The French-Algerian row that will not go away

France has since bridled at a statement from the Algerian Minister of Labour, Hachemi Djaaboub, who declared that France was “the traditional and eternal enemy” of the Algerians.
Monday 19/04/2021
An Algerian holds an anti-France placard during an anti-government demonstration in Algiers on April 16, 2021. (AFP)
An Algerian holds an anti-France placard during an anti-government demonstration in Algiers on April 16, 2021. (AFP)

PARIS - French president Emmanuel Macron has said that France is neither “in repentance nor denial” for its colonial past in Algeria, as relations between the two countries clearly cool ahead of the 60th anniversary of the North African country’s independence from French rule on July 1 1962.

Ten days ago French premier Jean Castex’s fence-mending trip to Algiers was postponed, “for health reasons”. This may have been an example of Diplomatic COVID, since no new date was set.  Even though, at the request of the Algerians, the French delegation had been cut back to four members including Castex, at the last minute Algiers called off the trip.

France has since bridled at a statement from the Algerian Minister of Labour, Hachemi Djaaboub, who declared that France was “the traditional and eternal enemy” of the Algerians.

Macron told Le Figaro on Sunday that such a statement was “unacceptable”.  Insisting that both in France and Algeria the desire for reconciliation was “widely shared … in particular by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune”  adding, “it is true that he (Tebboune) has to reckon with some resistance”.

In recent months, Emmanuel Macron has undertaken a series of “symbolic acts” in an attempt to “reconcile memories”. A dedicated report, submitted in January by historian Benjamin Stora, includes several proposals as to how this can come about.

Macron also told Le Figaro “Make no mistake, behind the Franco-Algerian issue there is first of all a Franco-French issue. Basically, we have not reconciled the fractured memories nor built a homogeneous national discourse … The fractured memory is that of the Pieds-Noirs, that of the harkis, (local auxiliaries who served with the French forces), that of the drafted recruits, that of the military French, that of Algerians who then came to France, that of the children of this migration, that of  dual nationals … “.

“I am neither in repentance nor in denial. I believe in a policy of recognition that makes our nation stronger,” he added.