When French soldiers and administrators left Algeria they took historical artefacts, books and maps - a national heritage that remains in France.
The initial information about Toulouse killer Mohamed Merah suggests that his is a story of modern France. While the Presidency and certain media commentators would like to stop all debate about what this event means for our society, the precise opposite is true. Like the earlier case of Algerian-born Khaled Kelkal, who was shot dead by gendarmes in 1995 after being implicated in a wave of bomb attacks in France, the story of Mohamed Merah holds up a mirror to society. And, says Mediapart editor François Bonnet, it raises vital questions for presidential candidates who seek to provide an alternative to the current presidency.
This year, Algeria, the largest of the Maghrebi countries of North Africa, will mark 50 years of independence from its former ruler France. But the celebrations are set to be heavily subdued by the population’s widespread frustration over social inequalities, unemployment, and the decrepitude of public institutions and infrastructures, the very same issues that prompted the Arab Spring uprisings among its neighbours to the east. Pierre Puchot examines the indicators that suggest the Algerian regime may be the next to fall to a popular revolt.
In March 1996, seven French Trappist monks were kidnapped from their mountainside monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria. Two months later, their heads were found on a roadside in the same region, some hanging from trees in plastic bags. The circumstances of the killings remain a mystery amid suggestions of a cover-up by the French and Algerian authorities. A French judge is leading a revived investigation into the massacre but, just as he appeared to be approaching a breakthrough this year, Mediapart has learnt that key evidence has been declared missing from government archives.
Former socialist president François Mitterrand, under whom the death penalty was eventually abolished in France, ordered the execution of 45 Algerian prisoners when he was justice minister during the 1954-1962 Algerian independence war. This and other little-known facts about Mitterrand's ruthless stance against Algerian nationalists are detailed in a French television documentary based on a book co-authored by historian Benjamin Stora, interviewed here by Mediapart.