France hands over remains of Algeria's resistance fighters

The fighters' coffins at the Palais De La Culture Moufdi Zakaria in Algiers on July 4, 2020
The fighters' coffins at the Palais De La Culture Moufdi Zakaria in Algiers on July 4, 2020 Copyright RYAD KRAMDI/AFP
By Alessio Dell'Anna with AFP
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They were returned to Algeria after 170 years, in the latest move to heal the wounds of France's colonial past.


Algeria is burying on Sunday, its independence day, the remains of 24 soldiers returned by France after 170 years.

It's the latest attempt to settle questions linked to France's colonial domination, which began in 1830 and ended in 1962 after a bloody four-year independence war.

The skulls, belonging to soldiers who died during the 19th century, will be buried in Algeria's biggest cemetery, El Alia, near Algiers' square dedicated to the "martyrs of the Algerian Revolution".

The ceremony will be attended by Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Many, despite the heat, paid tribute to the soldiers on Saturday, as their coffins, covered with the national flag, were exposed at Algiers' Palace of Culture.

The remains included those of Sheikh Bouziane, leader of the 1849 Ziban uprising in eastern Algeria, and of his comrades in arms. Captured by the French, they were shot and then beheaded.

Before the handover, their remains had been kept at Paris' National Museum of Natural History.

Algeria had officially requested them back in January 2018, along with several colonial archives.

"This gesture is part of a process of friendship" to heal the "wounds of our history," the Elysee commented on Friday.

Algeria's president, interview on Saturday by France 24, said the move would "help calm the climate" and improve "economic relations" between the two countries, adding however that there is more that needs to be done on the colonial issue.

French President Emmanuel Macron had pledged to return the bodies of the fighters during a visit to Algeria in 2017, after calling the colonisation of the country "a crime against humanity". Later in 2019, during a visit to Ivory Coast, he called colonialism "a grave mistake" and a "serious fault".

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