French President Emmanuel Macron has said he will not issue a public apology for colonial abuses committed in Algeria.
“There will be no repentance nor apologies” for France’s 132-year occupation of Algeria or for the brutal War of Independence, his office was quoted as saying by public broadcaster France 24. Algeria gained independence on July 5, 1962.
Instead, the president would take part in “symbolic acts” aimed at promoting reconciliation, the statement added.
This comes as Macron is scheduled to meet noted historian Benjamin Stora at the Elysee on Wednesday and accept his report on the colonization of Algeria.
Stora was commissioned to the report by Macron last July to ensure “the history of the Algerian war is known and viewed with lucidity.”
Algerians have demanded in the past for France to acknowledge and apologize for the discriminatory practices and crimes committed during colonial rule in the country.
Based on estimates by Algerian historians, 1.5 million Algerians were killed during the course of their struggle for independence. French historians put this figure at 400,000 from both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence.
Although Macron has refuted an official apology, he is among the few French leaders to recognize the country’s bloody colonial past.
As a presidential candidate, Macron in 2017 had unequivocally condemned France’s colonial history calling it a “crime against humanity,” and as a head of the state insisted the “need to better represent certain parts of our collective history and integrate the history of colonization.”
In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, published Wednesday, Stora, a specialist of contemporary Algerian history, said previous heads of state such as Nicholas Sarkozy, Jacques Chirac, Francois Hollande had also acknowledged the colonial crimes in their speeches, but “now, we must move on to practice.”
He said his mission “is to build bridges” and “provide a method, to apprehend the Franco-Algerian question not through ideological speeches, but from concrete memorial acts.”
He said the recommendations made in the report include commemoration on symbolic dates to recognize different phases of the history, “such as March 19 for the conscripts, July 5 – independence for Algerians, but also the date on which Europeans were kidnapped in Oran – October 17, for immigrants.”
He also stressed the need to honor the roles of innumerable people “the doctors, athletes, engineers, artists born in Algeria” who took part in the anti-colonial fight and make a digital depository of archives of the rich history of Algeria.
Stora has also recommended a friendship treaty between the two countries and a Franco-Algerian youth office to rope in the younger generation familiar with the history.
On the Algerian side, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has appointed Abdelmadjid Chikhi, director general of the National Archives Center, to carry out the “truth” work on memorial issues and work with the French state on the recovery of national archives, Africanews reported.