Hollande recognizes Algerian suffering under French rule

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and French President Francois Hollande (L) wave to the crowd from a car in Algiers December 19, 2012. President Francois Hollande travelled to Algeria on Wednesday to try to heal wounds left by a bloody war of independence half a century ago and to seek greater access to the former colony's oil wealth in an attempt to lift France's own flagging economy. (Photo: Reuters - Philippe Wojazer)

Published Thursday, December 20, 2012

France’s President François Hollande recognized the suffering of Algerians during more than a century of French dominion over the country Thursday, in the harshest description of the period by a French head of state yet, denouncing the “profoundly unjust and brutal” nature of the colonial system.

A dozen Algerian political parties criticized, prior to Hollande’s visit, “French authorities’ refusal to recognize or materially and morally compensate for the crimes committed by colonial France in Algeria,” French newspaper Le Monde reported.

Algeria’s War of Independence (1954 - 1962) is believed to have claimed over 1 million Algerian lives.

Hollande told journalists Wednesday that he did not intend to “repent or make excuses” about France’s colonial rule of Algeria

“I have always been clear on this issue: truth on the past, on colonization, on the war and its tragedies,” Hollande said. “But at the same time, we need to make sure the past does not hinder our work for the future.”

On the second day of an official visit to Algeria, President spoke in front of the Algerian parliament to officially recognize the wrongdoings of colonial France, most notably mentioning the massacres of Setif, Guelma and Kherrata, which “remain anchored in the memory and conscience of Algerians.”

This visit coincides with the 50-year anniversary of Algeria’s independence, when a brutal war with France ended 132 years of occupation.

Hollande is expected on Thursday to pay tribute to Maurice Audin, a young communist militant tortured to death by French troops in 1957. According to news channel France 24, the government considers this one of the most symbolic moments of Hollande’s visit.

The issue of formal excuses has been a contentious topic in Algeria for decades. Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, have been only been lukewarm regarding the issue.

Hollande’s delegation, comprised of almost 200 French representatives, will discuss business, defense and agricultural agreements with Algeria.

As reported by L’Express, Hollande has called for a better reception of immigration demands by Algerians in France and broader education agreements between the two countries.

(Al-Akhbar)

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