On March 18, 1962, the Évian Accords paved the way for Algeria’s independence from France after more than seven years of an atrocious war. Sixty years later, the wounds of this bloody conflict are still deep, on both sides of the fracture. FRANCE 24 spoke to Algerians and French people scarred by the war.
Their names are Lucien, Bachir, Marie-Claude, Serge, Roger and Djamila. They are Algerian or French. In 1954, when the Algerian war of independence broke out, they were barely out of adolescence. It was a time of post-war decolonization around the world. In Algeria, the so-called natives (natives) hoped for an end to 132 years of French colonial rule.
But France did not see things that way. Home to more than one million Europeans (and some 9 million Algerians), Algeria was the only colony of the French colonial empire settled by Europeans and, as a French department, was considered part of France. It was also a land rich in oil and gas. In 1956, the French government of Guy Mollet decided to send the army to maintain order in occupied land. In total, 1.5 million young French conscripts are sent to Algeria to fight the fellaghas, Algerian guerrillas.
On March 19, 1962, when the ceasefire concluded in the Évian Accords came into effect, 400,000 French conscripts were still on the other side of the Mediterranean. Their military service lasted at least 18 months, sometimes 28 or even 30. Many found the experience traumatic. For decades talking about their experiences was taboo, even within their own families. These were not war experiences, at least officially, since the “events” in Algeria – as they were called – were not recognized as a war until 1999.
We interviewed French conscripts, the wife of a conscript, aharki (an Algerian who served as an auxiliary in the French army), a member of the pro-independence National Liberation Front (FLN) and an FLN fighter. armed branch, the National Liberation Army (ALN, or National Liberation Army). They told us about colonialism, the horror of conflict, torture and fear, but also about their desire for healing. Sixty years after this nameless war, they have drawn on their memories and told us their stories.
>> Click here for our web documentary: Algerians and French share their stories of the Algerian war