Stora: “There Is No Way To Despair About Future Of Algerian-French Relations”
The historian Benjamin Stora defended his report on the memory submitted on 20 January to President Emmanuel Macron, before the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Education of the French National Assembly on Wednesday 5 April.
Despite the tense relations between the two countries, marked by the postponement of the visit of French Premier Jean Castex to Algeria and the statement of the Minister of Labour, Hachemi Djaaboub describing “France as a traditional and eternal enemy”, Benjamin Stora does not despair, French media reported.
Emmanuel Macron had mandated him in July 2020 to “draw up a fair and precise inventory” of the memory of colonization and the Algerian war.
On the Algerian side, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune entrusted the task to his adviser in charge of archives and memory Abdelmadjid Chikhi.
Before the deputies, the historian specialising in Algerian history returned to the conclusions of his report. Expressing the wish that the two countries move forward together on the path of a peaceful memory, he hopes to work towards a “reconciliation of the French and Algerian peoples”.
“Sixty years later, history is still a messy field, sometimes in battle,” writes Benjamin Stora in his report. The historian pleads for an affirmed recognition of the crimes committed during colonization, then during the war, long forgotten or minimized in France.
The same goes for the conflict itself, which, although it lasted nearly eight years, remained for a long time without a name, or modestly called “events in Algeria”.
The aim is to put an end to what Benjamin Stora calls the “communitization of memories”. The historian considers that “every group belonging to this history is specific, but none is exceptional and none should be placed above the others.
However, each group demands a one-way, unilateral, exclusive empathy”. Fighting against this antagonism in memory is all the more important, the report notes, as “today, in France, more than seven million residents are still concerned by Algeria, or rather, by the memory of Algeria”.
In order to continue the work of shedding light on the “massive displacement of rural populations, practices of torture, arbitrary internments and summary executions”, Benjamin Stora would like to see certain archives transferred from France to Algeria.
He spoke of the need to facilitate access to both French and Algerian archives for researchers in both countries.
The digitization of all this documentation will be necessary for this “pooling”, he specified during his hearing.
He also proposed to return to Algeria the sword of Emir Abdelkader, a hero of the resistance to French colonization in the 19th century.