Tebboune said some of the remains belonged to leaders of the resistance movement who were killed in the 19th century during battles against France, which occupied and ruled Algeria for 132 years.
In his speech, Tebboune said that these resistance fighters “had been deprived of their natural and human right to be buried for more than 170 years”.
One of the chiefs whose remains are to be returned is Sheikh Bouzian, who was captured in 1849 by the French, shot and beheaded. The remains of two other key figures of the resistance – Bou Amar Ben Kedida and Si Mokhtar Ben Kouider Al Titraoui – are also among those expected in Algeria.
The country gained independence from France in 1962 after eight years of fierce conflict that left 1.5 million Algerians dead.
Emmanuel Macron, the first French president born after the war, made his first official visit to Algeria in December 2017, announcing that he had come as a “friend” despite France’s historically thorny ties to its former colony.
At the time, he told the All Algeria news site that he was “ready” to see his country surrender the skulls of Algerian resistance fighters.
Algerian and French academics have long campaigned for the return of 37 skulls held at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. In December 2019, Macron declared that “colonialism was a big mistake” and called to turn the page on the past. During his presidential election campaign, Macron caused a storm by calling the French colonization of Algeria “a crime against humanity”.