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Algeria's leader demands justice over French colonial-era wrongdoing

Algeria's leader demands justice over French colonial-era wrongdoing
Archive photo of 27 May 1956: French troops cordon off the famous Kasbah of Algiers, a lively 400-year-old Arab quarter.   -  
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France commemorated victory over the Nazis, while Algeria remembered a darker event from its past. Both events occurred on May 8, 1945.

French President Emmanuel Macron laid a wreath at the Arc de Triomphe to honour those who fought in World War II.

Algeria, then a French colony, suffered a crackdown on its independence activists. This marked the start of independence movements across former colonial empires.

In Algiers on Wednesday, ceremonies were being held to honour demonstrators who took to the streets in the towns of Guelma, Sétif and Kherrata to call for freedom from French rule.

"On this day we are remembering the massacres of May 8, 1945, committed by the colonizer with extreme brutality and cruelty, to repress a growing national activist movement that had resulted in massive demonstrations ...,'' Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said in a statement.

Tensions between Algeria and France

They were unusually strong remarks from the Algerian leader, and a reminder of the lingering tensions with France more than 60 years after Algeria won its independence in a painful 1954-1962 war.

Algeria and France today have close economic, security and energy ties, but the question of historical justice remains a sore spot.

Tebboune is expected to raise it on a trip to France later this year. The issue of historical memory ''will remain at the centre of our concerns until it enjoys an objective treatment that pays justice to historical truth,'' Tebboune said in his statement this week.

Efforts for reconciliation

During a visit to Algeria in 2022, Macron struck a chummy rapport with Tebboune and agreed to create a commission of historians from both countries to make proposals for reconciliation. The commission released proposals this year, including returning documents and artefacts from French archives to Algeria.

Algerian politicians have also sought financial reparations over French nuclear tests in the Sahara — and, most importantly, an official apology from France for colonial-era crimes.

Macron's Domestic Challenges

As France's first leader born after that era, Macron has sought to confront his country's past wrongdoing while pivoting to a new era of relations with former colonies. 

However, he has faced criticism at home, amid growing public support for far-right nationalists who champion the grievances of some French descendants of colonizers.

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