Umm Muhammed Umar
Algeria on Saturday recalled its ambassador from France and closed its airspace to French aircraft in an intensifying row with its former colonizer. This followed France having instituted measures aimed at limiting visas from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, accusing the Maghreb countries of not doing enough to entice back so-called illegal immigrants. Radio Islam spoke to Brother Ibrahim Dean of the afro Middle East Centre, who shed light on the matter.
It seems that while Morocco and Tunisia had expressed milder criticism over the French measure, Algeria’s reaction had been stronger. Deen said that there were two factors at play – one was the ban that had been issued limiting travel, and the second was that Algeria and France have had a very brutal history. He said that a few days ago, French President Emmanuel Macron, spoke to Algerians who had supported France during the country’s independence. The ‘Harki’s’ were Muslim Algerians who served as auxiliaries in the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence from 1954 to 1962. The word sometimes applies to all Algerian Muslims who supported French Algeria during the war. They are said to currently number 5 million. Macron said that the Algeria system is a political military system and that they have history. This is one of the issues that made the Algerian response tougher, and also the fact that Macron said that the Hirak movement, which was a protest movement last year, had weakened the government. Deen said, “and that’s a very sensitive spot for Algeria; in May last year, diplomatic ties were almost cut because the French, broadcast a documentary on the movement.” He added that the issue between Algeria and France was not necessarily just a visa issue, but actually a deeper issue that’s not only historical, but also touches on the Algerian protest movement that’s currently underway.
Significantly, Deen said that international media, when covering the discord between the two countries, have overlooked the statements that Macron made to the Harkis. They have just resorted to attaching the Algeria response to the visa ban, when it was really a much broader issue. They have not contextualized Algeria’s independence, which led to the death of 400 000 Algerian civilians, killed, mainly, by the French, and that France had colonized Algeria. Deen said, “those issues are very significant, but are actually being omitted.” He added that this made it seem as if the Algerian response was an overreaction, as compared to the response of the other countries.
Meanwhile, according to Deen, France and Algeria, despite their volatile relationship, are co-dependent. France is wary of Russian objectives in Africa and so need the Algerian support. Algeria, meanwhile, needs France for so called ‘counter-terrorism’ assistance, and diplomatic support.
France will go to the polls in 2024, and according to Deen, Macron, in an attempt to appeal to the right, is most likely to make many more inflammatory remarks, even though he has called for calm in recent days.