Macron apologised to the Rwandan state and people for the crimes of his country and its silence over the massacres, so why does he not apologise to Algeria and all of the Arab and Islamic countries against crimes that were committed, which are war crimes much more severe than those committed in Rwanda? The French president had expressed his hope that diplomatic tension with Algeria would calm down and that the two parties would return to dialogue.
"My wish is for a calming down because I think it's better to talk and to make progress," said Macron. He expressed his confidence in his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and stressed that relations with him were "truly cordial", at a time when the two countries are going through a diplomatic crisis.
In his interview with France Inter, Macron said he has great respect for the Algerian people and attributed the current tensions to the efforts made in France regarding the memory of the Algerian war.
Macron provoked Algeria's wrath and indignation after his comments were reported by Le Monde newspaper, in which he said that, after its independence in 1962, Algeria's "politico-military system had rewritten the history of its colonisation by France based on a hatred of France".
Algeria has recalled its ambassador to France in protest of the statements, which it described as "unacceptable". The Algerian authorities then closed their airspace to French military aircraft, according to the French army. On its part, the National Organisation of Mujahideen, which brings together veterans of the war to liberate Algeria, in a statement on Monday, called for a review of Algerian-French relations after Macron's statements, according to AFP. The organisation will likely call on France to "apologise" for the "crimes" it committed during its colonisation of Algeria over a period of 132 years (1930-1962) which, according to the Algerian presidency, claimed the lives of more than five million Algerians.
Many justified Macron's statements as being due to the approaching French elections, in which he and his party's chances of winning are declining, while others believed they were due to the state of racial hostility towards Arabs and Muslims, especially the Arab Maghreb Union countries. This is greatly evidenced by his recognition of the Algerian Harkis (about 300,000 of them) who fought in the ranks of the French army against the Algerian revolution. Most of them left with the French colonialist after its humiliating defeat at the hands of the Mujahideen, and his warm reception of a delegation representing them at the Elysee Palace.
This retraction by the French president would not have been possible without the strong official and popular Algerian reaction to this atrocity. The Algerian authorities took the initiative to withdraw their ambassador from Paris immediately and closed their airspace in the face of French warplanes heading to the African coast. It also threatened to take more painful steps.
Macron, most European leaders and the US still view Arabs and Muslims as backwards and inferior. They believe that the Arab nations are still subject to colonial domination, but forgot that Algeria, which sacrificed more than five million Algerians in the war to liberate its land, can never surrender or accept humiliation for its people and the Arab nation. Dignity, self-esteem and respect for religious beliefs are the main elements of the collective identity and memory in the Arab and Islamic worlds, and it is unfortunate that Macron, who wants to rewrite history, does not know these basic Algerian Arab principles, which he would not understand even if he knew them.
Even the French historian, Benjamin Stora, who was commissioned by Macron to write the history of the period of the French occupation of Algeria, challenged his president, and admitted that the Algerian nation existed before the French occupation, and that France had consuls in Algiers before this occupation.
This crisis must be overcome only by President Macron offering a clear, explicit apology to the Algerian people, not only for these recent statements and comments, but also for the period of French colonialism and the crimes committed over the 132-year period. He must also offer compensation to the families of the martyrs, which is what the National Organisation of Mujahideen demands.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 11 October 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.