When will France move beyond its colonial narrative? – .

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By: Shannon Ebrahim, Group Foreign Editor
Most of the colonial occupiers shared the common racist and superior notion that prior to their arrival their colonial subjects had no sense of nationality or civility.
It is the most despicable form of colonial pride that should have been relegated to the dustbin of history when the colonial curtain rose from Africa. In time, one would have thought that such notions were no longer acceptable and would be treated with the contempt they deserve.

This is what makes the words of French President Emmanuel Macron last weekend all the more disconcerting. This is a president who took office calling colonialism a crime against humanity, and recognized the use of torture by the French colonial state in Algeria. But four years later, he publicly asked the question: “Was there an Algerian nation before French colonization?”

As might be expected, the Algerian government condemned the remarks with the indignation they deserved, the Algerian presidency having declared that Macron’s remarks were “an intolerable affront to the memory of the 5,630,000 valiant martyrs who sacrificed their lives in their heroic resistance to the French. colonial invasion.

Algeria was quick to take several measures to underline its indignation, including summoning the French ambassador to inform him that the president’s remarks were the last straw, recalling the Algerian ambassador in France and by banning French military planes from flying over Algerian airspace. France often flies over Algerian airspace to reach the Sahel region in West Africa as part of Operation Barkhane, and will not have to make alternative plans.

What was even more disturbing was the fact that Macron’s comments were made in front of a gathering of Harkis’ grandchildren – Algerians who had sided with the French colonial state and were fighting the Front. of National Liberation (FLN) – which led the struggle for independence. The Harkis were in fact the accomplices in colonial crimes against the Algerian people during the 132 years of occupation by the French state.

Macron shocked Algeria and the world last month when he paid tribute to the descendants of the Harkis and asked their forgiveness for the mistreatment inflicted by the French state. Honoring those who collaborated with France during France’s war against forces fighting for freedom and independence suggests that even the young generation of political leaders in France did not transform from the state of colonial spirit.

Anyone familiar with the Algerian War of Independence knows how the French colonial occupiers and their local collaborators tortured and brutalized those who resisted the occupation and fought for independence. Visiting a museum in Algiers is instructive – scenes from French torture chambers during the Battle of Algiers in which Algerian resistance fighters are electrocuted, beaten, hanged by limbs and beheaded, and other rarely recognized forms of despicable torture by the French State. How any modern leader would want to honor the descendants of such collaborators is bizarre in the extreme and deeply troubling.

For those who do not know the Algerian struggle for independence the film The battle of Algiers is highly recommended. But after being exposed through narratives, documents and historical archives to the horrors of French colonialism, it is reprehensible that Macron and his administration made it clear that there would be “no excuse” for the colonization of France. Algeria by France.

The refusal to take responsibility for the flagrant human rights violations committed by France makes genuine reconciliation between the two countries all the more difficult. But following the latest official comments, the general consensus within Algeria is that Macron’s supposed commitment to heal colonial wounds and forge better relations with Algeria is just a ruse.

While Algerians struggle to understand the latest offensive remarks, some believe the comments were made by Macron in an attempt to win right-wing votes ahead of the April 2022 presidential elections. Racism, xenophobia and glorification of colonialism will certainly score points with the right in France, but at what cost for the reputation, historical justice and the transformation of France?

In a battle for the soul of France, with Marine Le Pen posing stiff competition, Macron has notably shifted to the right over the past six months, especially regarding Islam in France and the colonial legacy of France. France. This political opportunism has a huge cost for the social cohesion of France.

Algerians and other North Africans have been targeted in France and harassed by local authorities, mosques and closed Muslim charities, and there is growing intolerance towards those considered Muslims and former colonial subjects.

Macron will surely have lost any left supporters he may have had in the past, and whether he or Le Pen wins next year, France’s political trajectory is part of a trajectory that is far from progressive. .

* Shannon Ebrahim, foreign editor-in-chief of the group

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