Macron rules out official apology for colonial abuses in Algeria

President, who once acknowledged French colonisation as a ‘crime against humanity’, rules out ‘repentance’ and ‘apologies’ as part of reconciliation.

In this file photo taken on March 14, 1957 French paratroopers question Algerian Omar Merouane in Saint Eugene [Jacques Grevin/Intercontinentale/AFP]

French President Emmanuel Macron has ruled out issuing an official apology for colonial abuses in Algeria, his office said on Wednesday.

There will be “no repentance nor apologies” for the occupation of Algeria or the bloody eight-year war that ended French rule, Macron’s office said, adding that the president would instead take part in “symbolic acts” aimed at promoting reconciliation.

The 1954-62 Algerian war of independence continues to strain relations between the two countries nearly 60 years later.

Macron, the first French president born after the colonial period, has gone further than any of his predecessors in recognising French crimes in Algeria.

Before his election, in February 2017, Macron acknowledged France’s colonisation of Algeria as a “crime against humanity”, in an interview with an Algerian TV channel – a comment that caused a sensation and was criticised by the far right.

Even though it did not include an apology, that comment in 2017 was a startling admission in a country where the colonisation of Algeria was long seen as benign and many are opposed to the idea of repentance.

A year later, he acknowledged that France had instigated a system that facilitated torture during the Algerian war, which ended 132 years of French rule.

The presidency said Macron would take part in three days of commemorations next year marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Algerian war.

Each day will be dedicated to a different group that suffered in the conflict, presidential aides added.

Also on Wednesday, an historian commissioned by the president with assessing “the progress made by France on the memory of the colonisation of Algeria and the Algerian war”, submitted his findings.

The report by Benjamin Stora recommended the creation of a “memory and truth” commission to address abuses committed in the north African country.

Stora recommended to Macron that a mixed French-Algerian commission could hear testimony from people who suffered during Algeria’s war of independence and work towards reconciliation.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies