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Inside Story

Can Algeria and France forget the past?

We ask how, with Francois Hollande refusing to say sorry for French occupation, can ties with Algeria improve.
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2012 09:31

Francois Hollande, the French president, described his country's century of colonial rule in Algeria as "brutal and unjust", but told the Algerian parliament that he will not apologise for France's colonial past.

He was addressing Algeria's parliament to mark the North African country's 50 years of independence, as well as to boost diplomatic and economic ties.

"In the case of French-Algerian relations it is easy to turn the page of history of colonialism but it would be impossible to erase that history … Any president, for the next 10-15 years would be very frightened to do anything else. Once the generations who fought the war on both sides disappear or at least become the minority, that's when we could reconcile ourselves with that page of history."

- Saad Djebbar, an international lawyer

Like his predecessors, Hollande refused to explicitly apologise for acts committed during the French occupation of Algeria.

But he did acknowledge the suffering it caused, saying: "I recognise the sufferings here that colonisation inflicted on the Algerian people. Amongst these sufferings there were the massacres of Guelma and other places of Algeria, and these are on the minds of the Algerian people but also the French people."

So if Hollande will not apologise, how can he build future ties with Algeria? And what does it mean for France's policies across North Africa?

Inside Story asks: Can Algeria and France build better ties?

For the discussion presenter Stephen Cole is joined by guests: Emmanuel Dupuy, the president of the Institute of Prospective and European Security; Saad Djebbar, an international lawyer and political analyst; Nabila Ramdani, a political commentator.

'The Algerian government showed a real appreciation for Hollande's words … he used very strong and dramatic rhetoric, he spoke of turning a page, he criticised the colonisation for being an unfair and brutal system, he specifically acknowledged the suffering inflicted and also highlighted the massacres of Setif, Guelma and Kherrata."

Nabila Ramdani, a political commentator


Franco-Algerian relations:

  • The French colonisation of Algeria began in 1830 with the conquest of Algiers
  • The colonial period would last well over 100 years, before the Algerian National Liberation Front launched a revolt in 1954
  • After eight years of war, Algeria gained independence in 1962. Algeria says an estimated one million people died during the war
  • In 1975, Valery Giscard d'Estaing became the first French president to visit independent Algeria
  • But it was not until 1999 that France recognised its earlier conflict with Algeria as a war. Before that France described it as an operation to "maintain order" in Algeria
  • And in 2007, then newly-elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy defended his refusal to apologise for France's colonial history, saying leaders should focus on the future

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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