French President Emmanuel Macron has sent a letter to his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Algeria's independence. In it, the French leader expresses his desire to strengthen the "already strong ties between France and Algeria" and expresses his commitment to "continue the process of recognition of the truth and reconciliation of the memories of the Algerian and French peoples", the Elysée announced in a statement.
Six decades after proclaiming independence and signing the Evian Accords, the wounds of more than 100 years of French colonisation of Algeria and the subsequent war remain open. Despite symbolic gestures by France, the colonial past still weighs heavily on Algiers-Paris ties and hinders normal bilateral relations.
Macron has sought to heal these wounds by acknowledging violent episodes of the past, such as the massacre of Algerians on 17 October 1961 in Paris. The current president became the first French leader to recognise this massacre and consider it 'a crime'. However, Macron had already committed himself to the path of reconciliation years earlier. In September 2018, a year after winning the elections, the French leader personally apologised to the widow of Maurice Audin, a mathematician and Algerian communist and supporter of Algerian independence who was tortured and murdered.
On the other hand, and with the same commitment to the events of the past, the French president also acknowledged earlier this year the Oran massacre, in which "hundreds of Europeans, mainly French, were killed". "That massacre must also be recognised," Macron said. This violent event, which took place shortly after the proclamation of Algeria's independence, is attributed to the National Liberation Army. In fact, one of Macron's planned activities for this historic day is to lay a wreath at the National Monument to the Algerian War and the Combat of Morocco and Tunisia in Paris in "homage to the victims of the massacre of Europeans in Oran on the very day of independence, 5 July 1962".
Despite Macron's positive gestures, during his term in office, bilateral relations have also suffered moments of tension due to this colonial past. In October 2021, the French president told Le Monde newspaper that Algeria's official history had been "totally rewritten" by the "politico-military system". He also pointed out that this history is "not based on truths", but on "hatred of France". In response, Algiers decided to recall its ambassador to Paris for consultations and closed its airspace to French military aircraft.
Over the course of the year, the two countries have sought to repair their ties through several telephone conversations between Macron and Tebboune. In January, the two presidents discussed economic and security cooperation, although the colonial issue was once again at the forefront of the conversation, specifically "the search for missing persons and the maintenance of Algeria's cemeteries", the French presidency remarked, according to EFE. In that month, Algiers reinstated its ambassador in Paris.
In recent months, this Franco-Algerian dialogue has intensified while relations between Spain and Algeria have been strained. After Macron's victory in the French presidential elections, Tebboune was the first foreign head of state to officially extend an invitation to his French counterpart for an "early" state visit to Algiers, the news agency reports. Subsequently, the two presidents met again in early May and in June to "deepen relations". In the last conversation they addressed issues of common interest, such as the situation in the Sahel, Libya and Ukraine.
But the past is still very much present. "There is no way we can forget or erase the human genocide, the cultural genocide and the genocide of identity for which colonial France is still guilty," acknowledged Salah Goudjil, president of the Council of the Nation, the upper house of parliament and a veteran of the war of independence, in an interview in the daily l'Expression.
The Algerian authorities have been preparing for several days to commemorate this historic day. On Friday, a 16-kilometre zone in Algiers was closed off for the army to rehearse the military parade scheduled for today. Tebboune laid a wreath at the Martyrs' Shrine in Algiers and then reviewed the security forces with Chief of Staff Said Chanegriha as 60 cannon shots were fired.
According to AFP, foreign guests at the celebration included Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Tunisian President Kais Saied and Nigerian President Mohamed Bazoum. Algerie360 also reported the arrival of Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde.