Macron faces up to France's colonial past with â¬40m 'harkis' aid
France Macron faces up to France's colonial past with â¬40m 'harkis' aid
President to honour families of Algerians who sided with France in war of independence
Emmanuel Macron will offer honours and a financial support package to the families of Algerians who aided French troops in the war of independence, as part of a wider policy of confronting his countryâs colonial legacy in north Africa.
Earlier this month, the French president took the historic step of acknowledging for the first time that France carried out systematic torture during the 1954-62 conflict.
Macron â" the first French president born after the Algerian conflict â" has turned his attention to the Algerians known as âharkisâ, a loaded and often pejorative term for the Algerian Muslims who helped the French in the brutal eight-year independence war and faced discrimination and poverty in France.'My father was tortured and murdered in Algeria. At last France has admitted it' Read more
Macron is granting national honours to more than 20 former fighters and those who have campaigned for recognition for the harkis as well as a â¬40m (Â£36m) support package designed largely to help their descendants, who still face marginalisation and poverty.
After a peace accord grant ed Algerian independence in March 1962, about 60,000 Algerian loyalists were allowed into France. There, they were often kept in camps behind barbed wire and suffered discrimination, marginalisation and poverty that has lasted across generations. Tens of thousands more were left behind in Algeria and faced reprisals.
The fate of the harkis in France and their descendants, who number hundreds of thousands, remains a highly sensitive issue in Paris, acting as a reminder of its colonial history.
In recent years, films and novels have tackled the issue of discrimination against harkis. In a bestselling novel last year, The Art of Losing, the writer Alice Zeniter tackled the assumptions in France around the term âharkisâ and highlighted the haphazard and uncertain ways a person might pick a side in a conflict as brutal as Algeriaâs independence war. Some harkis had previously fought for France in the second world war.
Macron acknowledged that the French military instituted a âsystemâ that facilitated torture as it sought to cling on to its 130-year rule in the country. He said the past must be faced with âcourage and lucidityâ.
The French government is to present its package of financial support over four years for descendants of harkis. But concerns persist over whether the support will be sufficient and whether France should go further and offer a full official apology.
The Algerian conflict, which has been shrouded in secrecy and denials, is still seen as unresolved i n the French collective psyche. Macron is said to view it as a divisive factor that must be addressed.
Macron caused controversy during the presidential campaign last year by declaring that Franceâs colonisation of Algeria was a âcrime against humanityâ. He later backtracked on his comments, calling for âneither denial nor repentanceâ over Franceâs colonial history, adding: âWe cannot remain trapped in the past.âTopics
- Middle East and North Africa
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