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Taking care to spare all susceptibilities less than a month before the first round of the presidential election, Emmanuel Macron will preside over a ceremony on Saturday for the 60th anniversary of the Evian Accords and the ceasefire the next day in Algeria, with a concern for “appeasement” of memories and “outstretched hand” to Algeria, the presidency announced on Wednesday.
“Commemorating is not celebrating”, however underlined the Elysée while the date of March 19, 1962, which marked the entry into force of the ceasefire between the French army and Algerian separatists, continues to be controversial. The returnees dispute the reference to the Evian Accords – signed on March 18, 1962 and which led to the implementation of the ceasefire the following day – to commemorate the end of the Algerian war (1954-1962) because violence that continued until the independence of Algeria on July 5, 1962 and ended with the exodus of hundreds of thousands of them to France.
“All the events linked to the war in Algeria did not end overnight with the signing of the Evian Accords”, conceded the Elysée, citing in particular the shooting in the rue d’Isly in Algiers, in which dozens of supporters of French Algeria were killed by the army on March 26, 1962. “March 19 is a stage on this path (from memory) but it is not the end”, insisted the presidency , recalling that a tribute would also be paid to the conscripts of the Algerian war on October 18 if Emmanuel Macron is “re-elected”.
Will the Algerian ambassador be present?
The ceremony, which will be held from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., will bring together witnesses from all memories linked to the Algerian war, conscripts, independence fighters, harkis and repatriates. The Minister of the Armies Florence Parly, the Chief of Staff of the Armies Thierry Burckhard as well as elected officials, including the mayor of Montpellier, Michaël Delafosse, city which will host the future museum of the History of France and Algeria, will also be present. Algeria’s ambassador to France, Mohamed-Antar Daoud, was also invited, the Elysée said, without specifying whether he had accepted the invitation.
Relations between the two countries are marked by a certain appeasement as the elections approach after two years of tension. Among other episodes, a sentence uttered by Emmanuel Macron in the context of an exchange with young people from memory groups linked to the Algerian war at the end of September 2021 had cast a chill, to say the least. “Was there an Algerian nation before French colonization? Algiers had immediately decided on the “immediate” recall of its ambassador to Paris and de facto prohibited the overflight of its territory to French military planes from the anti-jihadist operation Barkhane in the Sahel. The visit of Prime Minister Jean Castex, initially scheduled for 2021, had been canceled. A priori, he should go to Algiers on March 23 and 24, said the Elysée.
“Reconciling compartmentalized memories”
The objective of this commemoration, “reconcile” and “appease”, remains the same as during the previous meetings of the quinquennium around the Algerian war, underlined a presidential adviser. The Head of State wanted, through a series of memorial gestures, “to reconcile France and Algeria” as well as “compartmentalized memories” in France, recalled the Elysée.
Following the recommendations of the historian Benjamin Stora, he recognized the responsibility of the French army in the death of the communist mathematician Maurice Audin and that of the nationalist lawyer Ali Boumendjel during the battle of Algiers in 1967. A stele at the memory of Abd el-Kader, Algerian national hero of the refusal of the French colonial presence, was erected in France in Amboise (center) and the skulls of Algerian resistance fighters of the 19th century returned to Algeria.
In 2017, Macron spoke of a “crime against humanity”
But Algiers, which is demanding an official apology from France for colonization, did not follow up on this work of memory. “It’s a hand that is outstretched and will remain outstretched”, however underlined the Elysée. In French society, it is a question of “constituting in the long term a common, shared, peaceful memory”, explained the Elysée Palace, refuting the accusations of “memorial clientelism” against the Head of State.
Candidate in 2017, Emmanuel Macron had estimated in February of that year that colonization by France had been a “crime against humanity” for which France had to apologize, causing an outcry on the right.
“It was important in the eyes of the President of the Republic that three generations later, the poisons of division which were part of this process which for 60 years was made in denial, in the unspoken, could find an end “, noted the presidency.