Bruce Crumley: France’s Colonial Hangover ... Apologizing Abroad, Ignoring Injustice at Home

Roundup: Media's Take

Bruce Crumley Time's Paris bureau chief, and has covered French and European news since 1989.

The recent visit of French President François Hollande to Algeria received praise for addressing the painful historical wounds that continue plaguing relations between the two countries. In doing so, Hollande acknowledged the "brutal and unjust" manner in which France treated its former Algerian colony — a sober recognition that pointedly stopped short of the full apology officials in Algiers have long demanded. Still, coming a full 50 years after Algeria won its independence with a long and gruesome war, Hollande’s words drew a thundering ovation from the Algerian parliament during his Dec. 20 address.

"Over 132 years, Algeria was subjected to a profoundly unjust and brutal system," Hollande said during his two-day visit. "This system has a name: it is colonialism, and I recognize the suffering that colonialism inflicted on the Algerian people."

But despite the praise — and protest — Hollande’s comments generated on both sides of the Mediterranean, he failed to touch on two terrible, living consequences of France’s legacy in Algeria. First among those is the historical background in which the continuing discrimination and ghettoization of millions of French Arabs are rooted — much like the increasingly open expression of Islamophobia within French society. Second is his failure to acknowledge the deeply corrupt, brutal and military-supported Algerian power structure that has dominated the country since independence — one that Paris has preferred to placate and patronize, even as it presses for democracy elsewhere...

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