Algerian War of Independence

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Algerian War of Independence
Part of Wars of Independence
Civil war scene between French Algeria supporters and French Army's Gardes Mobiles & CRS (Dec. 11th 1960)
Date 1954 - 1962
Location Algeria
Result Algerian independence
Casus belli French colonial practices, FLN terrorism in French Algeria
FLN (1954-62)
MNA (1954-62)
France (1954-62) FAF (1960-61)
OAS (1961-62)
Ferhat Abbas
Hocine Aït Ahmed
Ahmed Ben Bella
Krim Belkacem
Larbi Ben M'Hidi
Rabah Bitat
Mohamed Boudiaf
Messali Hadj
Pierre Mendès-France
General Jacques Massu
General Maurice Challe
Charles de Gaulle
Bachaga Said Boualam
Commander Pierre Lagaillarde
General Raoul Salan
40,000 400,000 3,000 (OAS)
141,000+ dead 18,000 dead
65,000 wounded
100 dead (OAS)
2,000 jailed (OAS)
This article is part of the
History of Algeria series
Prehistoric Central North Africa
North Africa during the Classical Period
Medieval Muslim Algeria
Ottoman rule in Algeria
French rule in Algeria
Nationalism and resistance in Algeria
Algerian War of Independence
History of Algeria since 1962
Algerian Civil War
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The Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) was one of the most important decolonisation wars and a complex conflict. It was a period of guerrilla strikes, maquis fighting, terrorism against civilians on both sides, and riots between the French army, the European-Algerians (Catholics & Jews) — or the "colons" as they were called by the FLN — the loyalist Muslim Arab-Algerians Harkis (who had their political party French Algeria Front) against the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale), the MNA — supported by the French Communist Party and Algerian Communist Party, Liberal Pieds-Noirs (European-Algerians), and some pro-independence Arab-Algerians. Eventually the conflict turned into a civil war between the French rebel faction OAS who took the maquis in 1962 and turned against both de Gaulle's loyalist army and the FLN.


[edit] Overview

The struggle was touched off by the FLN in 1954, shortly after the fall of the French Union at Dien Bien Phu and only two years before France gave up its control over its protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco. The war, which lasted until the March 18, 1962 Evian Accords, and the July 3, 1962 independence of Algeria, immediately followed the Indochina War waged against Ho Chi Minh. Although the war was mainly waged by the FLN, which had overshadowed more moderate parties such as Messali Hadj's Mouvement National Algérien (MNA, National Algerian Movement) or Ferhat Abbas's Union Démocratique du Manifeste Algérien (UDMA, Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto), the FLN and the MNA fought against each other in France and Algeria nearly for the duration of the conflict. The Algerian War was marked by the 1956 Suez crisis (France accused Nasser of supporting the FLN); Charles de Gaulle's return to power during the May 1958 crisis, when the French military opposed to Algerian independence threatened to launch Operation Resurrection, designed to overthrow the Republic, and the founding of the Fifth Republic; the April 1961 Generals' putsch in Algiers; and the scandal of the use of torture, systematized by the French army who set up most modern counter-insurgency techniques. Although most supported the war at its beginning, including Premier Pierre Mendès-France who had been elected on a program to put an end to the Indochina War, public hostility became stronger later on. Jean-Paul Sartre and the Jeanson network symbolized the opposition to the war, whether pacifist, anti-militarist or anti-colonialist.

A founding event of Algerian history, the Algerian war also left long-standing scars in French society and still affects present-day France. The National Assembly officially acknowledged only in 1999 that a "war" had taken place (official terminology was a "public order operation") <ref> Colonialism, a dangerous war of memories begins, by Benjamin Stora, in L'Humanité, translated from December 6, 2005 article (English) </ref>; while the October 17, 1961 massacre in Paris was recognized by the French state only in October 2001; on the other hand, the OAS (Organisation armée secrète) terrorist group still has followers among the far right movement <ref> In July 2006, some OAS nostalgics lighted up the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier's flame to celebrate July 5, 1962, the day of the Oran massacre of 1962. See Des nostalgiques de l'OAS sur la tombe du soldat inconnu?, in L'Humanité, July 3, 2006 (French) </ref>.

[edit] Beginning of hostilities

In the early morning hours of November 1, 1954, FLN maquisards — "guerrillas", or "terrorists" as they were called by the French — launched attacks in various parts of Algeria against military installations, police posts, warehouses, communications facilities, and public utilities. From Cairo, the FLN broadcast a proclamation calling on Muslims in Algeria to join in a national struggle for the "restoration of the Algerian state, sovereign, democratic, and social, within the framework of the principles of Islam." The French minister of interior, socialist François Mitterrand, responded sharply that "the only possible negotiation is war." It was the reaction of Premier Pierre Mendès-France, who only a few months before had completed the liquidation of France's empire in Indochina, that set the tone of French policy for the next five years. On November 12, he declared in the National Assembly: "One does not compromise when it comes to defending the internal peace of the nation, the unity and integrity of the Republic. The Algerian departments are part of the French Republic. They have been French for a long time, and they are irrevocably French […] Between them and metropolitan France there can be no conceivable secession."

[edit] FLN

ALN R.A. propaganda poster in Algiers, "The Algerian Revolution, a people at war against colonialist barbarity". (June 29, 1962, Rocher Noir)

The FLN uprising presented nationalist groups with the question of whether to adopt armed revolt as the main mode of action. During the first year of the war, Ferhat Abbas's UDMA, the ulema, and the PCA maintained a friendly neutrality toward the FLN. The communists, who had made no move to cooperate in the uprising at the start, later tried to infiltrate the FLN, but FLN leaders publicly repudiated the support of the party. In April 1956, Abbas flew to Cairo, where he formally joined the FLN. This action brought in many évolués who had supported the UDMA in the past. The AUMA also threw the full weight of its prestige behind the FLN. Bendjelloul and the pro-integrationist moderates had already abandoned their efforts to mediate between the French and the rebels.

After the collapse of the MTLD, Messali Hadj formed the leftist Mouvement National Algérien (MNA), which advocated a policy of violent revolution and total independence similar to that of the FLN. The ALN, the military wing of the FLN, subsequently wiped out the MNA guerrilla operation, and Messali Hadj's movement lost what little influence it had had in Algeria. However, the MNA gained the support of a majority of Algerian workers in France through the Union Syndicale des Travailleurs Algériens (Union of Algerian Workers). The FLN also established a strong organization in France to oppose the MNA. Merciless "café wars," resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths, were waged in France between the two rebel groups throughout the years of the War of Independence.

On the political front, the FLN worked to persuade — and to coerce — the Algerian masses to support the aims of the independence movement. FLN-oriented labour unions, professional associations, and students' and women's organizations were organized to rally diverse segments of the population. Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist from Martinique who became the FLN's leading political theorist, provided a sophisticated intellectual justification for the use of violence in achieving national liberation. From Cairo, Ahmed Ben Bella ordered the liquidation of potential interlocuteurs valables, those independent representatives of the Muslim community acceptable to the French through whom a compromise or reforms within the system might be achieved.

As the FLN campaign spread through the countryside, many farmers in the interior (called Pieds-Noirs) sold their holdings and sought refuge in Algiers and other Algerian cities. After a series of bloody, random massacres and bombings by Muslim Algerians in several towns and cities, the French Pieds-Noirs and urban French population began to demand that the French government engage in sterner countermeasures, including the proclamation of a state of emergency, capital punishment for political crimes, denouncement of all separatists, and most ominously, a call for 'tit-for-tat' reprisal operations by police, military, and para-military forces. Colon vigilante units, whose unauthorized activities were conducted with the passive cooperation of police authorities, carried out ratonnades (literally, rat-hunts; synonymous with Arab-killings) against suspected FLN members of the Muslim community.

By 1955 effective political action groups within the Algerian colonial community succeeded in intimidating the governors general sent by Paris to resolve the conflict. A major success was the conversion of Jacques Soustelle, who went to Algeria as governor general in January 1955 determined to restore peace. Soustelle, a one-time leftist and by 1955 an ardent Gaullist, began an ambitious reform program (the Soustelle Plan) aimed at improving economic conditions among the Muslim population.

[edit] Philippeville

ALN guerrillas using mortar across the Algerian-Tunisian border protected by the electrified Morice Line. (1958)

The FLN adopted tactics similar to those of nationalist liberal groups in Asia, and the French did not realize the seriousness of the challenge they faced until 1955, when the FLN moved into more urbanized areas. An important watershed in the War of Independence was the massacre of Pieds-Noirs civilians by the FLN near the town of Philippeville in August 1955. Before this operation, FLN policy was to attack only military and government-related targets. The wilaya commander for the Constantine region, however, decided a drastic escalation was needed. The killing by the FLN and its supporters of 123 people, including old women and babies, shocked Soustelle into calling for more repressive measures against the rebels. The government claimed it killed 1,273 guerrillas in retaliation; according to the FLN, 12,000 Muslims were massacred by the armed forces and police, as well as Pieds-Noirs gangs. After Philippeville, Soustelle declared sterner measures and an all-out war began. In 1956 demonstrations of French Algerians forced the French government to abolish an idea of reform.

Soustelle's successor, Governor General Robert Lacoste, a socialist, abolished the Algerian Assembly. Lacoste saw the assembly, which was dominated by pieds-noirs, as hindering the work of his administration, and he undertook to rule Algeria by decree. He favored stepping up French military operations and granted the army exceptional police powers — a concession of dubious legality under French law — to deal with the mounting political violence. At the same time, Lacoste proposed a new administrative structure that would give Algeria a degree of autonomy and a decentralized government. Although remaining an integral part of France, Algeria was to be divided into five districts, each of which would have a territorial assembly elected from a single slate of candidates. Deputies representing Algerian ridings were able to delay until 1958 passage of the measure by the National Assembly of France.

In August/September 1956, the internal leadership of the FLN met to organize a formal policy-making body to synchronize the movement's political and military activities. The highest authority of the FLN was vested in the thirty-four-member National Council of the Algerian Revolution (Conseil National de la Révolution Algérienne, CNRA), within which the five-man Committee of Coordination and Enforcement (Comité de Coordination et d'Exécution, CCE) formed the executive. The externals, including Ben Bella, knew the conference was taking place but by chance or design on the part of the internals were unable to attend.

Meanwhile, in October 1956, the French Air Force intercepted a Moroccan DC-3 that was flying to Tunis, carrying Ben Bella and others, and forced it to land on Algiers. Lacoste had the FLN external political leaders arrested and imprisoned for the duration of the war. This action caused the remaining rebel leaders to harden their stance.

France took a more openly hostile view of President Gamal Nasser's material and political assistance to the FLN, which some French analysts believed was the most important element in sustaining continued rebel activity in Algeria. This attitude was a factor in persuading France to participate in the November 1956 British attempt to seize the Suez Canal during the Suez Crisis.

During 1957 support for the FLN weakened as the breach between the internals and externals widened. To halt the drift, the FLN expanded its executive committee to include Abbas, as well as imprisoned political leaders such as Ben Bella. It also convinced communist and Arab members of the United Nations (UN) to apply diplomatic pressure on the French government to negotiate a cease-fire.

Pied-Noir intellectual Albert Camus, tried unsuccessfully to persuade both sides to at least leave civilians alone. The FLN considered him a fool, and most Pieds-Noirs considered him a traitor.

[edit] French Counterinsurgency Operations

French army paratroopers heading to a transport helicopter. (1958)

From its origins in 1954 as ragtag maquisards numbering in the hundreds and armed with a motley assortment of hunting rifles and discarded French, German, and American light weapons, the FLN had evolved by 1957 into a disciplined fighting force of nearly 40,000. More than 30,000 were organized along conventional lines in external units that were stationed in Moroccan and Tunisian sanctuaries near the Algerian border, where they served primarily to divert some French manpower from the main theaters of guerrilla activity to guard against infiltration. The brunt of the fighting was borne by the internals in the wilayat; estimates of the numbers of internals range from 6,000 to more than 25,000, with thousands of part-time irregulars.

During 1956 and 1957, the FLN successfully applied hit-and-run tactics according to the classic canons of guerrilla warfare. Specializing in ambushes and night raids and avoiding direct contact with superior French firepower, the internal forces targeted army patrols, military encampments, police posts, and colonial farms, mines, and factories, as well as transportation and communications facilities. Once an engagement was broken off, the guerrillas merged with the population in the countryside. Kidnapping was commonplace, as were the ritual murder and mutilation of captured French military, colons of both genders and every age, suspected collaborators or traitors. At first, the FLN targeted only Muslim officials of the colonial regime; later, they coerced, maimed (cutting off ears and nose with a douk-douk was a favored torture) or killed village elders, government employees, and even simple peasants who simply refused to support them. Moreover, during the first two years of the conflict, the guerrillas killed about 6,000 Muslims and 1,000 non-Muslims.<ref>Leulliette, Pierre, St. Michael and the Dragon: Memoirs of a Paratrooper, Houghton Mifflin, 1964</ref>

Although successful in engendering an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty within both communities in Algeria, the revolutionaries' coercive tactics suggested that they had not yet inspired the bulk of the Muslim people to revolt against French colonial rule. Gradually, however, the FLN gained control in certain sectors of the Aurès, the Kabylie, and other mountainous areas around Constantine and south of Algiers and Oran. In these places, the FLN established a simple but effective— although frequently temporary — military administration that was able to collect taxes and food and to recruit manpower. But it was never able to hold large fixed positions. Muslims all over the country also initiated underground social, judicial, and civil organizations, gradually building their own state.

The loss of competent field commanders both on the battlefield and through defections and political purges created difficulties for the FLN. Moreover, power struggles in the early years of the war split leadership in the wilayat, particularly in the Aurès. Some officers created their own fiefdoms, using units under their command to settle old scores and engage in private wars against military rivals within the FLN. Although identified and exploited by French intelligence, factionalism did not materially impair the overall effectiveness of FLN military operations.

To increase international and domestic French attention to their struggle, the FLN decided to bring the conflict to the cities and to call a nationwide general strike. The most notable manifestation of the new urban campaign was the Battle of Algiers, which began on September 30, 1956, when three women placed bombs at three sites including the downtown office of Air France. The ALN carried out an average of 800 shootings and bombings per month through the spring of 1957, resulting in many civilian casualties and inviting a crushing response from the authorities. The 1957 general strike, timed to coincide with the UN debate on Algeria, was imposed on Muslim workers and businesses. General Jacques Massu, who was instructed to use whatever methods were necessary to restore order in the city, frequently fought terrorism with acts of terrorism. Using paratroopers, he broke the strike and systematically destroyed the FLN infrastructure there. But the FLN had succeeded in showing its ability to strike at the heart of French Algeria and in rallying a mass response to its appeals among urban Muslims. Massu's troops punished villages that were suspected of harboring rebels by attacking them by mobile troops or aerial bombardment and gathered 2 million of the rural Muslim population into concentration camps. The publicity given to the often brutal methods used by the army to win the Battle of Algiers, including the widespread use of torture, created doubt in France about its role in Algeria. Pacification had turned into a colonial war.

Despite complaints from the military command in Algiers, the French government was reluctant for many months to admit that the Algerian situation was out of control and that what was viewed officially as a pacification operation had developed into a major war. By 1956 France had committed more than 400,000 troops to Algeria. Although the elite colonial infantry airborne units and the Foreign Legion bore the brunt of offensive counterinsurgency combat operations, approximately 170,000 Muslim Algerians also served in the regular French army, most of them volunteers. France also sent air force and naval units to the Algerian theater, including rotary-winged craft (helicopters). In addition to service as a flying ambulances and cargo carrier, French forces utilized the helicopter for the first time in a ground attack role in order to pursue and destroy fleeing FLN guerrilla units.

The French army resumed an important role in local Algerian administration through the Special Administration Section (Section Administrative Spécialisée, SAS), created in 1955. The SAS's mission was to establish contact with the Muslim population and weaken nationalist influence in the rural areas by asserting the "French presence" there. SAS officers — called képis bleus (blue caps) — also recruited and trained bands of loyal Muslim irregulars, known as harkis. Armed with shotguns and using guerrilla tactics similar to those of the FLN, the harkis, who eventually numbered about 150,000 volunteers, were an ideal instrument of counterinsurgency warfare.

Late in 1957, General Raoul Salan, commanding the French army in Algeria, instituted a system of quadrillage, dividing the country into sectors, each permanently garrisoned by troops responsible for suppressing rebel operations in their assigned territory. Salan's methods sharply reduced the instances of FLN terrorism but tied down a large number of troops in static defense. Salan also constructed a heavily patrolled system of barriers to limit infiltration from Tunisia and Morocco. The best known of these was the Morice Line (named for the French defense minister, André Morice), which consisted of an electrified fence, barbed wire, and mines over a 320-kilometer stretch of the Tunisian border.

The French military command ruthlessly applied the principle of collective responsibility to villages suspected of sheltering, supplying, or in any way cooperating with the guerrillas. Villages that could not be reached by mobile units were subject to aerial bombardment. FLN Guerrillas that fled to caves or other remote hiding places were tracked and hunted down. In one episode, FLN guerrillas who refused to surrender and withdraw from a cave complex were dealt with by French Foreign Legion Pioneer troops, who, lacking flamethrowers or explosives, simply bricked up each cave, leaving the residents to die of suffocation.<ref>Leulliette, Pierre, St. Michael and the Dragon: Memoirs of a Paratrooper, Houghton Mifflin, 1964</ref>

Finding it impossible to protect all of Algeria's remote farms and villages, the French government also initiated a program of concentrating large segments of the rural population, including whole villages, in camps under military supervision to prevent them from voluntarily aiding the rebels — or to protect them from FLN extortion. In the three years (195760) during which the regroupement program was followed, more than 2 million Algerians were removed from their villages, mostly in the mountainous areas, and resettled in the plains, where many found it impossible to re-establish their accustomed economic or social situations. Living conditions in the camps were poor. Hundreds of empty villages were devastated, and in hundreds of others, orchards and croplands not previously burned by French troops went to seed for lack of care. These population transfers were effective in denying the use of remote villages to FLN guerrillas who had used them as a source of rations and manpower, but also caused significant resentment on the part of the displaced Muslim villagers. The disruptive social and economic effects of this massive relocation continued to be felt a generation later.

A French army captain, David Galula, wrote about his experiences commanding French troops in the Kabylia district at the height of the war. His lessons on counterinsurgency and pacification provide a context for present-day counterinsurgency operations.

The French army shifted its tactics at the end of 1958 from dependence on quadrillage to the use of mobile forces deployed on massive search-and-destroy missions against FLN strongholds. Within the next year, Salan's successor, General Maurice Challe, appeared to have suppressed major rebel resistance. But political developments had already overtaken the French army's successes.

[edit] Committee of Public Safety

Recurrent cabinet crises focused attention on the inherent instability of the French Fourth Republic and increased the misgivings of the army and of the colons that the security of Algeria was being undermined by party politics. Army commanders chafed at what they took to be inadequate and incompetent government support of military efforts to end the rebellion. The feeling was widespread that another debacle like that of Indochina in 1954 was in the offing and that the government would order another precipitate pullout and sacrifice French honor to political expediency. Many saw in de Gaulle, who had not held office since 1946, the only public figure capable of rallying the nation and giving direction to the French government.

After his tour as governor general, Soustelle had returned to France to organize support for de Gaulle's return to power, while retaining close ties to the army and the colons. By early 1958, he had organized a coup d'état, bringing together dissident army officers and colons with sympathetic Gaullists. An army junta under General Massu seized power in Algiers on the night of May 13. General Salan assumed leadership of a Committee of Public Safety formed to replace the civil authority and pressed the junta's demands that de Gaulle be named by French president René Coty to head a government of national union invested with extraordinary powers to prevent the "abandonment of Algeria."

On May 24, French paratroopers from the Algerian corps landed on Corsica, taking the French island in a bloodless action called "Operation Corse." Subsequently, preparations were made in Algeria for "Operation Resurrection," which had as objectives the seizure of Paris and the removal of the French government. Resurrection was to be implemented if one of three scenarios occurred: if de Gaulle was not approved as leader of France by Parliament; if de Gaulle asked for military assistance to take power, or if it seemed that communist forces were making any move to take power in France. De Gaulle was approved by the French Parliament on May 29, by 329 votes against 224, fifteen hours before the projected launch of Resurrection. This indicated that the French Fourth Republic by 1958 no longer had any support from the French army in Algeria, and was at its mercy even in civilian political matters. This decisive shift in the balance of power in civil-military relations in France in 1958 and the threat of force was the main immediate factor in the return of de Gaulle to power in France.

[edit] De Gaulle

Image:Charles de Gaulle.jpg
Charles de Gaulle as President

A lot of people, French citizens or not, greeted Charles de Gaulle's return to power as the breakthrough needed to end the hostilities. On his June 4 trip to Algeria, de Gaulle calculatedly made an ambiguous and broad emotional appeal to all the inhabitants, declaring "Je vous ai compris" ("I have understood you"). De Gaulle raised the hopes of colons and the professional military, disaffected by the indecisiveness of previous governments, with his exclamation of "Vive l'Algérie française" ("Long live French Algeria") to cheering crowds in Mostaganem. At the same time, he proposed economic, social, and political reforms to improve the situation of the Muslims. Nonetheless, de Gaulle later admitted to having harbored deep pessimism about the outcome of the Algerian situation even then. Meanwhile, he looked for a "third force" among the population of Algeria, uncontaminated by the FLN or the "ultras"colon extremists — through whom a solution might be found.

De Gaulle immediately appointed a committee to draft a new constitution for France's Fifth Republic, which would be declared early the next year, with which Algeria would be associated but of which it would not form an integral part. All Muslims, including women, were registered for the first time on electoral rolls to participate in a referendum to be held on the new constitution in September 1958.

De Gaulle's initiative threatened the FLN with the prospect of losing the support of the growing numbers of Muslims who were tired of the war and had never been more than lukewarm in their commitment to a totally independent Algeria. In reaction, the FLN set up the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (Gouvernement Provisionel de la République Algérienne, GPRA), a government-in-exile headed by Abbas and based in Tunis. Before the referendum, Abbas lobbied for international support for the GPRA, which was quickly recognized by Morocco, Tunisia, and several other Arab countries, by a number of Asian and African states, and by the Soviet Union and other Eastern European states.

ALN commandos committed numerous acts of sabotage in France in August, and the FLN mounted a desperate campaign of terror in Algeria to intimidate Muslims into boycotting the referendum. Despite threats of reprisal, however, 80 percent of the Muslim electorate turned out to vote in September, and of these 96 percent approved the constitution. In February 1959, de Gaulle was elected president of the new Fifth Republic. He visited Constantine in October to announce a program to end the war and create an Algeria closely linked to France. De Gaulle's call on the rebel leaders to end hostilities and to participate in elections was met with adamant refusal. "The problem of a cease-fire in Algeria is not simply a military problem," said the GPRA's Abbas. "It is essentially political, and negotiation must cover the whole question of Algeria." Secret discussions that had been underway were broken off.

In 195859 the French army had won military control in Algeria and was the closest it would be to victory. In late July 1959, during Operation Jumelles Colonel Bigeard — whose elite paratrooper unit fought at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 — told journalist Jean Larteguy (source):

"We are not making war for ourselves, not making a colonialist war, Bigeard wears no shirt (he shows his opened uniform) as does my officers. We are fighting right here right now for them, for the evolution, to see the evolution of these people and this war is for them. We are defending their freedom as we are, in my opinion, defending the West's freedom. We are here ambassadors, Crusaders, who are hanging on in order to still be able to talk and to be able to speak for." Col. Bigeard (July 1959)

During that period in France, however, opposition to the conflict was growing among many segments of the population, notably the leftists, with the pro-USSR French Communist Party — then one of the country's strongest political forces — supporting the Algerian Revolution. Thousands of relatives of conscripts and reserve soldiers suffered loss and pain; revelations of torture and the indiscriminate brutality the army visited on the Muslim population prompted widespread revulsion; and a significant constituency supported the principle of national liberation. International pressure was also building on France to grant Algeria independence. Annually since 1955 the UN General Assembly had considered the Algerian question, and the FLN position was gaining support. France's seeming intransigence in settling a colonial war that tied down half the manpower of its armed forces was also a source of concern to its NATO allies.

In a September 1959 statement, de Gaulle dramatically reversed his stand and uttered the words "self-determination," which he envisioned as leading to majority rule in an Algeria formally associated with France. In Tunis, Abbas acknowledged that de Gaulle's statement might be accepted as a basis for settlement, but the French government refused to recognize the GPRA as the representative of Algeria's Muslim community.

[edit] The barricades week

Image:Semaine Barricades Alger 1960.jpg
Barricades in Algiers. "Long live Massu" (Vive Massu) is written on the banner. (January 1960)

Claiming that de Gaulle had betrayed them, some units of the French army corps in Algiers led by paratrooper commander Pierre Lagaillarde staged an insurrection in the Algerian capital starting on January 24 1960 and known in France as La semaine des barricades ("the barricades week"). As the army, police and supporter civilians Pied-Noirs stood by threw up barricades in the streets and seized government buildings. Algiers was determined under siege by Paris, and twenty rioters were killed during a firing in Laferrière Boulevard. In Paris, de Gaulle called on the army to remain loyal and rallied popular support for his Algeria policy in a televised address. Most of the army heeded his call and then failed the French Algeria supporters uprising.

The siege of Algiers ended on February 1st with Lagaillarde surrending to General Challe commanding the French army in Algeria corps. The loss of many ultra leaders who were imprisoned or transferred to other areas did not deter the French Algeria militants. Sent to prison in Paris, Lagaillarde evaded to Spain while left on parole. There with another French army officer, Raoul Salan, he created the O.A.S. (Organisation Armée Secrète, lit. Secret Army Organization) on December 3rd 1960 with the purpose to follow-up the fight for the French Algeria. Highly organized and well-armed the OAS stepped up its terrorist activities, which were directed against both Muslims and pro-government French citizens, as the move toward negotiated settlement of the war and self-determination gained momentum. To the FLN rebellion against France were added civil wars between extremists in the two communities and between the ultras and the French government in Algeria.

The French army officers uprising can be understood as following, some officers, most notably from the paratroopers corps, felt betrayed by the government for the second time after Indochina. In some aspects the Dien Bien Phu garrison was sacrificed with no metropolitan support, order was given to commanding officer General de Castries to "let the affair die of its own, in serenity" ("laissez mourrir l'affaire d'elle même en sérénité" French Army audio archives).

[edit] Bab El Oued siege

On March 26th 1962, the OAS took the Bab El Oued area in Algiers in order to create another May 1958 coup allowing settlings with the French government.

[edit] The Evian Accords

Main articles: Evian Accords and Alger putsch
Civil war situation, French army in Algiers. (March 26, 1962)

The "generals' putsch" in April 1961, aimed at cancelling Michel Debré's government's secret peace negotiations with the FLN, marked the turning point in the official attitude toward the Algerian war. De Gaulle was now prepared to abandon the colons, the group that no previous French government could have written off. The army had been discredited by the putsch and kept a low profile politically throughout the rest of France's involvement with Algeria. Talks with the FLN reopened at Evian in May 1961; after several false starts, the French government decreed that a ceasefire would take effect on March 19, 1962. In their final form, the Evian Accords allowed the colons equal legal protection with Algerians over a three year period. These rights included respect for property, participation in public affairs, and a full range of civil and cultural rights. At the end of that period, however, all Algerian residents would be obliged to become Algerian citizens or be classified as aliens with the attendant loss of rights. The French electorate approved the Evian Accords by an overwhelming 91 percent vote in a referendum held in June 1962.

During the three months between the cease-fire and the French referendum on Algeria, the OAS (Organisation armée secrète) unleashed a new terrorist campaign. The OAS sought to provoke a major breach in the ceasefire by the FLN but the terrorism now was aimed also against the French army and police enforcing the accords as well as against Muslims. It was the most wanton carnage that Algeria had witnessed in eight years of savage warfare. OAS operatives set off an average of 120 bombs per day in March, with targets including hospitals and schools. Ultimately, the terrorism failed in its objectives, and the OAS and the FLN concluded a truce on June 17, 1962. In the same month, more than 350,000 colons left Algeria.

On July 1, 1962, some 6 million of a total Algerian electorate of 6.5 million cast their ballots in the referendum on independence. The vote was nearly unanimous. De Gaulle pronounced Algeria an independent country on July 3. The Provisional Executive, however, proclaimed July 5, the 132nd anniversary of the French entry into Algeria, as the day of national independence.

Despite the Evian Accords guarantees towards the French citizens, after the end of June civilians became the target of systematic FLN attacks. It quickly became apparent to Europeans that the new government would not ensure their safety or enforce their rights. The Oran July 5, 1962 massacre, four days after the vote, is the main example of deliberate strategy of killing to terrorize former colons and push them to leave. These tactics proved efficient. Summer 1962 saw a rush to France. Within a year, 1.4 million refugees, including almost the entire Jewish community and some pro-French Muslims, had joined the exodus to France. The vast majority left, as detailed below.

[edit] Pieds-Noirs' and Harkis' exodus

Pieds-Noirs (including Jews) and Harkis accounted for 13% of the total population of Algeria in 1962. For the sake of clarity, each group's exodus is described separately here, although their fate shared many common elements.

[edit] Pieds-noirs

Hatred "colons" for the FLN, "slavagists" and "assassins" for the metropolitan French, the Français d'Algérie were expropriated and exiled from their native land. (Algiers, Jan. 1960)

Pied-noir (literally "black foot") is a term used to name the European-descended population that had been in Algeria for generations; it is sometimes used to include the Jewish population as well, which likewise emigrated after 1962. The Europeans had arrived as colonists from all over the Mediterranean (particularly France, Spain, and Malta), starting in 1830. The Jews had arrived in several waves, some coming in Roman times while most had arrived as refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, and had largely embraced French citizenship after the decret Crémieux in 1871. In 1959, the pieds-noirs numbered 1,025,000 (85% of European descent, and 15% of Jewish descent), and accounted for 10.4% of the total population of Algeria. In just a few months in 1962, 900,000 of them fled or sailed the country, the first third prior to the referendum, in the most massive relocation of population to Europe since the Second World War. A motto used in the FLN propaganda designating the Pied-noirs community was "Suitcase or coffin" ("La valise ou le cercueil").

The French government had not anticipated that such a massive number would leave; at the most it estimated that perhaps 200-300,000 might choose to go to metropolitan France temporarily. Consequently, nothing was planned for their return, and many had to sleep in streets or abandoned farms on their arrival. A minority of departing pieds-noirs, including soldiers, destroyed their possessions before departure, applying scorched earth policy in a sign of protestation and as a desperate symbolic try to leave no trace of centuries of European presence, but the vast majority of their goods and houses were left intact and abandoned to Algerians. Scenes of thousands of panicked people camping for weeks on the docks of Algerian harbors waiting for a space on a boat to France were common from April to August 1962. About 100,000 pieds-noirs chose to remain, but most of those gradually left over the 1960s and 1970s, primarily due to residual hostility against them, including machine-gunning of public places in Oran (source).

[edit] Harkis

Harkis veterans and Pied-Noirs joint protest in support to the French Algeria during the barricades week in Algiers. (January 27, 1960)

The so-called Harkis, from the Arabic word haraka (movement), were the Muslim indigenous Algerians (as opposed to European-descended or Jews) who fought as auxiliaries on the side of the French army, some of them being loyal Free French Forces veterans having fought earlier in De Gaulle's Fighting France and participated in the France's liberation during World War II as well as the Indochina War. The term also came to include civilian indigenous Algerians who supported a French Algeria. According to French government figures, there were 236,000 indigenous Algerian Muslims fighting for the French Army in 1962, either in regular units (Spahis and Tirailleurs) or as irregulars. Some estimates suggest that, with their families, the indigenous Muslim loyalists may have numbered as many as 1 million, but 400,000 is more commonly cited.

In 1962, around 91,000 Harkis fled or sailed to France, despite French policy against this. The Harkis were seen as traitors by many Algerians, and many of those who stayed behind suffered severe reprisals after independence. French historians estimate that somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 Harkis were killed by the FLN or by lynch mobs in Algeria, often in atrocious circumstances or after torture. The abandonment of the "Harkis", non-recognition of those who died defending a French Algeria and the neglect of those who escaped to France remains an issue that France has not fully resolved — although the government of Jacques Chirac has made efforts to give recognition to the suffering of these former allies.

[edit] Death toll

The FLN estimated in 1962 that nearly eight years of revolution had cost 300,000 dead from war-related causes. Some other Algerian sources later put the figure at approximately 1 million dead, while French officials estimated it at 350,000. French military authorities listed their losses at nearly 18,000 dead (6,000 from non-combat-related causes) and 65,000 wounded. European descended civilian casualties exceeded 10,000 (including 3,000 dead) in 42,000 recorded terrorist incidents. According to French figures, security forces killed 141,000 rebel combatants, and more than 12,000 Algerians died in internal FLN purges during the war. An additional 5,000 died in the "café wars" in France between the FLN and rival Algerian groups. French sources also estimated that 70,000 Muslim civilians were killed, or abducted and presumed killed, by the FLN.

Historians, like Alistair Horne, Raymond Aron, consider the actual figure of war dead to be higher than the original FLN and official French estimates, but far below the 1 million adopted by the Algerian government. Uncounted thousands of Muslim civilians lost their lives in French army ratissages, bombing raids, and vigilante reprisals. The war uprooted more than 2 million Algerians, who were forced to relocate in French camps or to flee to Morocco, Tunisia, and into the Algerian hinterland, where many thousands died of starvation, disease, and exposure. In addition large numbers of pro-French Muslims were murdered when the FLN settled accounts after independence. In 2001 General Paul Aussaresses wrote in his book that he was proud to have ordered torture and execution of Algerians during the war. French president Jacques Chirac promptly stripped him of his Legion d'Honneur award.

[edit] Lasting effects in Algerian politics

After Algeria's independence was recognised, Ahmed Ben Bella quickly became more popular, and thereby more powerful. In June 1962, he challenged the leadership of Premier Benyoucef Ben Khedda; this led to several disputes among his rivals in the FLN, which were quickly suppressed by Ben Bella's rapidly growing support, most notably within the armed forces. By September, Bella was in control of Algeria by all but name, and was elected as premier in a one-sided election on 20 September, and was recognised by the United States on September 29. Algeria was admitted as the 109th member of the United Nations on 8 October 1962. Afterwards, Ben Bella declared that Algeria would follow a neutral course in world politics; within a week he met with U.S. President John F. Kennedy requesting more aid for Algeria, with Fidel Castro, expressing approval of Castro's demands for the abandonment of Guantanamo Bay and returned to Algeria requesting that France withdraw from its bases there. In November, Ben Bella's government banned the party, providing that the only party allowed to overtly function was the FLN. Shortly thereafter in 1965 Bella was deposed and placed under house arrest (and later exiled) by Houari Boumédiènne, who served as president until his death in 1978. Algeria remained stable, though in a one-party state, until violent civil war broke out in the 1990s.

The fact that no other Arab county had to undergo such a grim and prolonged struggle to free itself from colonial rule is often thought to have had a direct bearing on the grim and prolonged civil war Algeria was to experience in the 1990's.

For Algerians of many political factions, the legacy of their War of Independence acted to legitimise and virtually sanctify the unrestricted use of force in achieving a goal deemed to be justified. Once invoked against foreign colonialists, the same principle could be turned with relative ease also against fellow Algerians. The determination of the French to hold on to Algeria and of the FLN to overthrow that colonial rule, and the ruthlessness exhibited by both sides in that struggle, were to be mirrored thirty years later by the determination of the FLN government to hold on to power and of the Islamist opposition to overthrow that rule, and the brutal struggle which ensued.

[edit] Influence on Palestinians and Israelis

Palestinians, even more than other Arabs, followed the Algerian War of Independence with sympathy and regarded its victorious conclusion as a precedent applicable to their own liberation struggle. Following 1967, the efforts of Yasser Arafat's PLO to start a guerrilla campaign in the newly-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were consciously inspired by the Algerian experience. Later, in periods of extreme hardship for the Palestinian population there was frequent mention of the extreme sacrifices which the Algerians had to make and which were ultimately vindicated by the achievement of independence.

The Algerian War entered the internal Israeli political and military discourse following the outbreak of the First Intifada in 1987. When Israeli forces started using harsh measures in an effort to break the Palestinian uprising, peace groups and left-wing parliamentarians pointed to the French Army's experience in Algeria as proving the futily of such methods. The film The Battle of Algiers, made back in 1966, was shown in Israel for the first time during the Intifada years, drawing considerable public attention and with critics often drawing explicit parallels with Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

At the same time, Alistair Horne's book on the Algerian war was published in Hebrew translation, followed by the work of Raymond Aron. The IDF high command took the decision to distribute copies of Horne's book to all senior officers, a decision sharply criticized by right-wing parties as "defeatist".

Since the idea of evacuating Israeli settlers came on the Israeli public agenda following the Oslo Agreements, the evacuation of the Pieds-noirs is being frequently cited as a precedent.

For their part, the settlers and their political supporters deny the validity of the comparison, on the grounds that Algeria is separated from France by the Mediterranean while Israel and the West Bank are territorially contiguous, and also that Jews have a Biblical and Historical claim over the territory as the French in Algeria did not have. The main difference between the situations is that the French in Algeria still saw themselves as French and their motherland in France, while Jews are connected to Israel not through colonization but through their attachment to Israel itself. Israel will argue that it's exactly the opposite — the Arabs are the historical colonial power who seized the land of the indigenous people of the land of Israel. Israel argues that the Jews, continuously living in Palestine, are in no way strangers to the land.

During the public debate on the 2005 Gaza Disengagement, some well-known columnists criticized Ariel Sharon's decision to have each and every settler physically removed by army or police, and recommended instead the "de Gaulle Method" — i.e., withdrawing the army and leaving to the settlers the choice of remaining in the Gaza Strip or returning to Israel under their own power. The suggestion was, however, rejected out of hand by the Sharon Government.

At present, the history of the Algerian War continues to be frequently invoked in the ongoing political debate in Israel, with the prospect of further West Bank withdrawal and settlement evacuation high on the public agenda.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Archives media selection

[edit] References

de:Algerienkrieg es:Guerra de Independencia de Argelia eo:Milito de Alĝerio fr:Guerre d'Algérie ko:알제리 전쟁 it:Guerra d'Algeria he:מלחמת אלג'יריה lt:Alžyro karas hu:Algériai háború ja:アルジェリア戦争 nn:Algeriekrigen pl:Wojna o niepodległość Algierii pt:Guerra da Argélia sl:Alžirska osamosvojitvena vojna fi:Algerian itsenäisyyssota sv:Inbördeskriget i Algeriet tr:Cezayir Bağımsızlık Savaşı uk:Алжирська війна zh:阿尔及利亚战争

Algerian War of Independence

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