Macron seeks ‘new step’ towards Algerian Harkis who fought for France

French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Algerians who fought for France in their country’s war of independence on Monday in a new attempt to confront a dark chapter in French colonial history.

Hundreds of thousands of Algerian Muslims, known as Harkis, served as auxiliaries in the French army in the war that pitted Algerian independence fighters against their French colonial masters from 1954 to 1962.

At the end of the war, fought by both sides with extreme brutality, including widespread torture, the French government left the Harkis to their fate, despite previous promises that it would take care of them.

Trapped in Algeria, many were massacred when the country’s new masters brutally avenged themselves.

Thousands more were placed in camps in France, often with their families, in degrading and traumatic conditions.

Successive French presidents had already begun to acknowledge the treachery of Algerian Muslim fighters.

Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, accepted in 2016 “the responsibilities of the French governments in abandoning the Harkis.”

But Macron’s meeting on Monday with 300 people, mostly Harkis survivors and their families, will mark “a new step” toward full recognition of France’s responsibility for their suffering, his office said.

‘Repair task’

The gathering comes just days before National Harki Day, which has been observed since 2003, especially in southern France, where many of the surviving fighters settled after the war.

His political sympathies often lie with the nationalist right, whose leader, Marine Le Pen, is a favorite among Macron’s rivals in France’s presidential elections next spring.

In a speech Monday, Macron “will begin the repair task,” his office said.

“The president believes that the work done over the last 60 years is important, but that a new step is necessary in terms of acknowledging the failures towards the Harkis, but also the failure of the French republic to meet its own standards,” he said Macron. the office said.

The history of the Harkis cannot be separated from the history of France, he said.

Authorities have in the past allowed a series of legal procedures for the Harkis and their families to claim damages from France.

‘Hypocrisy’

But Harki’s organizations want an official recognition of their deal to be enshrined in law by the end of the year, they said in an open letter to Macron.

“We hope that you will be the one who ends 60 years of certain hypocrisy for which the abandonment of the Harkis is recognized in the speeches, but not in the law,” they said.

The associations also want approved payments to be increased.

Macron’s initiative comes more than a year after he commissioned historian Benjamin Stora to assess how France has dealt with its colonial legacy in Algeria.

The report, presented in January, included a series of recommendations that included recognizing the assassination of a leading figure of Algerian independence and creating a “memory and truth commission.”

Macron has already spoken out on several unresolved colonial legacies from France, including the nuclear tests in Polynesia, his role in the Rwandan genocide and the war crimes in Algeria.

Before the end of his term, he is expected to attend ceremonies marking the anniversaries of two key events that still weigh on Franco-Algerian relations: the brutal repression of a demonstration of Algerians on October 17, 1961 by the Paris police who beat protesters to death or drowned them in the Seine River, and the signing of the Evian Accords on March 18, 1962, which ended the war of independence.

(AFP)

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