Macron to honour Algerian loyalists

Macron to honour Algerian loyalists

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced honours for Algerians who fought for France during the bloody war of independence as he attempts to address the legacy of the divisive conflict.
Macron is to grant national awards to more than 20 troops and those who battled for recognition of the Algerians who fought for France during the eight-year liberation struggle.
Around 150,000 Algerians were recruited by the French armed forces as auxiliaries.
After independence in March 1962, around 60,000 French allies, known as “harkis”, were allowed to move to France where they suffered discrimination and poverty.
Between 55,000 and 75,000 were abandoned in Algeria, where many were massacred amid accusations of treachery.
The Legion d’Honneur, France’s most prestigious honour, would be given to six former fighters and the co-founder of an organisation that has fought for recognition.
Another 19 harkis are to be granted an Order of Merit to coincide with National Harki Day on September 25.
Boaza Gasmi, president of the National Harki Liaison Committee (CNLH), said he was “obviously happy with the national honours”.
But he expressed his desire for real recognition in French life and society and said Macron’s initiative was decades too late. “The harkis are nearing the end of their lives. Today, the youngest is 80 years old,” Gasmi told the media. “Our fight is for real recognition and real reparations. It’s not awards that will relieve the harkis’ suffering.
“Three or four generations of harkis should have been integrated into French social life. They could have made something of their lives.”
The harkis’ descendants, who number hundreds of thousands, remain a divisive legacy of colonial history.
When they arrived in southern France, most harkis were set up in camps and isolated urban housing developments with no proper opportunity to integrate into French society.
Domestically, the war sparked fears of a coup in France led by mutinous generals reluctant to relinquish the colony, where around 400,000 people were killed, although other estimates put the number far higher.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy admitted in 2012 France “should have protected the harkis from history, it did not do so”.
Macron went further on the campaign trail last year, declaring the colonisation of Algeria a “crime against humanity”, leading to harki protests.
A working group set up under Macron’s instruction called in July for the creation of a €40-million fund for reparations for harkis and their families. The CNLH and other similar groups had asked for larger sums.

 

A bomb explosion in Algiers in 1962. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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