Paris and Algiers do not want to miss this symbolic meeting of 2022, coinciding with the 60 years of Algerian independence. “We seek, vis-à-vis the Algerians, to follow an appropriate approach and to make strong gestures which are being studied”, entrusts us a French official. This “appropriate approach” and these “strong gestures” can be outlined in the report drawn up by the historian Benjamin Stora on “the memories of colonization and the Algerian war”, which he will submit this Wednesday, January 20 to the president. Emmanuel Macron. A report detailing proposals to achieve this “necessary reconciliation of memories”, according to the formula of the Elysee.
“Confront these painful events”
As a reminder, the two presidents Emmanuel Macron and Abdelmadjid Tebboune each appointed an expert on the memory issue, Benjamin Stora on the French side, and Abdelmadjid Chikhi, adviser to the President of the Republic in charge of national archives and the memory file, on the Algerian, to work on the issue of Franco-Algerian reconciliation. “We hope that the two historians accomplish their work in truth, serenity and appeasement to resolve these problems which poison our political relations, the business climate and good understanding”, declared the Algerian president in July 2020. ” We have to face these painful events to get back to profitable relations for both countries, especially at the economic level, ”he added. “It is not a question of writing a common history of Algeria, but of considering cultural actions on specific subjects, to be determined, such as the archives or the question of the missing”, Stora declared daily. Algerian Evening. Same story on the Algerian side: for Abdelmadjid Chikhi, also director of the National Archives, “it is not a question of writing history”, but of “seeing how to bring the two countries to manage their memories”, he said. told AFP.
Nothing filters on the work on the Algerian side, Abdelmadjid Chikhi contenting himself in his media outings with drawing up red lines or complaining that the memorial file “is not moving forward due to the lack of will on the part of the French”.
For Abdelmadjid Chikhi, public opinion in France “is not united in the face of France’s colonial past (…) There are lobbies and influential French associations which obstruct the negotiations on the pretext that we have seized – according to what they believe – their land and their property ”.
Macron facing the memory challenge
On the French side, we avoid controversy. The Stora report should, according to a press release from the Élysée, “draw up a fair and precise inventory of the progress made in France on the memory of colonization and the Algerian war (…) (and) draw up an inventory of specific places where we look at these issues on both sides of the Mediterranean ”. “We should go back on the steps taken by the various French heads of state on the memorial issue between Algeria and France”, maintains a senior French official. “We have to say: this is how far we have come, and this is what remains to be done He continues.
A policy of small steps, since Chirac, but which “can accelerate” under Macron, assure our sources, which recall the sentence of the presidential candidate of the time, in February 2017 in Algiers, “colonization is a crime against humanity ”; the official recognition by Macron that Maurice Audin, who engaged in the armed struggle alongside the Algerians, was indeed “tortured then executed or tortured to death” by French soldiers in 1957; the restitution, in July 2020, to Algeria of the remains of 24 Algerian resistance fighters to French colonization, which had been in the Musée de l’homme in Paris since 1880.
2022, a historic year … and very political
In January 2020, Macron told the journalists who accompanied him on his return trip from Jerusalem that he wanted to give the memorial challenge between Algeria and France “roughly the same status as the Shoah for Chirac in 1995”. “We have this story between us, but I am not a prisoner of it,” said President Macron, visiting Algiers in December 2017 to a young person questioning him on colonization. “For Macron, 2022 is a date he wants to mark, beyond the issue of the presidential election. It is not only a question of Algeria as a partner country with which we must iron out all tensions, including memorials, but it is also an approach to demine the identity and historical questions which are tearing French society apart ”, maintains a Sherpa of the Élysée passing through Algiers a few months ago.
On the side of the presidential palace of El Mouradia in Algiers, the tone is appeasement. “President Tebboune is committed to moving forward with Paris. He feels that Macron has a sincere desire to move forward on issues of memory, but also on other issues, political and economic, ”reassures a senior Algerian official. This last nuance: “We must not be fooled by appearances, the peaks of economic tensions between the two countries, in high places, the priority is appeasement… and the future. ”