Bouteflika’s tenure of Algeria marked by the recognition of French presidents of the colonial past

During the 20 years in office of former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the relationship between Algeria and its former colonial master, France, experienced several ups and downs. While French presidents since Nicolas Sarkozy have taken steps to acknowledge France’s damaging actions, Algeria has yet to receive an official apology from the Elysee Palace.

Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who died at 84 on Friday, never shied away from reminding France of its colonial past throughout his political career. On the eve of his election in 1999, when Paris expressed concern that many parties were boycotting the vote, this was his response:

“France followed some very bad policies in Algeria because when France came here they saw a vast empty space, an open playing field that they went on to use and abuse,” he said.

Once elected, Bouteflika repeatedly asked France to admit to his colonial misdeeds, but pressed for cooperation between the two countries.

But in 2003, a bilateral friendship treaty was unsigned when then-French President Jacques Chirac did not openly discuss France’s colonial past. It was not until 2007 that a French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, publicly denounced colonialism.

“The colonial system was deeply unjust and was contrary to the three founding principles of the French Republic: liberty, equality and fraternity,” Sarkozy said.

Like his predecessor, François Hollande refused to apologize, but acknowledged the brutality of France’s actions in Algeria.

While campaigning for president in 2017, Emmanuel Macron made a comment that received praise from many Algerians, but shocked the community of French who once lived in Algeria.

“It’s a crime. It is a crime against humanity, a barbarism, and it is part of a past that we must face apologizing to those against whom we carry out these acts, “he said.

In January this year, French historian Benjamin Stora issued a detailed report, commissioned by Macron, recommending more than 20 “practical” acts of recognition, but without apologizing for France’s actions.

The Algerian government welcomed the gesture as a positive step, but is still awaiting an official apology from France.

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