Tensions between France and Algeria have continued to rise following remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron on the North African country’s colonial past.
On Thursday, Macron met with the descendants of Algerians at the Elysee Palace who fought on France’s side during Algeria’s war of independence, the French daily Le Monde reported.
“The building of Algeria as a nation is a phenomenon worth watching. Was there an Algerian nation before French colonization? That is the question,” said Macron, according to the report.
“There were previous colonizations. I am fascinated to see Turkey’s ability to make people totally forget the role it played in Algeria and the domination it has exercised, and to explain that we are the only colonizers. It’s great. Algerians believe it,” he reportedly added.
Macron reportedly argued that the “official history of Algeria has been rewritten, not based on truths, but based on hatred against France.”
He said that after it gained independence from France in 1962, Algeria was built on “a memorial rent” maintained by “the politico-military system,” adding the whole problem is presented as France.
Macron said he would like to produce Arabic and Berber publications to counter the "disinformation" and "propaganda" in the Maghreb that is "carried out by the Turks and completely rewrites history.”
The Algerian Presidency issued a statement Saturday broadcast on state television condemning the French president’s remarks. “Macron’s remarks are an unacceptable insult to the memory of over 5.63 million martyrs who sacrificed themselves with a valiant resistance against French colonialism [between 1830-1962],” it said.
It said the numerous colonial crimes committed by France are a genocide against the Algerian people and noted that the statements attributed to Macron were not officially denied.
It said Algeria rejects interference in its internal affairs and the Algerian Ambassador to France, Mohamed Antar-Daoud, has been recalled for consultations.
Tensions between the two countries have been growing since France decided to cut the number of visas issued to Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans.
Paris announced Tuesday that it will reduce the number of visas available to people from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, accusing the governments of the North African countries of refusing to take back irregular migrants expelled from France.
According to French media, orders were issued to deport 7,731 Algerians between January and July this year but Algerian authorities provided consular documents required for the repatriation for just 31 people.
Algeria then summoned the French Ambassador to Algeria, Francois Gouyette, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Chakib Kaid, the Foreign Ministry’s secretary general, conveyed Algeria’s grievances to the French envoy, according to a ministry statement.
He said the French government’s “unilateral decision…was issued without coordination with the Algerian side,” which raises questions about “its motives” and implementation.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex was scheduled to visit Algeria on April 11 for a high-level Franco-Algerian intergovernmental committee meeting, but it was cancelled by the French side due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following day, France insisted there were no tensions with Algeria after Castex abruptly called off the visit.
Shortly after, appearing on a news program, Clement Beaune, France’s secretary of state for European affairs, said: "There are sometimes use of excessive words in Franco-Algerian relations."
He was referring to a statement by Algeria’s Labor Minister El Hachemi Djaaboub, who declared France "our traditional and eternal enemy."
Algerian Army Chief of Staff General Said Chengriha earlier this year also called on France to hand over maps of nuclear test sites in his country's desert in the 1960s to be cleared of radiation.
French colonialism in Algeria
Algeria, which represents the most recent and bloodiest example of France's colonial history on the African continent, embarked on its struggle for independence in 1954.
While Algeria was acknowledged as one of the countries that paid the heaviest price for this cause, with its eight-year-long struggle for independence, the great pain experienced was written in history as a "black mark" left by France when it withdrew from Africa.
During the years of inhumane war in the country, approximately 1.5 million Algerians lost their lives and millions were displaced.
France has also committed a cultural genocide against Algeria since 1830.
France, which caused the destruction of Algeria's 300-year-old Ottoman history in addition to its own local identity, transformed many cultural and religious monuments in the country at its own discretion.
While Paris has not officially apologized to Algeria as a state for its colonial policies, Algeria’s Ministry of Mujahideen has said that four “files” regarding the colonial years and post-colonial period are still open between the two countries. France also refuses to return an Algerian archive that contains hundreds of documents and works.