French President Emmanuel Macron and his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared on Saturday a “new dynamic of irreversible progress” in relations between their nations, concluding a visit by Macron aimed at ending months of tension.
The three-day visit comes less than two months after Algeria marked six decades of independence after 132 years of French rule and a devastating eight-year war. It also comes as European powers scramble to replace Russian energy imports, including with supplies from Algeria, Africa’s top gas exporter, which in turn seeks to expand its influence in South Africa. North and in the Sahel.
In their joint statement on Saturday, the two leaders said that “France and Algeria have decided to open a new era… laying the foundations for a renewed partnership expressed through a concrete and constructive approach, focused on future projects and youth”.
During the signing ceremony, Tebboune addressed his guest in French, raving about an “excellent and successful visit… which allowed a rapprochement that would not have been possible without the personality of President Macron himself. same”.
Relations between Paris and Algiers have experienced repeated crises over the years. They had been particularly cool since last year when Macron questioned Algeria’s existence as a nation before the French occupation and accused the government of fomenting “hate towards France”.
Tebboune withdrew his country’s ambassador in response and banned French military aircraft from his airspace. Normal diplomatic relations have since resumed, as well as overflights to French army bases in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Lack of courage”
After vowing to “build a new pact”, Macron was in the spiritual home of raï music on Saturday, visiting a record store made famous by French-Algerian singer DJ Snake’s recent hit of the same name, “Disco Maghreb”. He also met athletes and entertainers and went for a somewhat chaotic walk through the streets where police struggled with onlookers trying to shake his hand or take pictures.
On Friday evening, Macron dined with the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud and other personalities from Oran. He had also met young entrepreneurs who asked him about the difficulties of obtaining visas for France, the decline of the French language in his former colony and the contentious issues around the painful past of the two countries.
Macron announced that 8,000 more Algerian students would be admitted to study in France this year, joining the 30,000 already in the country. He also announced the creation of a joint commission of historians to examine the colonial period and the devastating eight-year war that ended it.
But in France, politicians on the left and right were angered by the proposal. Socialist party leader Olivier Faure noted that in 2017 Macron called French colonialism a “crime against humanity” and then later questioned Algeria’s existence as a nation before the colonial period. “The levity with which he treats the subject is an insult to wounded memories,” Faure tweeted.
Macron 2017 “colonization is a crime against humanity”. 2021 “Was there an Algerian nation before colonization? “. 2022 “a tragic love story”. The lightness of the treatment of the PR insults the wounded memories. https://t.co/bohRwjdVyy
— Olivier Fauré (@faureolivier) August 26, 2022
Far-right leader Thomas Menage tweeted that Algeria should stop “using its past to avoid establishing genuine friendly diplomatic relations”.
Macron’s visit was also not universally welcomed by Algerians. “History is not written with lies… like that Algeria was created by France,” reads an editorial in the French-language newspaper Le Soir.
“We expected Macron to erase this gross lie during this visit,” he said, blaming him for a “lack of courage (…) to recognize his own faults and those of his country”.