The French Senate formalizes its apologies to the Algerian harkis and their families

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Sixty years after the end of the Algerian war of independence, the French Senate has validated a bill formalizing an apology to Algerian Harki soldiers who fought on behalf of the French colonial army. It paves the way for compensation for thousands of family members and descendants who were forced to live in squalid conditions upon their arrival in France.

This decision is the culmination of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron who asked “forgiveness” to the Harkis during a ceremony on September 20.

“France did not pay its due to the Harkis, their wives, their children after the war,” he said, adding that “the Harkis gave their strength, shed their blood for France.”

The Harkis were the Algerian Muslims who fought alongside the French during the War of Independence, but were then left to their own devices after the signing of the peace accords in Evian on March 18, 1962.

This bill is “that of the recognition by the nation of a deep wound, of a French tragedy, of a dark page in our history”, declared the Minister Delegate for Veterans Affairs, Geneviève Darrieussecq.

“We are moving forward on the path of reconciliation and memory, which we know will take time”, declared the rapporteur of the bill Marie-Pierre Richer of the Republicans (LR) about the text approved by the lower house of parliament (National Assembly) Last week.

Emotions are at their peak

“No text could heal the wounds of a war”, echoed Laurent Burgoa (LR), illustrating the level of emotion associated with the debate, both among politicians and in the harki community itself .

As many as 200,000 Harkis – the name comes from the Arabic word for “movement” – fought for French colonial power during the bloody 1954-1962 war against Algeria’s National Liberation Front (FLN).

There were atrocities on both sides and the conflict claimed at least 400,000 lives.

The law recognizes the “mistreatment” of some 90,000 harkis who fled to France at the end of the war. About half of them were forced to live for years in squalid internment camps.

These villages in the forest were “places of banishment where some died, and many were traumatized,” Darrieussecq said.

The law aims to provide compensation ranging from €2,000 to €15,000 depending on the time spent in the camps, with sums to be awarded by a special national commission.

Unforgivable acts

About 50,000 people are eligible for this repair, which will cost the government 310 million euros over a period of six years.

There were criticisms that those who missed out also lived in dire circumstances, even though they lived in townsites and were allowed to roam.

A national day of homage was instituted on September 25, following a decree of 2003, a date which will be included in the law.

During a speech at the Elysee Palace in January, Macron also acknowledged the “unforgivable” acts of the French Republic, namely the assassination of dozens of citizens by French soldiers in Algiers and Oran in 1962.

Last Tuesday, Macron also paid tribute to the nine victims of an attack on a Paris metro station on February 8, 1962 which coincided with a peace rally organized in Algiers on the same day.

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