Algeria-France: Genuine breakthrough in cooperation on memory question

January 8th, 2018


APS : Friday, 05 January 2018

PARIS- Algeria’s official request from France to restore the skulls of the Algerian resistance fighters of the 19th century and the archives covering the period from 1930 to 1962,
and the willingness of France to fulfill it constitute a real breakthrough in the cooperation on memory question.
In recent years, the Algerian-French cooperation has qualitatively and quantitatively progressed in all fields, but the question of memory has remained on hold, because of “sensitive” and “complicated” issues, result of a bloody colonization.
Only after last December’s meeting between President of the Republic, Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his visiting French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the decision to claim the return of the 36 skulls of Algerian martyrs and the copies of the archives was made.
The skulls have been conserved for nearly two centuries in the Musée de L’Homme in Paris.
As part of the bilateral cooperation, three sub-commissions have been set up for addressing the memory issue.
For more than a year, discussions have been engaged on the restitution des archives, compensation of the Algerian victims of nuclear tests and the Algerian missing during the national liberation war.
During his visit to France for the Intergovernmental High-level Committee (CIHN) meeting in Paris on December, 7th, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia had welcomed such “breakthrough” in this sensitive question of the French-Algerian memory, adding that the two countries would continue to discuss the gradual handover of archives.
Long claimed by the Algerian authorities, the restitution of the archives remained unfulfilled even if a very small part was received, i.e. about 2% of all existing archives in France, according to the Mujahidin Minister.
A report from the French Court of Auditors, published in February 2017, said that a large quantity of archives has not yet been opened since their repatriation from Algeria in 1962.
The restored archives only cover the Ottoman period (before 1830), and had been taken “by mistake”, according to the same report.
In 2008, the Algerian Television has received from the French Institute of Audiovisual (INA) a package of 400 hours of footages (1 862 documents), filmed between the World War II and the Independence of Algeria (1940–1962).
The 36 skulls of Algerian resistance fighters, preserved at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) of Paris, have been discovered by Algerian researcher in history, Ali Farid Belkadi.
These skulls belong to Mohamed Lamjad Ben Abdelmalek, known as Cherif “Boubaghla”, to Cheikh Bouziane, the leader of the Zaâtchas uprising (Biskra region in 1849), Moussa El-Derkaoui and Si Mokhtar Ben Kouider Al-Titraoui.
The mummified head of Aïssa El-Hamadi, who was the lieutenant of Cherif Boubaghla, is part of this discovery, as well as the integral molding of the head of Mohamed Ben-Allel Ben Embarek, lieutenant of Emir Abdelkader.