French President Francois Hollande acknowledged the brutality and injustice of the country’s colonial rule over Algeria as he declared a “new era” in relations between the two nations. The new era hopes to bring an increase in bilateral trade and cooperation.
"For 132 years, Algeria was subjected to a brutal and unfair system: colonisation. I acknowledge the suffering it caused," Hollande told the Algerian parliament Thursday.
Although the French leader expressed a desire to move past the countries’ painful past, he refused to issue a wholesale apology for France’s colonial history.
“I have not come here... to offer repentance or apologies. I have come to say what is true,” he said. "We respect the act of memory, of all the memories. There is a duty of truth on the violence, the injustices, the massacres and the torture.”
The “massacres and torture” Hollande referenced hark back to Algeria’s war of independence from France where an estimated one million Algerians died at the hands of French forces.
However, despite the bad blood, France has remained a popular destination for immigrants from Algeria. France boasts a considerably large population of Algerians and nearly 200,000 Algerians receive visas to France every year.
Reports say Hollande’s acknowledgment was well received by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who noted that he sought a "strategic partnership between equals” and later signed a declaration of friendship and co-operation with Hollande.
The trip to Algeria was part of a diplomatic effort to warm relations between the two countries after a decidedly cold reception from the previous French administration. However, some have their doubts about France’s true intentions.
“What are the real drives behind it?” former veterans minister Brahim Chibout asked the Ech Chourouk El Youmi newspaper. Chibout suggested France was only courting Algeria to further its own economic goals.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)