Algeria marks 50th anniversary of war of independance with France

27th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

ALGIERS, Oct 27 (AFP) - Fifty years ago Sunday, Algerian nationalists sparked what was to become one of the African continent's bloodiest independence wars with a series of some 60 nearly simultaneous explosions and attacks that left a dozen people dead.

ALGIERS, Oct 27 (AFP) - Fifty years ago Sunday, Algerian nationalists sparked what was to become one of the African continent's bloodiest independence wars with a series of some 60 nearly simultaneous explosions and attacks that left a dozen people dead.

Their meticulously planned surprise operation targeted symbols of French rule such as police stations, municipal buildings, bridges and electrical facilities, stunning the colonial authorities only months after France lost Indochina at Dien Bien Phu.

It would take the French political class nearly nine more blood-soaked years to grasp the amplitude of the rebellion, and to break ranks with proponents of an eternal French Algeria.

The National Liberation Front (FLN), announcing in Cairo its intent to wrest independence from France after 132 years under its rule, was immediately embraced by charismatic Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, at a time when European colonial powers, weakened by World War Two, faced a wave of nationalism encouraged by the defeat of Nazi totalitarianism.

The newborn United Nations, one of whose founding principles was the right to self-determination, became an effective pulpit for emancipation movements across the world, egged on by the Soviet Union's Marxist ideology.

Although the FLN leadership had been previously unknown, it was clear to the vast majority of Algerians and to the French secret service that they had been laying plans for many long months.

Of the inner circle, three were operating from Cairo, including two who are still alive today, opposition figure Hocine Ait Ahmed and former president Ahmed Ben Bella.

The effects of the conflict - not even recognised by France as a war until 1999 - were soon felt. Thousands of French youths, many of them opposed to the war, were sent to the Algerian mountains to fight the rebels.

The conflict helped bring down the Fourth Republic in 1958, and general Charles de Gaulle was recalled from retirement to save French Algeria, only to soon realise that independence was the only logical outcome.

Negotiations finally led to a ceasefire in March 1962, followed by independence on July 5.

Algerian historians have estimated the death toll among Algerians at 1.5 million, while others have placed it between 200,000 and 500,000, while the French counted more than 27,000 dead soldiers, nearly 2,300 civilian dead and nearly 3,000 missing.

Deep scars remain from the war, especially among Algerians and "pieds noirs" - the French colonists who fled Algeria en masse at independence.

Revelations of exactions committed during the war including the use of torture by French soldiers still haunt people on both sides of the Mediterranean, while some legal investigations remain unresolved to this day.

Nevertheless, bilateral relations have gradually begun to transcend the pain of the past. French President Jacques Chirac and his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika agreed last year to set up a "special partnership", and they plan to sign a friendship treaty next year to boost cooperation, including in the military sphere.

At the approach of the anniversary, a wide range of events have been launched in Algeria, and the French media are giving it extensive coverage.

Historical lectures, film festivals, commemorations and tributes to key figures in the independence fight have been planned in Algiers and other cities.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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