mr Macron led to the creation of a Memories and Truth Commission, in an effort to heal some of the lingering wounds. But Algeria’s calls for an official apology from France have not been met. Mr Macron insisted that there would be “no repentance, no apologies”.

The request for forgiveness bordered on repentance, but of course it was addressed to Algerians who fought alongside France.

The 60th anniversary of the end of the war will be marked in March next year, a month before the first round of the presidential election. Mr. Macron is determined to advance his quest for Franco-Algerian reconciliation by then, in part to ward off Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant challenge. The Harkis have in the past shown strong support for its right-wing National Rally, formerly the National Front.

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