by Aly Jonas

Algeria: Invaluable independence

Algérie : Une indépendance inestimable

Algeria is celebrating its independence today. On July 5, 1962, after 132 years of French colonization, the million and a half Algerian martyrs, and their brothers in struggle, liberated the country.

The Algerian revolution is the war of independence both more tragic and more heroic of African colonial history. For Algerians, the date of July 5 is an important moment: it is the moment when the country succeeded in throwing off the French yoke. A French colonization which, despite everything, will remain indelible. During the 132 years of French control, Algeria was the scene of so many crimes against humanity, then of atrocious war crimes, that the thoughts of the entire Algerian people remain marked by the events, sixty years later.

If the Algerians gave a lot, in terms of human lives in particular, to free themselves from the control of colonial France, they never felt that they had reached the end of the process: in fact, Algeria is still demanding an apology from of the French State for the barbarity displayed by its colonists, its soldiers and its agents. And, despite some semblances of remorse and French gestures of appeasement, the absence of official apologies from the French authorities, for 59 years, remains a trauma in Algerian memories.

Algeria is also a land of known and recognized heroes. From Emir Abdelkader to Lalla Fatma, including Larbi ben M'hidi, Abande Ramdane and the sons of Toussaint, many fighters have given their lives to liberate Algeria. All Algerians who stood up against colonization were united by the same sovereign conviction, despite their ideological differences. This same unwavering desire for independence still exists today.

The will of a people

From 1830 to 1962, each Algerian independence initiative distinguished itself on the battlefield against the colonists. Let us also remember that the French colonization of Algeria was more violent than elsewhere. Between concentration camps, mass executions, the use of prohibited weapons and racial segregation, the suffering of Algerians has sparked a reaction that is both political and intellectual.

However, the Algerian anti-colonial struggle reached a turning point in the 1950s. France's repressive measures against Constantine and Kabylia, against a backdrop of FLN attacks, were at the origin of the uprising of all a country. And even the divisions between the leaders of the “Algerian War” never affected the motivation of the combatants.

Between 1952 and 1957, the interference of Charles de Gaulle and Pierre Mendès France in the Algerian issue caused dissension within the FLN. The two French statesmen, respectively supporters of two ambiguous colonial regimes, more political or more military, could not, however, change anything in the Algerians' desire for independence. The French army then engaged in a total war against the FLN and the fellagas. And the prison sentences then turned into political assassinations, torture and other crimes.

French strategy in Algeria, the origin of chaos

The war of independence in Algeria also generated a lot of resentment. That the leaders could not curb. For the French, the Evian Accords in 1962 were supposed to ensure a peaceful withdrawal of the settlers. But the latest actions of Charles de Gaulle, who had given up his project for French Algeria, took too long to come to fruition. And instead of leaving Algeria to the Algerians, when the opportunity presented itself in 1960, France attempted to “divide and conquer,” thinking it could stop the momentum for independence.

This approach divided the Algerians, and the resentment due to the Constantine massacre and the hijacking of the FLN plane crystallized during the battle of Algiers. For months, the FLN and the French death squads (the Red Hand) waged an urban war that caused too many deaths.

On the one hand, no doubt remained about the growth of French colonization since 1956. Especially since the independence of Morocco and Tunisia. On the other hand, pitting Algerians against Algerians was France's exit strategy. Consequently, a large majority of analysts consider that the events of 1962, especially the massacre of the Harkis and the confrontation of the leaders of the revolution, are due more to the subversive activity of French intelligence (blueite) than to a simple settlement. of accounts.

Costly independence

The terrorism of the Secret Armed Organization (OAS) in 1961 and 1962 targeted all Algerians favorable to independence. The OAS murdered hundreds of Algerian intellectuals and committed waves of large-scale attacks against Muslims. A large number of pied-noirs had supported the OAS. And the amalgamation between the latter, the Harkis and the settlers destroyed all hope of a peaceful outcome of the war of independence.

This context was made worse by the constraints of the Evian agreements, which wanted to impose the continuity of the French presence. And after the declaration of independence, war was never so violent. Thousands of Algerians died under French bombings, and thousands of Harkis were executed by FLN elements. In total, French colonization caused a million and a half deaths, between civilians, FLN resistance fighters and fellagas. The number of dead French people fluctuates between 100,000 and 370,000, according to studies. The debate over the number of victims is still a hot topic.

However, and despite the uncertainty over the figures, the results have been bloody. This pushed the Algerian elites to continue the spiral of violence since the end of colonization. And this is also the reason why relations between Algeria and France have remained insoluble. Since then, the armed war has given way to a war of memory, fueling certain hostility between the two countries. If, on the Algerian side, the war of independence is a unifying factor, on the French side, a “policy of forgetting”, in the words of Guy Pervillé, has been put in place. The geopolitical ramifications of French crimes in Algeria continue today. And in the absence of a real desire for reconciliation, they will most likely govern future relations between France and Algeria, over several generations.