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Momentous admission

Sep 18,2018 - Last updated at Sep 18,2018

French President Emmanuel Macron made history when, on Thursday, he admitted for the first time that his country was guilty of practicing systematic torture and other grave human rights abuses during its war against the Algerian National Liberation Front, which was fighting for the independence of Algeria.

France had conquered Algeria in 1837 and considered it ever since as part of France. Never before did any French leader go to the extent of admitting the perpetration of grave human rights violations during France's rule of Algeria and especially during Algeria's seven-year war of liberation that won the country its independence, at last, in 1962.

France's dark colonial legacy in Algeria can now be put to rest after Macron decided, albeit belatedly, to admit guilt in a bid to turn a new page in his country's relation with its former colony, Algeria. It was the case of 25-year-old French national Maurice Audin, who was tortured and killed while in French detention in 1957 for opposing his country's colonial rule of Algeria that set in motion Macron's decision to deal with his country's dark record in Algeria.

Macron said in a statement that Audin’s disappearance “was made possible by a system… which allowed law enforcement to arrest, detain and question any ‘suspect’ for the purpose of a more effective fight against the opponent”.

Macron has also ordered French archives on Algeria, be open for all public scrutiny in an effort to deal head-on with the scars of the French war against Algeria's war of independence. "Everyone must know the truth," Macron declared.

He said that “there is the duty of truth that lies with the French Republic, which… cannot, therefore, minimise or excuse the crimes and atrocities committed on both sides during this conflict. France still bears the scars, sometimes badly closed”.

The French president deserves to be congratulated for his courage to speak out against his own country's colonial past, which he now refers to as a crime against humanity.

If only other colonial powers would do the same and make public their grave crimes committed against the peoples that they had occupied and colonised. That would be the right thing to do.

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