SMA NEWS – PARIS
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday asked “forgiveness” on behalf of his country for abandoning Algerians who fought alongside France in their country’s war of independence.
More than 200,000 Algerians fought with the French army in the war that pitted Algerian independence fighters against their French colonial masters from 1954 to 1962.
At the end of the war — waged on both sides with extreme brutality, including widespread torture — the French government left the loyalist fighters known as Harkis to fend for themselves, despite earlier promises that it would look after them.
Trapped in Algeria, many were massacred as the country’s new masters took brutal revenge.
Thousands of others who escaped to France were interned in camps, often with their families, in degrading and traumatising conditions.
“I want to express our gratitude to the fighters,” Macron said at a ceremony at the Elysee Palace attended by around 300 people, mostly surviving Harkis and their families.
“I’m asking for forgiveness. We will not forget,” Macron said, adding that France had “failed in its duty toward the Harkis, their wives, their children.”
The centrist president, who has been tackling some of the darker chapters of France’s colonial past, said the government would draft a law on the recognition of the state’s responsibility toward Harkis and the need for “reparation.”
His speech was interrupted several times by hecklers, with one woman in the audience accusing Macron of “making empty promises.”
Previous French presidents had already begun owning up to the betrayal of the Algerian Muslim fighters.
Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande in 2016 accepted “the responsibilities of French governments in the abandonment of the Harkis.”
The meeting came days before national Harki day, which has been observed since 2003 — especially in southern France where many of the surviving fighters settled after the war.