On Wednesday 20 January 2021, the French historian Benjamin Stora submitted his report on the France-Algeria memory. If the Elysée Palace consents to initiate symbolic acts, there is no question of apologies or repentance for France.
The Stora report, by the name of the French historian Benjamin Stora, of Algerian origin, on the memory of the Algerian war, was submitted to the Elysée Palace. However, France still refuses to apologize to the Algerian people. “There will be symbolic acts, but no repentance or apology,” reads the French Presidency statement. According to the Algerian essayist Akram Belkaïd, there is no official request for an apology from the Algerian side, it has never been a political leitmotiv. “It’s brandished from time to time, because you want to annoy Paris, because you want to create tension, but it’s a very rare claim,” he said.
In his report, the historian in charge of the memorial question on the French side proposes the creation of a commission entitled “Memories and truth” which will be responsible for “promoting joint initiatives between France and Algeria on memory issues”. It will also be responsible for organizing “important commemorations.” It is also planned to transform into places of memory the four internment camps located on French territory where thousands of Algerians were detained from 1957. According to the Stora report, the plaques, placed near these camps, could recall their history.
In another vein, Benjamin Stora recommends that France acknowledge its responsibility for the murder of Algerian lawyer Ali Boumendjel, who was tortured and then executed in 1957, before his death was disguised as suicide. In this regard, Algerian essayist Akram Belkaïd says, “For now, it would be something important. And then let us know a little about what happened to Larbi Ben M’hidi, for example, whose assassination the French soldier Aussaresses claimed responsibility for.”
In addition to apologies, Algiers asked for the restoration of the entire archives of the colonial period from 1830 to 1962, while Paris maintained easy access for researchers from both countries. “It is obvious that there is an absolute fantasy in Algeria about these archives,” says Akram Belkaïd, adding: “Some are convinced that France still holds unspeakable secrets about betrayals, about people who would have served France’s interests by being at the FLN… Here too, it is necessary to open the archives and their reciprocal access, because very few Algerian researchers have access to their own archives in Algeria. So much so that some prefer that they remain in France, lest they be altered or put under the bushel.”
As a war of independence and decolonization, the Algerian War, which took place between 1954 and 1962, pitted Algerian nationalists, gathered mainly under the banner of the National Liberation Front (FLN), against France. It was both a double military and diplomatic conflict and also a double civil war, between the communities on the one hand and within the communities on the other. It took place mainly on the territory of French Algeria, with repercussions also in metropolitan France.
It led to serious political crises in France, with the consequence of the return to power of Charles de Gaulle and the fall of the Fourth Republic, replaced by the Fifth Republic. After giving the French army time to fight the National Liberation Army (NLA) using all the means at its disposal, de Gaulle finally leaned towards self-determination as the only possible way out of the conflict, which led a fraction of the French army to rebel and enter into open opposition with the power. This rebellion was quickly defeated
More than 250,000 Algerians were killed in the war, and up to 2,000,000 were sent to regrouping camps out of a population of 10,000,000. Nearly 25,600 French soldiers were killed and 65,000 wounded. European civilian casualties exceed 10,000 in 42,000 recorded violent incidents.
After the Evian Accords of 18 March 1962, the conflict had led to the independence of Algeria on 3 July 1962, and had led to the exodus of the inhabitants of European origin, known as the Blackfoot and the Jews, as well as the massacre of nearly 50,000 people.