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France

Algerians not amused by Hollande's security joke

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-23

French President François Hollande has riled Algerians by jokingly portraying Algeria as a dangerous country. The fact that he made the remark in front of France’s main Jewish group added fuel to the fire.

French President François Hollande, with his dismal 22% approval ratings, hit another snag this week.

On Monday, December 16, the 70th anniversary celebration of main French Jewish umbrella group CRIF (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions), Hollande joked that Interior Minister Manuel Valls had returned from a trip to Algeria “safe and sound…which is saying something”.

Algerian officials were not amused.

On Saturday in Algiers, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra told journalists that the French President’s wisecrack about France’s former colony was “a regrettable incident”.

“It’s clear that [the joke] was a low point given the spirit that characterises [French-Algerian] relations,” he said, “and given the [mostly stable] reality of the security situation in Algeria, which French delegations and others have observed themselves.”

Lamamra continued: “We finished 2012 with the smashing success of François Hollande’s state visit to Algeria…we do not wish to finish [this year] on a bad note, and so we hope to find a way to turn the page in the coming days.”

Faced with the mounting anger over his comment, Hollande on Sunday evening released a statement expressing "sincere regrets for the way his words were interpeted". He added that he would communicate his regrets directly to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Lamamra later said he was satisfied with the apology.

‘Mocking Algeria in front of the Jews’

The Algerian press was was particularly unamused by the joke. On Saturday, five days after Hollande made the comment, the front pages of Arabic-language newspapers El-Khabar, Echorouk and Ennahar featured the news. One headline read: “Hollande mocks Algeria in front of the Jews”.

Meanwhile, online news sites and social networks were filled with negative comments about the French president, who was, until now, quite popular in Algeria.

French politicians on the right and left also expressed disapproval of the joke. Far-left leader – and 2012 presidential candidate – Jean-Luc Mélenchon said tweeted that Hollande’s quip made him “nauseous”.

And Valérie Pécresse, a former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and a current representative from the right-wing UMP party, said on French television that she found the remark “particularly clumsy and not worth of a president of the republic”.

“I say to François Hollande: rise to the occasion of your function,” she added.

 

Date created : 2013-12-22

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