reappropriation of history

France entrusts historian to highlight truth of Algerian war

By Jeune Afrique

Posted on July 31, 2020 16:58

Iraq’s Algerian Echoes © A soldier injured in the explosion of the Algiers City Hall is carried on a comrade’s back to an ambulance in June 16, 1962  (AP Photo)
A soldier injured in the explosion of the Algiers City Hall is carried on a comrade’s back to an ambulance in June 16, 1962 (AP Photo)

The French president officially entrusted Benjamin Stora with a mission on “the memory of colonisation and the Algerian war”, with a view to promoting “reconciliation between the French and Algerian peoples.”

This mission, expected to conclude at the end of the year, “will allow for a fair and accurate assessment to be made of the progress made in France on the memory of colonisation and the Algerian war, as well as the way these issues are viewed on both sides of the Mediterranean,” explained the French Presidency.

A work of “truth”

In a parallel move, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced on Sunday that he had appointed Abdelmadjid Chikhi, director-general of the National Centre for Algerian Archives, to carry out a “truth” study on memory issues between the two countries.

READ MORE Algeria: Macron finally breaks the taboo around French colonial past

ja13092619230001 © The historian Benjamin Stora in Paris in 2013.

Born in 1950 in Constantine, Algeria, Benjamin Stora is one of the most renowned specialists on the history of Algeria, and particularly on the war of 1954-1962 that led to the country’s independence.

In Benjamin Stora’s mission letter, Emmanuel Macron states that “it is important that the history of the Algerian war be known and looked at with lucidity. It is a matter of comfort and peace for those it has wounded.” It is also about “the possibility for our youth to emerge from the conflicts of memory,” he added.

“A new will for reconciliation”

“I wish to be part of a new effort of reconciliation between the French and Algerian people,” wrote the French President. “The subject of colonisation and the Algerian war has for too long hindered the construction of a common destiny in the Mediterranean for our two countries.”

READ MORE France-Africa: Emmanuel Macron, from speech to action?

As a strong sign in the thawing of relations between Algeria and its former colonial power, Paris handed over in early July the remains of 24 Algerian combattants killed at the beginning of French colonisation in the 19th century. A gesture seen as “a big step” by Algiers.

“Through this kind of gesture, France is rediscovering its history,” Benjamin Stora said recently. For him, “there is a worldwide reappropriation movement in people’s history and France cannot miss out on it.”

Since the beginning of his mandate, Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged that Maurice Audin, a pro-independence mathematician who died in 1957, had indeed “died under torture because of the system set up in Algeria by France at the time.”

He has also honoured the harkis, Algerian fighters who had served France and were then abandoned by Paris in tragic conditions.

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