French president unveils ‘recognition and reparation’ bill for Harkis in bid to fix colonial past in Algeria

President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday a ‘recognition and reparation’ bill for hundreds of thousands of Algerians who fought for France in Algeria’s war of independence, as Paris seeks to rectify its colonial past.

The legislation, announced during a speech by the French leader on Monday, will seek to ensure that the country engages in “recognition and reparation” of “neglected” Harkis. Harkis are Muslim Algerians who served in the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence from 1954 to 1962. The conflict resulted in hundreds of thousands of Algerian casualties and displaced more than two million citizens.

To the fighters, I want to express our recognition; we will not forget. I ask forgiveness, we will not forget.

The details of the legislation were not immediately outlined but Macron’s office confirmed ahead of the speech that it will serve as a “new step necessary in terms of recognizing the failures toward the Harkis.” Officials also stated that it will seek to recognize “the failure of the French republic to live up to its own standards.”

Former leader Francois Hollande previously accepted “the responsibilities of French governments in the abandonment of the Harkis” but no concrete legislation was announced by the then-president to address the country’s colonial history.

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Around 300 individuals attended Macron’s speech, mainly Harkis and their families who survived the conflict, with the announcement coming days before National Harkis Day, which commemorates those who served alongside the French Army.

Harki organizations have called on the French president to ensure that legislation recognizing their treatment is enshrined by the end of the year, hoping that it will “end 60 years of a certain hypocrisy by which the abandoning of the Harkis is recognized in speeches, but not in the law.”

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