French president refuses to apologise for colonial Algerian past

The trauma of the 1954-1962 Algerian war, in which hundreds of thousands were killed before France's departure, left deep scars in both countries which still hold back a partnership France believes could help revive the Mediterranean basin.

Speaking on his first state visit since his election in May, France’s President Hollande on Wednesday said the two had agreed on a friendship declaration and a five-year strategic pact covering economic, cultural, agricultural and defence ties.

"I want to define with Algeria a strategic partnership on an equal-to-equal basis," he told a news conference after meeting Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

"I am not here to repent or apologise, I am here to tell the truth."

While France wants to heal the wounds left by the war, 58-year-old Hollande, who spent eight months working at the French embassy in Algeria in 1978, has limited room for manoeuvre.

Strengthen trade ties
A formal apology for its colonial past is a sensitive issue. Many French citizens who lived there before independence and who fought in the French army against Algerian insurgents oppose the idea, as do former loyalist Muslim volunteers known as "harkis".

With its own economy on the brink of recession, France hopes the diplomatic drive will strengthen trade ties. It is also intent on improving security cooperation with Algiers as it pushes for intervention against Islamists who have seized control of northern Mali.

Algeria has 12-billion barrels of oil reserves and is the world's largest French-speaking nation in terms of its surface area. Yet annual trade with France is just 10-billion euros and as Algiers diversifies its economy, China, Spain and Italy have eroded France's market share.

Hollande, who brought with him senior executives from some of France's top firms, said Renault had agreed to build a factory to produce some 75 000 cars a year.

"The past should not prevent us from preparing the future," he said. – Reuters


Keep the powerful accountable

Subscribe for R30/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

International whistleblower awards honour four South Africans

Babita Deokaran, Thabiso Zulu, Francois van der Westhuizen and Pieter Snyders received international recognition at awards hosted by the Blueprint for Free Speech

July unrest proves sparks of social unrest pose a risk...

Third quarter GDP numbers have interrupted a four quarter economic growth streak because of the July unrest.

Zimbabweans living in South Africa might not be able to...

According to the government’s latest Covid-19 guidelines, anyone coming into Zimbabwe must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days — at their own expense

Fraud case just one example of governance failings at Basketball...

The sport body’s former national administrator allegedly stole money by substituting his own bank account details for a service provider’s

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…