Macron’s comments on Algeria are seen as election looms

PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron of France, addressing a community seen as fertile ground for this spring’s presidential elections, on Wednesday acknowledged the suffering of French colonists and Europeans who fled Algeria after the 1954-62 war of independence and their descendants.

“The 1962 exodus was a tragic page in our national history,” he said, adding that the colonists and their descendants were “not heard” and “unwelcome.” with the affection that every French person deserves.”

Mr Macron’s speech was the latest step in a year-long effort to address painful memories of France’s colonial past in Algeria. After the proposals made in a government-mandated reporthe acknowledged the crimes committed by the French army and police as well as the state’s disregard for those who had fled Algeria and fought for France.

But it also comes as Mr Macron enters the final stages of a fraught campaign to serve the second five-year term his government has. increasingly moving to the right on issues prominent in the far-right campaign such as immigration and the place of Islam in France.

Over the past year, Mr. Macron has recognized the suffering of nearly every community affected by the French colonial history in Algeria, including independence fighters and immigrants, and Algerians who have fought on the French side in the war of independence.

“He achieved what he couldn’t in six months in 60 years,” says Benjamin Storaa leading historian of the Algerian War and author of a government-commissioned report.

But Mr. Macron’s speech on Wednesday recognizing the suffering of the colonists, known as Pieds-Noirs, and their descendants, was remarkable for its timing three months before an election. in a political environment marked by Hot debate on immigration and Islam echoes of the French colonial past in Algeria.

The tragedies of that history continue to shape modern France, with nostalgia for reason and the resentment of the country’s large Muslim population.

The long shadow of France’s defeat to Algeria looms large in the rhetoric of Eric Zemmour, a far-right candidate for president whose parents left the country in the 1950s and who talks about “reconquering” a France he says is dominated by Islam and immigration. His message resonated with many voters on the far right, leading to a jump in polls last year that has slowly faded in recent months as Mr Zemmour has struggled to expand his support base. households and attract working-class voters.

Mr. Macron last year began to address the recommendations in the Stora report by admits to the murder of a top Algerian lawyer, Ali Boumendjel, by French soldiers. I also facilitate access to sensitive archives of the Algerian War and is France’s first head of state in memory mass murder of Algerian independence protesters by Paris police 60 years ago.

The moves have been widely criticized by the French right, which has remained reluctant to publicly criticize the colonization, especially by the party of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the National Rally, which has its roots in the Popular opposition to the end of the Algerian colony.

Mr. Macron then begging for “forgiveness” for Harkis’ abandonmentAlgerians who fought for France in the war and often show strong support for Ms. Le Pen, his main challenger in the presidential election in April.

The Pieds-Noirs migrated to Algeria from France and European countries, often as laborers and farmers, while the country was under French rule, for about 130 years. After Algeria gained independence in 1962, some 800,000 colonists fled to France and many more who stayed were massacred. Their fate has long sparked resentment, and nostalgia for the colonial past, sentiments that often translate into support for the far right.

In 2017, while campaigning for the French presidency, Mr. Macron called the occupation of Algeria a “crime against humanity”, angering Pied-Noir organisations. His words on Wednesday struck a very different tone.

In response to one of the main demands of Pieds-Noirs, Mr. Macron officially acknowledged that French soldiers in March 1962 had killed dozens of supporters of French Algeria. He also called for the mass killing of Pieds-Noirs by Algerian independence supporters to be “faced and recognized”.

Mr Macron told the council that the Pieds-Noirs and their descendants had suffered a “double punishment”.

“Having become a non-grata figure in Algeria,” he says, “you sometimes feel unwanted in France.”

Although Mr. Macron has addressed many of the proposals in Mr. Stora’s report, he has so far been reluctant to object. Gisèle Halimia famous French feminist and anti-colonial lawyer, in the Panthéon, the mausoleum of the heroes of France.

After complaints from the organizations Harki and Pied-Noir, Mr Macron scrapped the idea and instead speak that France will pay respects to Ms. Halimi earlier this year. But her son Halimi said to French Press that he had not heard from the authorities for several weeks and that he feared that they had dropped the tribute. An adviser to Mr Macron said authorities were still working on a plan.

While applauding Mr Macron’s efforts to acknowledge France’s colonial past in Algeria, some historians say his piecemeal approach, addressing each community separately, risks only promote competing memories and that a single speech on the legacy of the Algerian War, which embraces all the grievances at once, would make more sense.

Sylvie Thénault, a historian of the Algerian war at CNRS, France’s national public research organization, said the policy gradually led to the introduction of a different, flattering form of tribute to the different objects. “We’ll let people know what to expect,” she said.

Mr. Stora, who defends the step-by-step process, says that “every community has its own vulnerabilities” and that one community “cannot address all of them in an indiscriminate way.”

Adele Cordonnier contribution report. Macron’s comments on Algeria are seen as election looms

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