France returns Algerian remains as nations question themselves

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PARISAlgeria and France have long had a tenuous relationship charged with power struggles, colonization and even bursting wars.

From the colonization by France of the North African country located south of its coasts in 1830 to the eight-year war in Algeria which ended with the independence of Algeria, twinning has long been a complication and a difficulty.

Steps were taken last week, however, to further repair the troubled past of the two nations. On Friday, France returned the remains of 24 freedom fighters in Algeria 170 years after the colonial conflict. On Sunday, these fighters were buried in draped coffins with the family, government officials and the military present.

Sunday, July 5 also marked the 58th anniversary of the return of Algeria to the independence of the French Republic. On July 5, 1830, France invaded, captured and declared Algeria a department of the French nation.

The skulls returned belonged to two dozen combatants from the Algerian resistance movement who were killed and beheaded during the mid-19th century conflict. Among the key repatriated figures are Sheikh Bouzian, Bou Amar Ben Kedida and Si Mokhtar Ben Kouider Al Titraoui.

The announcement of their return was made last Thursday by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

The remains of the combatants had been kept in vaults at the Musée de l’Homme, or Musée de humanity, in Paris. The museum specializes in anthropology.

A military ceremony was held on the tarmac at Houari Boumediene Airport to receive planes carrying the skulls. President Tebboune welcomed them, noting in a speech that the combatants “had been deprived of their natural and human right to be buried for more than 170 years”.

The skulls were then moved before the burial at the Palace of Culture, where they were exposed.

During the burial, an elite unit of the Republican Guard presented their arms while the coffins were buried in the El Alia cemetery in the capital Algiers. Subsequently, President Tebboune presented the flags that had covered the coffins to young cadets from various military academies as a symbolic gesture for them to remember the sacrifices made by their ancestors.

It was not until the Algerian War, which lasted from November 1, 1954 to March 19, 1962, that Algeria fully regained its status as an independent nation. Fighting between French forces and the Algerian National Front (FLN), the bloodbath reportedly killed 1.5 million people in Algeria. Liberty finally took place on July 5, 1962, which is also the notable date of Sunday.

Algerian and French academics have long awaited this day, campaigning for many years for the return of a total of 37 skulls housed at the Musée de l’Homme.

President Tebboune also turns to the future of Algeria with France and for the latter to present more formal excuses for its colonial transgressions.

“We have already had half-excuses. The next step is necessary; we are waiting for it, “he said on Saturday in an interview with France24 TV.

Despite past resistance from French executives, Algeria now has a friend of Emmanuel Macron. He is the first head of the Republic to recognize the need to repatriate the mortal remains of these Algerians and spoke out during his mandate against the French colonial past, saying even during a campaign speech that the French colonization of the Algeria was a “crime against humanity”. “.

Just over 4 million people of Algerian origin now live in France. Nowhere is their presence felt more than in the capital: every Sunday since February 16, 2019, Algerians went to their “Revolution of the smile”, a peaceful march from Place de la République to Place de the Bastille where the demonstrators give voice to their need for changes in the Algerian government.

The Sunday protests were initially launched in response to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announcement of his candidacy for a fifth term. On April 2, Bouteflika resigned and several of his colleagues were arrested. In December, President Tebboune was elected.

Franco-Algerian political leaders across France have also raised questions about the homeland that need to be addressed. Sofiane Ghozelane, deputy mayor of Pontault-Combault, a commune in the Ile-de-France region, is one example. Early last spring, he joined other Franco-Algerian leaders and activists to write an open letter to President Macron asking him to take a firmer stand against the current Algerian government.

“France must adopt a clearer position, because at the moment it is neither interference nor indifference,” Ghozelane told France24 TV.

The letter from him and his compatriots, however, insists that the Macron administration turns more towards indifference, towards “the desire of the Algerian people to turn a page in their history”.

In an official statement to Agence France Presse, the French government said that the repatriation of these skulls was a gesture of “friendship” and an attempt to “reconcile the memories of the French and Algerian people”.

France has declared that it does not want to interfere in the affairs of its former colony but to let Algeria follow its own path. In a statement to BFMTV in March of last year, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian said: “France will not intervene … Algerians show great dignity. France will stand alongside Algeria, but it is Algeria that will decide its future, not France. “

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