French President Emmanuel Macron is “ready” to restore the skulls of Algerian resistance fighters killed in the 1850s by the French army that have been displayed at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.
“I hope we will revive the relationship with the memorial work between our two countries, that the return of the skulls is decided, I will decide, I am ready,” Macron told news agency Tout Sur l’Algerie.
Macron further added that he was ready to give Algeria a copy of the archives of the French colonial period (1830-1962) which Algiers has demanded for years. Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia hailed the decision as a “breakthrough”.
The day after the visit of the French president to Algeria, Ouyahia was received in Matignon, France, by his counterpart Édouard Philippe as part of a “high level intergovernmental committee”.
“On the issue of archives, we have also made a good breakthrough, since Emmanuel Macron announced yesterday…the availability of our partner to give us a duplication of all archives, which will allow [us] to manage several affairs of life in Algeria,” Ouyahia added.
The two countries will “continue to discuss” the gradual “restitution” of these archives and will not use it to “lock up Algerian-French relations in the past but to lighten the common approach to the future, give more spirit, taking care of some problems that we have”.
Philippe, for his part, expressed his desire to develop bilateral relationship “by looking at our past right in the eyes, in its shadows, in its elements of light too”.
During the celebration of the 55th anniversary of the country’s independence, the Minister of Mujahideen, Tayeb Zitouni, encouraged France to spend “words of action” on the settlement of cases that “are part of the litigation with Algeria”.
Algerian authorities had hoped, with the arrival of Emmanuel Macron at the head of the French state, that the issue of the return of skulls would be settled quickly especially after Macron’s statements during his election campaign in Algeria in February describing France’s colonialism as “crimes against humanity”.
In 2016, a number of researchers and academics launched an online petition which collected around 3,000 signatures demanding that the skulls of the martyrs be repatriated to Algeria to offer them a burial.
Macron also reaped praise on Algeria, describing it France’s first business partner in Africa and reiterated that the youth of the county remain a priority. He added that the fight against terrorism in the Sahel and Sahara was an ongoing operation and that Libyan intervention was a mistake. France and Algeria, he said, need to work together to stabilise Libya.