Is France ready to draw a line on its colonial past?
This is a debate that is raging in contemporary political circles, with on the one hand a left-wing upset about this shameful period of French history, and on the other hand, a right-wing that says “It was the French who built them roads.”
However, the French government has shown an increasingly repentant attitude towards its former colonialism. Especially concerning the Algeria War, which remains the supreme example of French horror to this day.
On January 26, Macron said, for example, that the French action in Algeria “was an unforgivable fault.”
Are the French people ready to come clean, too, and apologize for the terrible massacre that their countrymen and ancestors committed?
Let’s remember that in the new generations, almost everyone has a grandfather who fought in Algeria. Let’s also remember that the president in charge during the war was General de Gaulle, a figure who is highly praised to this day in France and a figure who each new presidential candidate claims for himself. From Pécresse to Zemmour, each one bickers to establish who is most similar to this wartime torturer.
So the question seems legit, when will repentance begin for the French people?
In the city of Amboise, a statue in the image of Emir Abdelkader was to be inaugurated on February 6, 2022. This ceremony served as a gesture – oh so symbolic – of peace between France and Algeria. After all, Emir Abdelkader was an Algerian resistance fighter who had fought against France. What better gesture of peace could the country offer than to pay tribute to its former enemy on its own soil?
Taking this further, this symbol could even be seen as an acceptance of an Islamic France, that is, of a Nation with a plural identity that accepts that someone can be Muslim AND French!
Imagine the status of an Arab, wearing his burnous and with a beard as long as a hands length, proudly erected by the public authorities in a small French country town.
Following a recommendation of the report of historian Benjamin Stora, a stele in honor of Emir Abdelkader, hero of the struggle against the French conquest of Algeria, was inaugurated Saturday, near the castle of Amboise.
Were French citizens ready for this kind of turn of events?
Obviously, not all. The day before the ceremony, the statue of this great hero was vandalized. Despite the government’s wishes, it is a bit early for genuine repentance in France.
“Indignation”, “shame”, “cowardice”. A sculpture in honor of Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883) was vandalized before its inauguration on Saturday, February 5, in Amboise (Indre-et-Loire), prompting widespread condemnation, a journalist from Le Monde observed on the spot. In this commune of Indre-et-Loire, the Algerian national hero had been detained with several members of his family from 1848 to 1852.
The work entitled Passage Abdelkader, which represents the Emir Abdelkader cut into a sheet of rusted steel, was damaged mainly at the bottom of the structure.
Should We Buy that France Regrets Colonization?
Every year, France still receives money from its former colonies.
All the territories that France “liberated” through negotiation rather than armed conflict are still paying the price of their freedom today.
These are generally legal contracts, signed in the past in a consensual manner, but if France’s feeling of regret about its colonial history is sincere, why not abrogate these contracts that impoverish the former colonies and block their development?
One should also keep in mind the foreign policy of France, which has not turned the page on the thirst for conquest and interventionism.
To this day, the French neo-colonists do not commemorate the suffering in Mali, nor do they deescalate. Still, let’s not be pessimistic. This new editorial line of the French government still leaves room for hope concerning the future. Perhaps in 60 years, Macron’s distant successor will do his Mea Culpa on millions of massacred Malians.