In a remarkable step, the French President Emmanuel Macron said that he wanted to settle the issue of memory that is related to the period of the French occupation of Algeria, but he did not disclose the nature of this settlement, even if it had nothing to do with the requirement to criminalize colonialism, which is the settlement that he spoke about three years ago, but he has not fulfilled his promise.
Macron said, in an interview with the French newspaper “Le Figaro”, that his positions are very clear regarding the challenges he faces that are related to memory, and he singled out the occupation past of his country in Algeria, explaining that: “The Algerian war (the liberation revolution) is undoubtedly the most tragic. I know this since my campaign”.
Macron visited Algeria in 2017 when he was just a candidate for the French presidential elections, and he made statements that were considered unprecedented about the French occupation in Algeria, describing it as a “crime against humanity”.
However, he was soon forced to retract this statement upon his return to his country, where he faced a campaign of rejectionists (Pieds-Noirs, Harkis and Far-Right circles) before he completely disavowed these statements after he assumed the helm of the Elysee Palace, preferring to repeat the phrase “non-denial and no apology”.
According to what came in the interview, Macron hopes to play a role that is similar to the decision that was taken by the former French President, Jacques Chirac, which is France’s recognition of its responsibility in the Holocaust massacres after its decision to deport the Jews.
The French President’s statement, which was not sufficiently transparent, caused panic among the far-right circles, including the daily “Le Figaro” that conducted the dialogue, as the newspaper rushed to publish an opinion polling through its website, which included one question: “Should Emmanuel Macron apologize for the Algerian war? “, and the result came as a shock, namely that 88% of the respondents were against offering an apology.
The newspaper “Le Figaro” is a right-wing newspaper, which means that the majority of its readers are saturated with right-wing ideas and trends that show historic enmity to Algeria, and then it was natural that the result came according to the findings of the opinion polling, knowing that this category of the French always stands against any attempt by the French officials to apologize to Algeria.
But the question that must be asked here, will these circles succeed in discouraging the French president Emmanuel Macron from the decision that he announced and which came at a time when French interests entered the danger zone?
Many facts seem to have changed, especially concerning the Algerian side since the fall of the regime of the former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was just a “pawn” in the hands of the French authorities, according to the opinion of observers, as in 2005, when France enacted a law glorifying colonial practices in the former colonies, including Algeria, the Algerian parliament attempted to respond to this by a regulation criminalizing the practices of the French occupation, but the former president intervened at that time strongly to stop this regulation by reprimanding the former Speaker of the National People’s Assembly (Ammar Saadani), arguing that this step went beyond the parliamentary work to diplomatic activity, even though the move was in response to the French parliament.
Even when a group of MPs decided in 2007 to propose a draft law that is criminalizing the French occupation of Algeria, the project was buried in its cradle, as it remained locked in the lower chamber of Parliament during the era of its former chairman, Abdelaziz Ziari, although the majority of MPs wrapped around this project except for the MPs of the National Democratic Assembly, the Labor Party, and the Assembly for Culture and Democracy, but Ziari addressed the project, which returned to the forefront after the outbreak of the popular movement (hirak), with calls from the Mujahideen’s Organization (war veterans) to revive it, but nothing has changed.
What is remarkable about the French President’s statement, is that it came after the Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, visited Algeria, a visit that came nearly a year after the bilateral relationships entered an unprecedented state of stagnation, what is likely to be the hypothesis that he receives strict messages from the new president of Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, linking the return of bilateral relationships to the former era, with a move by the French side regarding its occupation past in Algeria.
The French party’s persistence in refusing to apologize during the era of the former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, according to the opinion of observers, was only a result of Bouteflika’s concern not to anger the French authorities by raising the request for an apology, in exchange for their support for his continuation in power, which was demonstrated by their support for his 5th term’s bid, and this was highlighted by the uprising that ousted him after the pressure of the popular movement (hirak).