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Algeria demands France return historical items from colonial era 

May 28, 2024 at 10:15 am

Military parade as the Algeria celebrated 60 years of independence from France in the capital Algeria on 05 July 2022 [Hamza Zait/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

Algeria submitted a list of items held by France since the colonial era in order to restore them as part of the joint memory committee to look into that historical period, according to a statement issued by the committee yesterday.

In a statement, Algiers said: “The Algerian Committee presented an open list of historical Algerian possessions with symbolic significance, preserved in various French institutions, and proposed for retrieval and delivery in a symbolic capacity to Algeria.”

“The Algerian committee called on its French counterpart to raise its concerns about the recovery of cultural and archival property and others on the attached list to French President Emmanuel Macron.”

The French committee “unanimously” approved this request “and committed to submitting it to the French President, in order for these properties to be returned to their country of origin as soon as possible.”

Since its establishment in 2022, the committee has held five meetings, the most recent of which was held last week, with the participation of ten historians, five from each side, in order to “look together into that historical period” from the beginning of colonialism in 1830 until the end of the War of Independence in 1962.

At the Paris meeting in February, the joint committee agreed to recover all the property that symbolises state sovereignty belonging to Emir Abdelkader Ibn Muhyiddin (1808-1883), who is in the eyes of the Algerians the founder of the modern state and the hero of the resistance against French colonialism.

OPINION: The return of the martyr’s remains was a new victory for Algeria’s colonial resistance

In 2020, France returned the remains of 24 resistance fighters who were killed at the beginning of the French colonisation of Algeria, which lasted 132 years between 1830 and 1962. However, Algeria continued to demand the return of “skulls found in museums” for reburial.

At the end of March, the French National Assembly approved a resolution condemning the massacre of October 17, 1961 in Paris committed by the police against Algerian demonstrators, which Tebboune saw as a “positive step.”

Before the expected visit of the Algerian President to France, which has been postponed several times, pre-term presidential elections will be held on September 7, 2024, i.e., three months before its scheduled date, but Tebboune has not yet announced his candidacy for a second term.

In December, Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf considered the terms of the visit unsuitable and then mentioned five issues that must be resolved in advance, including memory, mobility, economic cooperation, and addressing the repercussions of French nuclear tests in the Algerian Sahara during colonial times.

The next meeting will be in France at the beginning of July, according to the statement.