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President Emmanuel Macron of France, on Wednesday admitted that French soldiers actually murdered a top Algerian independence figure then covered up his death as part of its colonial-era crimes over 60 years ago.
Macron when meeting four of the grandchildren of Ali Boumendjel and admitted ‘in the name of France‘ that the lawyer had been detained, tortured and killed in Algiers on March 23, 1957, this is according to official sources from Paris on Tuesday.
The previous lie with successive French governments have always sustained was that he had committed suicide while in detention, a lie that his widow campaigned to be overturned up to her death in August last year.
‘Looking our history in the face, acknowledging the truth, will not enable us to heal all of the still open wounds, but it will help to create a path for the future,‘ the statement from Macron’s office said.
Being the first French president to be born in the post-colonial era, Macron has made several unprecedented steps to face up to France’s brutal fight to retain control of its North African colony, which won independence in 1962.
In 2018, he admitted that France had created a ‘system‘ that facilitated torture during the war and acknowledged that French mathematician Maurice Audin, a Communist pro-independence activist, was also murdered in Algiers.
In July last year, he tasked French historian Benjamin Stora with assessing how France has dealt with its colonial legacy.
Stora’s report in January made a series of recommendations, including acknowledging the murder of Boumendjel and creating a “memory and truth commission” that would hear testimony from people who suffered during the war.
It however did not suggest a formal state apology, however, and Macron has said there would be ‘no repentance nor apologies‘ but rather ‘symbolic acts‘ aimed at promoting reconciliation.Boumendjel was a French-speaking nationalist lawyer and intellectual who served as a link between the moderate UDMA party and the National Liberation Front (FLN), the underground resistance movement.
Macron praised his ‘humanism’ and his ‘courage‘ in his statement, adding that Boumendjel had been influenced by French Enlightenment values in his fight against ‘the injustice of the colonial system‘.
His grandson Mehdi Ali Boumendjel, who met Macron on Tuesday, called the admission ‘a big step forward for our family and for the thousands of people who experienced the same atrocities.’
He added that he along with fellow relatives stressed that ‘Ali Boumendjel was not the only one, and this message was heard and confirmed by the President.’
Aussaresses wrote that the government, notably the then justice minister Francois Mitterrand, who later became president, was informed about and tolerated the use of torture, executions, and forced displacements.
Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the ‘devastating‘ lie the French state had told about her uncle, which had never been officially corrected.
Macron also said on Tuesday that he would continue to open national archives and encouraged historians to continue researching Algeria’s independence war, which saw atrocities committed by all sides.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK