French presidential hopeful Macron calls colonisation a ‘crime against humanity’
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French independent presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron described colonisation as a “crime against humanity” during a visit to Algeria this week, sparking outrage back home among conservative and far-right parties.
Macron, a centrist, unequivocally condemned France’s colonial history in an interview broadcast by Algerian television Echorouk on Tuesday.
“It’s a crime. It’s a crime against humanity,” the former economy minister said. “It’s truly barbarous and it’s part of a past that we need to confront by apologising to those against whom we committed these acts.”
“At the same time, we must not sweep this past under the rug…There’s a fitting phrase that is said about Algeria: ‘France established human rights in Algeria. It simply forgot to [abide] by them,’” he added.
Macron’s comments sparked outrage among conservative and far-right parties in France, which has never officially apologised for its 132-year colonisation of Algeria.
“Mr. Macron, are roads, hospitals, French language and French culture crimes against humanity? Stop this constant repentence!” Florian Philippot, vice-president of the far-right National Front party, tweeted on Wednesday.
Conservative presidential candidate François Fillon – who is currently trailing Macron in the polls – echoed Philippot’s remark at a campaign event in the northern town of Compiègne, also on Wednesday.
'He’s saying what people want to hear': Fillon
“This hatred of our history, this constant repentance is undignified for a presidential candidate. It wasn’t so long ago that Mr. Macron recognised some of the positive aspects of colonisation. This means that Emmanuel Macron has no spine. He’s simply saying what people want to hear,” Fillon told a crowd of around 4,000 people.
In October, Macron struck a different chord in an interview with French newspaper Le Point, during which he spoke of the overall impact of French colonisation in Algeria.
“Yes, there was torture in Algeria, but there was also the emergence of a state, of wealth, of a middle class. That’s the reality of colonisation. There were civilised elements and barbarous elements,” he said at the time.
Nearly 55 years after Algerian independence in 1962, France’s colonial history remains a highly sensitive subject. The closest a French leader has ever come to issuing a formal apology was in 2012, when President François Hollande acknowledged his country’s “unjust and brutal” occupation.
Algerian officials have estimated that the country’s eight-year war for independence claimed 1.5 million Algerian lives, while French historians have say that around 400,000 people were killed on both sides.