Hollande agrees to ‘brutality’ in Algeria, stops short of apology
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French President Francois Hollande acknowledged the "unjust'' and "brutal'' nature of France's occupation of Algeria for 132 years, but stopped short Thursday of apologising for the past as many Algerians have demanded.
On the second day of his state visit to this North African nation, he told the two houses of parliament: "I recognise the suffering the colonial system has inflicted'' on the Algerian people.
He specifically recognised the "massacres'' by the French during the seven-year war that led to Algerian independence in 1962. The admission was a profound departure from Hollande's predecessors who, if not defending France's tormented past with Algeria, remained silent.
Hollande was travelling on Thursday to the western city of Tlemcen, the birthplace of Algerian wartime nationalist Messali Hadj. Hollande said at the start of his visit that he and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika are opening a "new era'' with a strategic partnership among equals.
Large numbers of Algerians, and some political parties, have been seeking an apology from France for inequalities suffered by the population under colonial rule and for brutality during the war. However, Hollande said at a news conference Wednesday that he would make no apologies.
"History, even when it is tragic, even when it is painful for our two countries, must be told,'' Hollande told lawmakers on Thursday. "For 132 years, Algeria was subjected to a profoundly unjust and brutal system'' of colonisation.