Politics, Africa, Europe

Macron's futile mission to set Algeria against Turkey

Tensions escalate between France, Algeria over Macron’s remarks on North African country’s colonial past

Abbas Mimouni   | 04.10.2021
Macron's futile mission to set Algeria against Turkey

ALGIERS, Algeria 

Tensions have continued to escalate between France and Algeria over remarks made by French President Emmanuel Macron on the North African country’s colonial past.

In a bid to palliate its atrocious colonial past, Macron claimed that “there was a colonization before the French colonial rule” in Algeria, alluding to the Ottoman presence in the country between 1514 and 1830.

“The building of Algeria as a nation is a phenomenon worth watching. Was there an Algerian nation before French colonization? That is the question,” Macron said Thursday during a meeting with the descendants of Algerians at the Elysee Palace who fought on France’s side during Algeria’s war of independence.

“There were previous colonizations. I am fascinated to see Turkey’s ability to make people totally forget the role it played in Algeria and the domination it has exercised, and to explain that we are the only colonizers. It’s great. Algerians believe it,” he was quoted by the French daily Le Monde.

The French president alleged that Algeria’s official history has been rewritten “not based on truths but based on hatred against France.”

Macron accused Algeria of presenting all its problems as caused by France, noting that he would like to produce Arabic and Berber publications to counter the "disinformation" and "propaganda" in the Maghreb that is "carried out by the Turks and completely rewrites history.”


Algerian condemnation

The Algerian presidency on Saturday condemned Macron’s remarks as an “unacceptable insult” to the martyrs.

“Macron’s remarks are an unacceptable insult to the memory of over 5.63 million martyrs who sacrificed themselves with a valiant resistance against French colonialism,” it said.

The presidency said the numerous colonial crimes committed by France are a genocide against the Algerian people, noting that the statements attributed to Macron were not officially denied.

“The countless crimes of colonial France and the genocide against the Algerian people – which is not recognized by France – cannot be the object of offensive maneuvers,” the statement continued.

Algerian President Abdelmedjid Tebboune rejected “any interference in its internal affairs” and recalled its ambassador to France, Antar Daoud, for consultations, according to the presidency.

The presidency also slammed Macron's remarks as meant to justify colonialism, noting that the crimes of the colonial forces will never be forgiven.

Meanwhile, Le Figaro newspaper reported that Algeria closed its airspace to French military aircraft.

France was using Algeria's airspace as part of Operation Barkhane, an ongoing military operation that started in 2014 in the Sahel.

Ignorance of history

Many Algerians went to social media to denounce Macron's questioning of the existence of the Algerian nation before the French colonial rule, with some saying he was "ignorant of history."

Algerian historians agree that the Ottoman presence in Algeria came at the request of the local population as part of efforts to protect their coastal cities against Italian and Spanish invasions.

Ammar Mahjoubi, an Algerian imam and preacher, described on his Facebook account the comparison between French colonialism and the Ottoman rule as "nonsense".

For his part, political activist and former official at the Algerian Ministry of Interior, Kharchi Nouy, said on Facebook that "the presence before the French occupation was an Ottoman-Islamic presence, not a Turkish nationalist presence”, adding that there is “nothing in the history of the Ottoman presence (in Algeria) that is shameful.”

“They (Ottomans) delayed the arrival of Western hyenas for years,” he continued.

Meanwhile, prominent Algerian journalist, Hafeez Draghi, slammed the French president on Twitter as "a political teenager who does not measure the weight of the words he utters unconsciously."

He said Algerian loathing for France is a result of the French massacres and looting of Algerians.

Draghi accused Macron of attempting to drive a wedge between Turkey and Algeria.

"Algeria was the one that sought the help of the Ottoman Empire to confront your Crusader ancestors," Draghi addressed Macron.

Meanwhile, the private Algerian newspaper Al-Shorouk described Macron's statements as "provocative", which risk "returning the Algerian-French relations to square one."

The daily said Algeria distinguishes well between its friends and foes and rejects Macron's comparison between French colonialism and the Ottoman presence in Algeria as "misplaced”, noting that history books did not record crimes attributed to the Ottoman presence.

President Tebboune strongly defended the remarkable development of relations between Algeria and Turkey.

In an interview with French weekly Le Point, Tebboune said Turkey invested around $5 billion in Algeria "without any political demands in return."

Those who are disturbed with this relationship, he said, should come and experience Ankara's support for Algiers in many ways before speaking.

In 2018, the National Agency for Investment and Development said Turkey exceeded France as the first foreign investor in Algeria.

The People newspaper, on the other hand, said Macron's statements reflect his “overwhelming anger and frustration" due to Paris’ declining influence on the international scene and the loss of its economic position in Algeria.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the spokesman of the Movement of Society for Peace, Algeria’s largest Islamist party, Nasser Hamaddouche, said he was not surprised by Macron’s statements.

"This is the official reality of France and its arrogant and colonial view. Macron's words only expose the fake friendship between the two countries," Hamaddouche said, calling on France to deal with Algeria as an “equal” and to respect the country’s “sovereignty.”

*Writing by Ibrahim Mukhtar

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