One of France's presidential hopefuls has called colonisation a "crime against humanity" and "real barbarism" during a visit to Algeria this week. "Colonisation is part of French history," Emmanuel Macron told Algerian news channel Echorouk. "It's part of the past that we have to take the responsibility for by apologising to those [against] whom we have committed these acts."
Macron's comments have been met with fury in France, with several Republican political leaders and the National Front strongly criticising his position. During a meeting in Compiègne yesterday, François Fillon said of the remarks: "They are unworthy of a candidate for the presidency of the Republic. Some time ago, Mr Macron found positive aspects to colonisation. This means that Emmanuel Macron has no spine. He simply says what those who listen to him want to hear."
In his TV interview, Macron explained that he thinks that it is inadmissible to glorify colonisation. "Some wanted to do that in France ten years ago. You will never hear me say that. I have always condemned colonisation as an act of barbarism. Colonisation is part of French history."
This is not the first time that Macron has been forthright with his comments. He gave an interview in November last year with the French weekly Le Point, in which the former minister of the economy said that during the colonisation of Algeria, "There was torture, but also the emergence of a state, wealth, middle classes. There were elements of civilisation and elements of barbarism."
However, according to Macron, the comment was taken out of context. "I was not talking about Algeria alone. One must not read my remarks as elements that deny the fact of colonisation and its barbarism. If some read it as such, I apologise to them."
Former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin also criticised Macron. "Oppose the French," he said, "bring out these stories to divide, remobilise; I see the electoral concerns behind all that. It is not worthy of a head of state to go and agitate scars that are still very painful."
According to far-right Marine Le Pen's campaign director, Macron is not content with wanting to dissolve France in the "great globalist bath," but he also denigrates the state overseas. "And he aspires to be president?" asked David Rachline, whose colleague, Wallerand de Saint-Just, accused Macron of "shooting France in the back."