France will not ask for forgiveness or declare its repentance for the war in Algeria (1954-1962) and the 130 years of colonization of the North African country, a trauma that continues to mark , in addition to the relationship between the two countries, French society itself.
But it will promote “symbolic acts” of reconciliation, tributes to the victims who have been forgotten and measures on both shores of the Mediterranean to promote a better understanding of the past.
The historian Benjamin Stora, born in 1950 in then-French Algeria, delivered on Wednesday the French President, Emmanuel Macron, the report that he commissioned last July. Stora proposes 22 measures that go from the commemorations of massacres of Algerians in France or of the Harkis – Muslims who fought with France against independence – to the location of the remains of disappeared from both sides during the war.
A “memory and truth” commission made up of experts from both countries should be in charge of promoting initiatives to clarify the past on both shores of the Mediterranean and seek mutual recognition.
“Nobody proposes to write a common story,” Stora told Le Parisien newspaper . “My mission is to build bridges, not to merge memories, but to decompartmentalize them, because they have become communitarianized memories . My goal is to find concrete catwalks ”.
Algeria is the closest thing, in the memory of 21st century France, to its last civil war – Algeria belonged to France then and pitted French against French – and to the Vietnam War for the United States: a Western military power was defeated in a war that left deep wounds .
Macron has frequently spoken of the need to “reconcile memories” that today, when they are about to mark sixty years since the end of the conflict and independence, are still at odds.
The history of colonization and war is not told in the same way in Algiers and in Paris, but neither within France is there a unified account of what that period meant. The son or grandson of Algerian immigrants who came to Europe after independence does not think the same as the family of Harkis who fought against independence and had to go into exile.
Nor is the vision of the pieds noirs the same , families of European origin, many of them Spanish, who had spent decades or more than a century in North Africa, and who had to emigrate to France in 1962, where they were not always He received them with open arms.
It is difficult to explain today’s France without contemplating this past. The Fifth Republic, the current presidential regime, was founded in 1958, in the midst of the war and after a coup in Algiers. It is not uncommon for the justifications used by French Islamist terrorists to include grievances dating back to war.
The National Regrouping, a large party of the French extreme right, is the son of a party founded by ex-combatants and opponents of independence, and its historical electoral base is largely made up of pieds noirs .
“For the president,” said the historian Stora, “it is a question of the French past that has not been resolved , that no one really wanted to face or look at face to face.”