Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 26 October 2020

Algeria expects France to apologise for colonial past, president says

Abdelmadjid Tebboune said such a move from Paris would 'make it possible to cool tensions'

An Algerian woman holds a drawing of a fights as she mourns over one of the national flag-draped coffins containing the remains of 24 Algerian resistance fighters decapitated during the French occupation of the country, at the Moufdi-Zakaria culture palace in Algiers, Algeria, 4 July, 2020. EPA
An Algerian woman holds a drawing of a fights as she mourns over one of the national flag-draped coffins containing the remains of 24 Algerian resistance fighters decapitated during the French occupation of the country, at the Moufdi-Zakaria culture palace in Algiers, Algeria, 4 July, 2020. EPA

Algeria is waiting for an apology for France's colonial occupation of the North African country, the president said, expressing hope that his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron would build on recent conciliatory overtures.

A global reexamination of the legacy of colonialism has been unleashed by the May killing of unarmed African American George Floyd by a white police officer, which sparked mass protests around the world.

"We have already had half-apologies. The next step is needed ... we await it," President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said Saturday in an interview with news channel France 24.

"I believe that with President Macron, we can go further in the appeasement process ... he is a very honest man, who wants to improve the situation."

France's 132 years of colonial rule in Algeria, and the brutal eight-year war that ended it, have left a legacy of often prickly relations between the two countries.

In what has been seen as a thaw in ties, Algeria on Friday received the skulls of 24 resistance fighters decapitated during the colonial period.

The skulls were buried in the martyrs' section of El Alia Cemetery in Algiers on Sunday, the 58th anniversary of Algeria's independence.

Mr Tebboune said an apology from France would "make it possible to cool tensions and create a calmer atmosphere for economic and cultural relations", especially for France's large Algerian community.

In December 2019, Mr Macron said that "colonialism was a grave mistake" and called for turning the page on the past.

During his presidential election campaign, he had created a storm by calling France's colonisation of Algeria a "crime against humanity".

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged countries to make amends for "centuries of violence and discrimination".

To mark Algerian independence day, citizens and the diaspora shared stories of their relatives' roles in the resistance and the brutality meted out against them by French troops.

"My grandma used to smuggle weapons by stuffing them between her and one of her kids she would have wrapped in cloth on her back," one user wrote. "They would also throw fake weddings so they could disguise men as a bride (traditionally the brides face was covered) to transport him safely."

Another user described the impact of his grandfather's torture by French troops. "I still remember him screaming in his sleep when I was a kid," he wrote. "He used to see nightmares, he passed away in 2001."

Other tales were more uplifting. "One of my dad's uncles, who was small in height, was wanted and managed to enter a French base at night, brought the French flag down and replaced it with an Algerian flag," one user posted.

Gulf leaders congratulated Algeria on its 58th independence day on Sunday.

Updated: July 5, 2020 07:56 PM

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