Algeria, Where Bygones Can't Be Bygones

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Who will be the author of Algeria's history?

Will it be a former member of the Islamic Salvation Front, Nassiridin Turkman, who says that Islamic militants played no role in the massacres that left more than 100,000 innocent civilians dead in the 1990's?

Will it be the president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who maintains that the state's security institutions played no role in the disappearance of more than 6,000 people?

Or will it be the member of Parliament who says that people are not really missing at all, but rather are hiding in Europe?

It is, of course, impossible to say who will write the final chapter concerning a civil war that paralyzed this country for more than a decade. But what is certain, right now, is that President Bouteflika has decided he is not interested in an accurate accounting of the past. The president has just pushed through a Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, approved recently by voters, that offers amnesty to militants for all but the worst crimes and exonerates state security agencies from wrongdoing. He has decided that the best antidote to the violence that divided his country is to declare that everyone is a victim, and to try to move forward.

But the years of killing have left many people angry, alienated from one another, distrustful of their government and locked in their own accounting of the past. Without any formal process of truth and reconciliation, the details of Algeria's history depend on who is talking, and that has some people concerned about the future.

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