Tensions between Algeria and France continue after Macron’s statements

Following French President Emmanuel Macron's accusatory statements against Algeria, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said that it is essential for France to "fully respect" Algeria's sovereignty and institutions.

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s accusatory statements against Algeria in the Le Monde newspaper on October 2 had escalated the tension between the two countries.

Stating that “a military-political system prevails in Algeria and the official history of the country has been completely rewritten, not based on facts but built on hostility towards France,” Macron also stated, “The construction of Algeria as a nation is a phenomenon to be watched. Was there an Algerian nation first? That is the question. There were colonies in Algeria before. I was fascinated by the fact that Turkey was able to completely forget the role it played in Algeria and the domination is established, and it is great to explain that we are the only colonizers. Algerians believe that.”

Thereupon, in a written statement from the Algerian Presidency, Macron’s statements were described and condemned as “an unacceptable insult to the memory of more than five million martyrs who resisted French colonialism.”

Furthermore, it was reported that Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune immediately recalled Mohammed Anter Daoud, the ambassador of his country to Paris, for consultations. It was also announced that Algeria closed its airspace to French military aircraft.

Later, in a TV interview on October 9, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said that for his country’s ambassador to Paris to return to his post, it was essential for France to “fully respect” Algeria’s sovereignty and institutions.

Tebboune expressed, “The French side should forget that Algeria was once a colony. Algeria is strong only with its army that obeys Allah and its proud people.”

Describing the crimes that France committed in Algeria during the colonial period of 1830-1962, the President of Algeria said, “France has exploited us for 132 years, and during this time, brutal crimes have been committed that cannot be erased with a few nice words. Some tribes and families were completely killed including children.”

Tebboune also recalled the event where thousands of people gathered to oppose the conversion of the mosque into a church, who were later killed by the French colonial administration at the Ketchaoua Mosque, located in the center of the capital Algeria. He stated “Ask people what they did at the Ketchaoua Mosque. They surrounded the 4,000 people there and killed them with artillery.”

On the other hand, the Algerian parliament is preparing to bring a “law bill that criminalizes the French colonial period” to the agenda after French President Macron’s controversial statements regarding his country’s colonial history in Algeria. If the bill to be discussed in the parliament is to be passed, it will require the approval of the President.

There are also reactions to France in the Algerian business world. In Algeria, it was announced that the local group of companies started an attempt to cut off trade relations with 500 French companies based on imports and exports. The group includes about 2,000 companies in the construction, irrigation, and general commercial areas. In addition, the Algerian Ministry of Transport announced that the contract of the French company RATP Paris, which has been involved in the metro operation since 2011, had been terminated.

The tension between the two countries started when France imposed visa restrictions on Algerian, Tunisian, and Moroccan citizens, and escalated with Macron’s statement. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin stated that these countries resorted to this way to ensure that those deported by France were readmitted.

Thereupon, Algeria reacted to the decision by calling the French Ambassador to Algeria, François Gouyette, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the grounds that it imposed visa restrictions on its citizens.

Relations also experienced other tensions in 2021. Previously, in April 2021, French Prime Minister Jean Castex canceled his planned visit to Algeria, citing that “meetings would not be productive” due to COVID-19.

The reluctance of Paris to confront its colonial history disturbed Algeria and harsh statements were made.

Algerian Chief of Staff, General Said Chengriha, had called on France to hand over maps of the nuclear test sites carried out in his country’s desert in the 1960s to be cleared of radiation.

Likewise, Algeria’s former Minister of Labor and Social Affairs used the phrase “our eternal and traditional enemy” for France in the session he attended in the parliament.

Musab Yilmaz

Musab Yılmaz is a Researcher in North African Studies. He graduated from Galatasaray University, with a degree in Political Science. He is currently an MA student at Ibn Haldun University, in the Department of Political Science and International Relations. He conducts research on Northern and Sub-Saharan African countries, especially in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.

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