For the Algerian historian, “the colonial question is evolving in France, as well as throughout the West”.
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Mohamed Harbi, aged 88, is the most famous Algerian historian. Framework of the FLN during the War of Independence – He was an expert in the first negotiations of Evian (May-June 1961) – He directed the weekly African Revolution under the chairmanship of Ahmed Ben Bella before switching into the opposition In the aftermath of Houari Boumediene’s coup in 1965. Imprisoned and placed in house arrest, he escaped in 1973 towards France where he started a university career. He recently published the origins of the FLN (Editions Bouchene, 2020).
The relationship between France and Algeria has a new crisis following the words of Emmanuel Macron on September 30th. Should we worry?
We are here in the uses of history and not in a debate. On the words of Macron wondering about the existence of an Algerian nation before French colonization, the reaction of Algerian opinion is not only subjective. It must be remembered that this thesis of the inexistence of an Algerian nation and therefore a national feeling has been forged at the time to make French colonization accept. It is also an argument that is widely developed in the file presented by France at the United Nations during the debates on Algeria before 1962. There is nothing new. It was the dam that had been built to deny the right of Algeria to its independence. That’s what visciserally react to Algerians.
On the other hand, the reference of Macron to the Algerian “politico-military system” is, rather admissible by the Algerian opinion …
Algerian military themselves know it. It’s been a long time since the role of the army in the system. Personally, I spoke publicly from 1980 in my work The FLN, Mirage and Reality [Young Africa Editions]. I characterized the political system as “an army that has a state”. So, it’s not new. In the debates between Algerians, one is clearly talking about a military system and a civilian government is expressly asked.
and the evocation by Macron of “Turkish colonization” that we tend to forget for the benefit of of “French colonization”?
At the beginning of the XVI e century, the Algerians – of the time – had turned to the Ottomans to protect himself from the empire of Charles Quint. The Ottoman Empire was perceived as a Muslim Empire, in any case led by Muslims. Ottomans organized the protection of entire communities by giving them management powers. They have imposed on them requirements, but who have been less restrictive than we think. They did not attack the possession of the earth, as the French did. In the Ottoman political system, tribes or administrations had total autonomy. This was able to hold three centuries with, certainly, puts at step from time to time. Let’s not forget that there was a French consul in Algiers.
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