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France’s crimes in Africa: historical facts or misleading info?

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
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France’s President Emmanuel Macron has called on African youth, not least the Algerians, to refrain from considering France as an “enemy” of their countries.

Macon was responding to a question from journalists about the anti-French sentiment in a number of African countries. The president is on a three-day visit to the energy-rich Algeria that began on Friday.

Algeria has marked the 60th anniversary of independence.

"I simply want to say to African youth: Explain the problem to me and do not get carried away because your future does not lie in anti-France," Macron stated.

He said France is criticized for the past, “because we have let misunderstandings take root for a long time, and also because there is massive manipulation.”

Macron cautioned the African youth against the "massive manipulation" behind networks run "in secret" by forces that portray France as an "enemy" of their countries.

"Let's be clear, many activists of political Islam have an enemy: France; many networks that are clandestinely stirred up by Turkey, Russia and China have an enemy: France," he said, denouncing the "neo-colonial and imperialist plans of influence" of those countries.

The French president expressed hope that France and Algeria would be able to “look back at the past with humility” in order to establish trust and cooperation in the future.

"Let's move forward. I know that building trust takes time, but I do my work with patience, commitment and love for the African continent and Algeria."

Macron is due to sign with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune a "renewed partnership" agreement.

The French presidency said Macron will return "to Algiers from Oran to sign with President Tebboune a joint declaration for a renewed, tangible and ambitious partnership."

The new mending of ties between Paris and Algiers comes as the two countries have experienced recurring crises over the years.

The French president has long ruled out issuing an apology for the highly sensitive issue of colonialism, but he has reportedly displayed a series of gestures aimed at healing wounds of the past.

Macron's visit to Africa comes as the West African nation of Mali, another former colony of France, has just celebrated the withdrawal of French occupation forces in the country, with the government insisting that the pullout ushered in better security for its people.

Relations between Bamako and Paris have deteriorated following two military coups in the impoverished – though minerals-rich - Sahel country since 2020.

France's military occupation of Mali began in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claimed were linked to al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups. Accordingly, the French government deployed thousands of soldiers to purportedly prevent separatist forces from reaching Bamako.

The war caused several thousand deaths and more than a million people to flee their homes. There have been two military coups in roughly a year, amid expanding demonstrations against France’s military presence.

France has been a former colonizer in Africa, and, after years of outright colonization, still seeks control over countries spread over more than 12 territories and treats their people as second-class citizens. It has carried out more than 50 military interventions in Africa since 1960, when many of its former colonies gained nominal independence.

Africa awaits closure of French colonial crimes

Time has failed to heal the colonial-era crimes perpetuated by France in Africa. As many as 29 countries that were under French occupation in the continent are still pursuing reparations for the crimes and are awaiting the return of the wealth looted from their lands.

Although French and African historians have unearthed volumes of evidence of colonial crimes, French leaders have consistently denied and attempted to conceal this black chapter of history.

Algeria

While visiting Algiers during his 2017 election campaign, Macron did admit that the French colonization of Algeria was a "crime against humanity." From the occupation of Algeria in 1830, historical records suggest that colonial forces banned Islamic practices.

On May 8, 1945, they killed people, who were celebrating the end of World War II and were demanding independence.

Nicknamed the "country of one and a half million martyrs" Algeria’s Maghreb region has witnessed mass killings. In 1960, the French detonated their first nuclear device in the Algerian desert 1960, which was three to four times more powerful than the one dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945.

Senegal

The West African country Senegal witnessed the “Thiaroye massacre", in which French soldiers killed Senegalese riflemen, who had fought in WW II on behalf of France. They were killed for demanding allowances and pensions. Historians record that instead of being compensated, they were rounded up in front of self-propelled guns and murdered on December 1, 1944. Although former French President François Hollande claimed in 2014 that 70 riflemen were killed, the numbers remain disputed.

Madagascar

French army imposed severe repression and massacred tens of thousands of Malagasy people through torture, forced regroupings, summary executions, and the burning of their, some were thrown from planes after Democratic Movement for Malagasy Renewal (MDRM) -- the main indigenous political party – launched independence movement in 1946 by scrambling 300,000-member resistance force.

While the MDRM was dissolved after several months of defiance, its members were tried before French military courts, some were handed over death sentences. Historians report around 40,000 deaths. The people who had taken refuge in the forests came out of their hiding places in a state of misery.

Cameroon

In Cameroon, the Union des populations du Cameroun (UPC), a pro-independence party supported by the people, faced the wrath of the French administration. The country witnessed Bamilekes genocide.

Recounting this tragedy, historians such as Thomas Deltombe, Manuel Domergue, and Jacob Tatsitsa in the book entitled Kamerun: A hidden war at the origins of French Africa, 1948-1971 recorded that French soldiers exterminated 400,000 Cameroonians in the Bamileke.

Rwanda

One of the worst genocides in world history, claiming 800,000 lives of ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda, rests on the shoulders of France. Historians, human rights organizations, and other observers have reported that the French supplied arms to the Hutus after the “turquoise operation” launched on June 23, 1994.


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