Today I happened to be in a French city where a joint celebration of Algeria’s fiftieth year of independence was organized. The celebration took place in the town hall in presence of the mayor, the Algerian consul, a representative of the French state, some diplomats and many other guests. I decided to attend so I could see how things go.
I was going to write something else today but I decided to share what I saw as somebody already wrote something like my original post.
The mayor talked during around fifteen minutes. He used an emotional perspective and everybody listened. He started by acknowledging the Algerian suffering and French responsibility and then praised the Algerian revolution and heroism which he compared to the French one during the Nazi occupation. He remembered the many Algerians who helped free France and talked about the opportunities France missed during its occupation such as the Cremieux decree, May 1945 or the Blum-Violette bill. He mentioned Algeria’s beautiful landscape and how he loved it, and all the opportunities the two countries can have should they decide to work together and “turn the page”.
Before he finished, the mayor mentioned the Pied-noirs who “loved their country and were forced to leave” and the Jews “who were there for over 2000 years and were forced to leave”. He also mentioned the French who got killed in Oran after Algeria’s independence even though he linked it to what the OAS did earlier that year. But he didn’t mention the Harkis… There are limits after all…
With some subtlety, the mayor referred to “la paix des braves” as if it was what ended the war. He finished his speech by calling the guests and the two Peoples to follow Emir Abdelkader, “Algerians’ resistance hero and the man who loved France and saved the Christians in Damas”. He also said that nobody should accuse the other side of its current situation… Guess he meant France right?
Algeria’s consul spoke during 25 very long minutes. His French wasn’t good, he wasn’t eloquent, he couldn’t follow the lines on his papers so he said some sentences twice and he decided to speak about an unexpected topic… not.
He thanked the mayor during five minutes then started his speech. He talked of the great achievements of Algeria these past years (he should have said since 1999) and criticized all those people who do not like the country and are never happy. He said fifty years is nothing so one shouldn’t expect too much. Then he switched to Algeria’s democracy which was born in 1988 before even the fall of Berlin Wall. He said Algeria’s not concerned with the Arab Spring and that it’s having its democratic and smooth change after the past legislature elections which will be followed by a constitution change.
Starting from minute 10 we started hearing noise as the guests started chatting and stopped listening. Some even left the room. I remained silent but stopped listening too.
The French state representative explained that Franco-Algerian relationship was great and gave two evidences: French foreign affairs minister will visit Algiers soon, and Algeria’s France’s first customer. He mentioned some of the French companies who have branches in Algeria and said France wants to strengthen the coöperation in all economic and cultural fields. The whole speech lasted less than 5 minutes.
Three men, three styles, three agendas. I had my orange juice quickly and left.