Hollande Takes Giant Step in French-Algerian Relations

Algerian Foreign Affairs Minister Mourad Medelci, left, with Libyan politician Mustafa Abdul Jalil. Photo: Flickr.com/Magharebia

Algerian Foreign Affairs Minister Mourad Medelci, left, with Libyan politician Mustafa Abdul Jalil.
Photo: Flickr.com/Magharebia

At the top of President François Hollande’s agenda during his visit to Algeria: how to deal with the shared history of France and Algeria during colonization?

Unlike his predecessors, who failed to overcome this troubled period of Franco-Algerian relations, Hollande officially recognized the “suffering” inflicted on the Algerians during colonization in his speech in front of the Algerian Parliament on Thursday December 20.

The French President voiced the idea that “we have this duty of truth about violence, unfairness, massacres and torture,” and called for a disclosure of archival material in the two countries.

Algerians had urged this recognition on the part of France for a very long time. According to Mourad Medelci, Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hollande’s speech “has not hidden either the past or the future,” claiming that he has “put the stress, in his speech, on the culture of peace and respect of the other.” According to him, these are two key principles for Algeria.

Although most members of the Algerian Parliament have considered this speech as “progress” in Franco-Algerian relations, some others would have liked the President to go deeper in his recognition, seeking repentance from France and apologies for what has been done. However, the political situation in France and the sensitivity of this topic prevent Hollande from going further.

Although the left, including Parti Socialiste (PS) and the Front de Gauche (FG), has celebrated François Hollande’s speech, concerns have been raised from the right of the French political spectrum, notably from the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) and the Front National (FN). They have both criticised the fact that the President did not say anything about the Harkis, Algerians who supported the French presence there, or the Pieds-Noirs, French citizens living in Algeria before Algerian independance. They argue too that although colonization was an “unfair and brutal” system, as Hollande said, it served to further the country’s development , notably in terms of infrastructure and sanitation.

The common past of France and Algeria cannot be erased and it has not ended in a strict divide between the two countries’ societies. However it has to be expected that the future relations between the two will be smoother, thanks to continuing developments in commercial relations.

For French-speaking readers interested in learning more about this topic: Tout sur l’Algérie

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  1. […] the suffering of Algerians during colonization. During a two-day visit to Algeria in December, Hollande made a speech denouncing the injustices of French colonialism in […]

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