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Latest update : 2012-03-27

The open scars of the French-Algerian war

Algeria is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence from France. However, half a century after the Evian Accords officially ended combat, both French and Algerians still ache from the wounds left by the war.

On March 19 both Algerians and the French are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ceasefire that put an end to the French-Algerian war. The accords signed in the eastern French city of Evian in 1962 are now a half-century old, but many people on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea are still struggling to find peace.

“It was the colonists' fault,” argues Rabah Mahiout, a former member of the National Liberation Front (FLN) that operated in France. “It was the FLN that began attacking the French,” retorts Guy Pujante, a former member of the Organisation de l'armée secrète, a far-right terrorist group that fought against Algerian independence.

Lakhdar Bouregaa, a former member of the National Liberation Army–the FLN’s armed wing– still recalls the Algerian villages that were burned down with napalm by the French army. Vivian Pinto still cries when she thinks of her father, Joseph Pinto, a French salesman who had his throat slit in the city of Oran before being thrown into a furnace. Forced into exile in 1962, she waited 42 years to find out what happened to her father who was listed simply as missing until records were declassified in 2004.

Many are still looking for answers and question the years of secrecy and silence. Farida, the daughter of Ahmed Belous, who was killed in the eastern Algerian city of Guelma in 1945, acknowledges that "many lies were told to us throughout history". Viviane Pinto may not know it, but she shares the same point of view with Farida. She criticises the French leaders she says continue to hide the truth. "They probably have much to be ashamed about,” Pinto says.

Supporters of free Algeria and those nostalgic for French Algeria share much more in common than they realise. Overcoming the silence that has divided the two countries for 50 years, may be the first step in healing their open scars.

Watch the full documentary by FRANCE 24’s Adel Gastel.

By Adel GASTEL

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