Listen Download Podcast
  • RFI English News flash 04h00 - 04h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 04h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 04h10 - 04h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 04h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 05h00 - 05h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 05h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 05h10 - 05h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 05h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h00 - 06h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 06h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h10 - 06h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 06h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h30 - 06h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 06h30 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h33 - 06h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 06h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h00 - 07h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 07h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h30 - 07h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 07h30 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 12/04 14h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h06 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/07 14h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 14h03 - 14h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 12/04 14h03 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h06 - 14h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/07 14h06 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h30 - 14h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/07 14h30 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h33 - 14h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/07 14h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 12/04 16h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h06 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 12/07 16h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h03 - 16h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 12/04 16h03 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h30 - 16h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/07 16h30 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h33 - 17h00 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 12/04 16h33 GMT
To take full advantage of multimedia content, you must have the Flash plugin installed in your browser. To connect, you need to enable cookies in your browser settings. For an optimal navigation, the RFI site is compatible with the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 10 and +, Safari 3+, Chrome 17 and + etc.
Africa

Hollande under pressure over France's colonial past on Algeria visit

media French Interior Minister Manuel Valls meets Algerian President Abdelaziz … Reuters/Louafi Larbi

French President François Hollande started a two-day trip to Algeria on Wednesday. He hopes to sign business deals, including the construction of a Renault factory at Oran, but the shadow of 132 years of colonisation hangs over the visit.

Hollande is accompanied by a massive 200-strong delegation that includes nine ministers, about 30 company bosses, about 100 journalists and Kad Merad, an Algerian-born actor who is extremely popular in France.

Like secrets? Find out about the Hidden Paris

He will meet President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and address the Algerian parliament and university students.

His predecessors Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy visited Algeria in 2003 and 2004 for the former and 2007 for the latter.

They were both well received but subsequent political action in France soured relations.

They both related to the colonial past:

  • In 2005 members of the then-ruling UMP tried to oblige French school textbooks to recognise the “positive role” of colonisation;
  • In 2007 Sarkozy went on to court the harkis, Algerians who collaborated with the French occupiers who are regarded as traitors by Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN).

The French president has so far enjoyed a good press in Algeria for two main reasons:

But, inevitably, this visit must tackle more ambitious tasks:

  • “Seven or eight” accords, relating to defence, industry, agriculture, culture, education and training are to be signed, according to Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, notably a partnership carmaker Renault to build a factory near Oran capable of turning out 25,000-75,000 cars a year;
  • Gain Algiers’s unqualified support for an internationally backed west African intervention in northern Mali, where Al Qaida-linked Islamists have taken control;
  • Encourage educational exchanges in a speech to students at the University of Tlemcen;
  • Convince the Algerians that “recognition” that France’s 1830-1962 colonial rule of Algeria, which finished with a bloody independence war, was “tragic” is sufficient and that an apology is not necessary, while offending the smallest number of French voters.

While the French and Algerian governments, not to mention the entrepreneurs, clearly want to get on with business, the past is still an obstacle to the “exceptional partnership”  Algiers says it favours.

The FLN, which has ruled Algeria since independence, is often accused of corruption and nepotism and derives what little authority it still has from its historic role at the head of the independence struggle.

So it must demand a degree of contrition for the massacres, torture and repression – not to mention the occupation - that accompanied colonisation and, when political times get tough, is ready to work up a head of post-colonial indignation to try to restore its credentials.

The president of Hollande’s Socialist Party, Elisabeth Guigou, on Wednesday indicated that there will be no apology but there will be “recognition … of a history that was tragic”.
Before Hollande’s visit had even started, Algeria’s Islamist opposition had already decided that whatever he would say would not be enough and announced that they would boycott his speech to parliament.

They want “repentance” and “compensation for the victims of colonisation” and issued a statement condemning the presence of some harkis and pieds noirs (French citizens who left Algeria at independence) on the French delegation.

In France the UMP, now in opposition, will inevitably criticise whatever Hollande chooses to say.

“The happy medium is first of all to stop seeing the relationship between France and Algeria through the prism of the past,” the right-wing party’s president, Jean-François Copé, declared on Wednesday.

He went on to criticise Hollande’s statement on the 1961 killings for being too short and distributed by fax, “and all that just to explain that this was a contribution to the success of his trip to Algeria”.

Copé, whose mother was born in Algeria, knows that any concession to the Algerian point of view will anger a number of the pieds noirs now living in France, as well as many of the Algerian Jews who fled after independence, not to mention right-wing French nationalists who have not yet come to terms with the end of empire.

Related
 
Sorry but the period of time connection to the operation is exceeded.