French President Emmanuel Macron does not intend to “ask for forgiveness” over his country’s colonization of Algeria and its role in the war of independence, he said in an interview published Wednesday in French weekly Le Point.
“It’s not relevant, and the word [forgive] would break all bonds,” Macron told French-Algerian writer Kamel Daoud during his state visit to Algeria back in August.
A former French colony, Algeria gained its independence in 1962, after an eight-year war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives — most of them on the Algerian side.
The brutality of the war, which included executions and acts of torture against Algerian nationalists, had a lasting impact on French politics and society, and remains a highly sensitive subject in France.
In 2017, then-presidential candidate Macron described French colonization as a “crime against humanity,” breaking with a tradition of carefully weighted wording on the topic from French politicians and leaders.
After his election, however, the French president dialed down his statements. Although he condemned the killing of dozens of Algerians by the French police during a 1961 protest in Paris as “inexcusable” in 2021, he has refrained from offering a state apology for France’s colonial past.
“Speaking up on Algeria is potentially perilous, but indispensable,” Macron said in his Le Point interview.
“It’s difficult because it’s an intimate topic for each [country]” which created “70 years of trauma,” he added.
“We have denied ourselves the right to mention this era. An entire generation of French politicians has contributed to the omission, and built itself around it,” the French president admitted.
Nevertheless, “it is not up to the president of the republic to claim an assessment of colonialism,” Macron said.