Algerians today marked the 70th anniversary of the Setif and Guelma massacres.
Marking the occasion, Minister of War Veterans Tayeb Zitouni said: “The events of 8 May 1945 showed the world the maturity of the Algerian people and their commitment to peace.” Zitouni urged Algerians commemorating the anniversary to remember their “glorious revolution and [the] country’s history riddled with sacrifices”.
On 8 May 1945, celebrations were held across Europe marking the end of World War II. Many Algerians at the time had fought against Hitler alongside France in the hopes their services would be rewarded with Algeria’s independence after the war. Thousands of Algerian’s in Setif marched peacefully, with Algerian flags and political placards paraded by Algerian nationalist parties. French army troops subsequently responded by firing on the crowds and killing hundreds of people. The killings in Setif were followed by intense bombing by French aircrafts in Setif, neighbouring Guelma and nearby villages with thousands of people detained and executed without questioning.
By 22 May, approximately 45,000 Algerians had been massacred according to Algerian sources. Colonial sources at the time placed the figure at 1,165.
Last month, French Veterans Minister Jean-Marc Todeschini visited the scene of the colonial-era massacre in Setif stating: “For the first time words will be matched by a gesture, the concrete expression of France’s homage to the victims and the recognition of the suffering inflicted.” He appealed to Algerians to “see what brings us together, what we share and what can help us go forward.”
Many Algerians are still waiting for France to officially recognise or apologise for its acts of genocide during its colonial rule.
“We’re not talking about repentance but of an official apology,” said Salim Bouguessa, whose father was one of the march organisers. He criticised the French minister for not attending the official commemoration.