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France, Algeria's Tense Relations Since Independence


French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hand with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, at the presidential palace in Algiers, Algeria August 25, 2022

France has made several attempts over the years to heal the wounds with former colony Algeria, stopping short of a formal apology. President Emmanuel Macron's three-day visit to Algeria from August 25-27 is part of French efforts to strengthen ties between the nations.

It took France nearly 40 years to officially acknowledge that "the events in North Africa" constituted a war.

French historians say half a million civilians and combatants died — 400,000 of them Algerian — while the Algerian authorities insist 1.5 million. France's often brutal rule 132 years of an often brutal rule that ended in 1962.

Valery Giscard d'Estaing was the first French president to visit independent Algeria in April 1975, and his successor Francois Mitterrand said, during a visit in November 1981, "France and Algeria are capable of getting over the trauma of the past.”

Nicolas Sarkozy admitted during his 2007-2012 presidency that the "colonial system was profoundly unjust".

President Francois Hollande called it "brutal" and in 2016 became the first French president to commemorate the end of the war, sparking virulent criticism from his right-wing opponents.

Macron, during his 2017 election campaign, also infuriated the right by calling the colonization of Algeria "a crime against humanity.” The first French president born after the war, Macron said it was time France "looked our past in the face.”

During his first official visit to Algeria after his election, he said he came as a "friend" and was "ready" to see his country hand back the skulls of Algerian resistance fighters killed in the 1850s, currently held in Paris.

In 2018, Macron acknowledged that Maurice Audin, a mathematician and communist who supported Algeria 's struggle for self-rule, had "died under torture stemming from the system instigated while Algeria was part of France" and asked Audin's widow for forgiveness.

In January 2021, historian Benjamin Stora recommended in a report on the colonial legacy the creation of a "memory and truth commission.”

Macron said he would make "symbolic gestures" to attempt to reconcile the two countries but ruled out a formal state apology.

In March of that year, he acknowledged that Algerian lawyer Ali Boumendjel was tortured to death by the French army in 1957, which French authorities had long denied.

In September, he appealed for forgiveness for the "Harkis", Algerians who fought for the French during the independence war, many of whom were later executed or tortured in Algeria .

New tension

Last October, Algeria recalled its ambassador to Paris for three months after Macron accused Algeria’s "political-military system" of rewriting history and fomenting "hatred towards France" in remarks to descendants of independence fighters.

Two weeks later, he described as "an inexcusable crime" the 1961 massacre of scores of Algerian protesters in Paris by French police.

In December, France announced it would open classified police files from the Algerian war 15 years ahead of schedule.

On January 26, 2022, Macron also admitted that the shooting of unarmed civilians by French soldiers in Algiers in 1962 was an "unforgivable" act, while also acknowledging a second massacre in Oran the same year.

On February 8, he became the first French president to pay tribute to nine people who lost their lives in the Charonne metro station in Paris 60 years ago at a peaceful anti-war demonstration that was violently repressed by the police.

Macron's latest visit to Algeria has been billed as a bid to improve the strained ties between Paris and Algiers.

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