Algerians Don’t Appreciate the Audacity


For decades, Algerians have proudly chanted the slogan “One, Two, Three – Viva l’Algerie!” in the face of adversity. Yet even this slogan, which has come to represent Algerian patriotism and resilience, recalls memories of the country’s brutal experience as a French colony. Algeria won its independence in 1962 after 132 years of brutal French colonization and the massacre of nearly 1.5 million Algerians,1 but the impact of French colonialism on Algerian culture, society, and politics is still felt today. French education dismantled the Algerian common nation, cultural identity, and homogenous society,2 and French is still spoken by a third of the population and taught in Algerian elementary schools.3 

After Algeria gained its independence in 1962, the country faced significant challenges in building a stable government and economy. The post-colonial government struggled to establish effective institutions and deal with the legacies of colonialism, such as poverty, illiteracy, and underdevelopment. In the absence of strong institutions and the rule of law, corruption became widespread, and elites used their power and connections to enrich themselves at the expense of the population. 

Following the 2019 resignation of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, social and political instability have ravaged the nation, with the revolutionary spirit at an all-time high as Algerians continue to protest their current corrupt government. Yet despite the nation’s valiant efforts to pick up the pieces of its broken democracy, France has simply stood by and watched. When presented with the perfect opportunity to begin to repair the tremendous damage it has wrought on Algeria, France has done nothing. 

Only once France takes full responsibility for their heinous colonization and offers amends to the Algerian people as well as French-colonized countries of Africa, should the Algerian government be open to relations and begin properly healing as a nation with the assistance of the French government. In the meantime, Algerians live with the memories of martyrs, mountains of skulls, and valleys of blood shed taken on the path towards its independence while the French President expresses little concern.

Les événements

The French conquest of Algeria, which began in 1830, was not merely a colonial venture, but rather an effort to extend French sovereignty over a territory that was subsequently considered an integral part of metropolitan France.4 The annexation of Algeria into French control was not limited to just political or economic influence, but also encompassed social and cultural integration with the French nation. This deep-rooted connection is emphasized through measures such as the implementation of French law and language, as well as the migration of French settlers to Algeria. The result was a colonial possession that was distinct from other French colonies, as it was viewed as a natural extension of French territory. French, Maltese, Italians, and other colonial powers all settled across Algeria, with a particular affinity for the sunny western region of Oran. It was a pleasant, comfortable way of living for many of these European settlers. However, the French characterized the groundwork for which they ruled Native Algerians through a long-standing tradition of “violence and mutual incomprehension.”5 Algerian nationalist parties, such as the Party of the Algerian People (Parti du Peuple Algérien), had existed for years prior to the revolution. It was only over time that they became increasingly more radical as they realized they wouldn’t be able to accomplish sovereignty by peaceful means. 

On October 31, 1954, Algeria’s war of independence began. The National Liberation Front (FLN) led it with the aim to restore freedom to the Algerian state and develop a social democracy once and for all. What followed was an exhausting journey towards autonomy, officially deemed as the Algerian War. Algerian nationalists fought primarily through guerilla warfare or diplomatic assistance abroad. After seven long years of battle and massacre, France and the leaders of the FLN signed a peace agreement7 to signal the end of the war. The most important fight for justice and restitution had begun. Algeria continues to fight the ghosts of its colonizers. 

The Ratonnade

There had been accounts of multiple instances in which the French exerted their authority through inhuman ways, both prior and throughout the war for Independence. Whether throughout the war or after its conclusion, the French have found endless ways to taunt Algerians and remind them of the struggles of their past. On October 17th, 1961, just as the war was approaching an end, nearly 30,000 Algerians took to the streets of France to protest against the prejudice curfew imposed onto Algerian Muslims. Authorities were determined to silence the protestors. Almost immediately after it began, police authorities began using brutal force, killing protesters and even dumping live bodies into the River Seine. Historians and officials have agreed that the death toll from that night reached well over 100.8 The French government has done little to apologize for the massacre. On its 60th anniversary, President Emmanuel Macron made an underwhelming attempt of recognition, saying the crimes done by the French police were “inexcusable.”9 Even more disturbing in this endeavor of “retribution” was the return of 24 Algerian skulls from the Musée de l’Homme in 2020. These skulls belonged to the freedom fighters of Algeria and their placement in a French museum serves as a reminder of the brutal colonial rule. In 2022, documents revealed that only six of those skulls belonged to resistance fighters,10 the remaining came from unknown origins. As expected, President Macron’s office declined to comment on the exchange. It appears the French government’s sadistic actions have now manifested as muddled political attempts at repatriation. 

Lazy Reparations

To witness the French government’s purportedly sincere and truly tolerant behavior as they attempt to restore relations with Algeria, one may observe the most recent statements made by President Macron. Just on January 12th, 2023, President Macron stated that he will not “ask for forgiveness” from Algeria for French colonization as “that word would break all of our ties.”11 The painful scars left from French imperialism have been disregarded over Macron’s career. Macron’s words have no impact unless action is being taken alongside them. 

The French government is in an era where it’s aiming to reshape its relationships with the African countries it has colonized. In the midst of doing so, they’ve made lazy, hollow commitments to repatriate colonial-era artworks and remains. While current Algerian President Abdelmadjij Tebboune has granted France access to Algeria’s resources, France has cut the number of visas to its country. According to Algerian Islamist politician, Sheikh Ali Belhadj has called Macron’s 2022 visits a “A Soft Colonization, A Robbery Of The Resources Of The Algerian People.”12 Algeria continues to suffer from the effects of colonization today. The lack of apology allows the French government to slowly creep back into the folds of Algerian politics and its rich resources. 

It is evident that France must take full responsibility for its heinous colonization and offer amends to Algeria and other French-colonized countries in Africa before any attempt at reconciliation can be made. President Macron’s recent statements regarding French colonization have been criticized as hollow, and Algeria continues to feel the lasting effects of its past.


[1]“The Algerian War of Independence.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Accessed February 10, 2023. 

[2]Hamitouche, Youcef. “Educational Policy of French Colonialism in Algeria and Its Impact on Algerian Culture and Society.” Home. Accessed February 10, 2023.,spreading%20French%20education%20in%20Algeria. 

[3]Caulcutt, Clea. “Algeria’s Move to English Signals Erosion of France’s Sway.” POLITICO. POLITICO, September 2, 2022.,iby%20a%20third%20of%20Algerians. 

[4]Noor Al-Deen, Hana. “The Evolution of Rai Music – Hana Noor Al-Deen, 2005 – Sage Journals.” Accessed February 10, 2023. 

[5]“Colonial Rule.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Accessed February 10, 2023. 

[6]Ibid.,  “The Algerian War of Independence”. 

[7]“French-Algerian Truce – History.” Accessed February 10, 2023. 

[8]Chemam, Melissa. “Paris Massacre: 60 Years on, France Must Face Its Colonial Past.” History | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, October 17, 2021. 

[9]Rouaba, Ahmed. “How a Massacre of Algerians in Paris Was Covered Up.” BBC News. BBC, October 16, 2021. 

[10]Méheut, Constant. “France Returned 24 Skulls to Algeria. They Weren’t What They Seemed.” The New York Times. The New York Times, October 17, 2022.

[11]“Macron Will Not Seek Algeria’s ‘Forgiveness’ for Colonialism.” Politics News | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, January 12, 2023. 

[12]“Algerian Islamists, Analysts, and Social Media Users Describe Macron’s Visit to Algeria as ‘Soft Colonization,’ Demand Apology and Reparations.” MEMRI. Middle East Media Research Institute, September 2, 2022.