Algeria rejects ‘colonialist thought’ over historical ties with France

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Algeria’s president called Saturday for an approach free of “colonialist thought” on historical issues between his country and France, in a message marking the 60th anniversary of a deadly Paris police crackdown.

On the night of October 17, 1961, during Algeria’s 1954-1962 war of independence from France, Algerians living in Paris were urged to gather in the centre of the capital for what was billed as a peaceful march against repression.

But as night fell, witnesses recall seeing people shot with live ammunition and others killed when police charged into the crowd armed with thick wooden sticks and batons.

The precise number of victims has never been made clear and some activists fear several hundred could have been killed.

“I reaffirm our strong concern for treating issues of history and memory without complacency or compromising principles, and with a sharp sense of responsibility”, free from “the dominance of arrogant colonialist thought,” President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said.

The deadly 1961 crackdown reveals the horror of “massacres and crimes against humanity that will remain engraved in the collective memory”, he said in a statement released by his office.

The message came shortly after Tebboune declared that Algeria would observe a minute’s silence each October 17 in memory of the victims.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday condemned the crackdown as “inexcusable”.

Relations between Paris and Algiers have been strained amid a diplomatic spat fuelled by a visa row and comments attributed to the Macron describing Algeria as ruled by a “political-military system” that had “totally re-written” its history.

Algeria has recalled its ambassador from Paris and banned French military planes from its airspace.

Tebboune has demanded France’s “total respect”.

“We forget that it (Algeria) was once a French colony… History should not be falsified,” he said last week.