Algeria has recalled its ambassador to Paris in protest at statements attributed to French President Emmanuel Macron, who reportedly referred to “a political-military system” in power in Algiers.
The Algerian presidency expressed its “rejection of any interference in its internal affairs”, mentioning “unchallenged remarks” said to have been made by the president which it described as “inadmissible” and “irresponsible”.
In response, Algiers decided “to immediately recall for consultation” its ambassador, Mohamed Antar-Daoud.
Algerian media has widely broadcast statements credited to Macron published on Saturday by the French newspaper Le Monde, calling them “acerbic” and of “misconduct”.
According to the paper, the president made remarks critical of its former colony during a meeting on Thursday with descendants of protagonists in the Algerian war of independence from 1954-62.
Macron also evoked “a completely rewritten official history” which was “not based on truths” but on “a discourse based on a hatred of France”, specifying that this came from Algeria’s ruling classes, not society as a whole.
Relations between Paris and Algiers were already strained. The previous day, the French ambassador to Algeria, François Gouyette, was summoned to the foreign ministry in protest at Paris’ decision to halve the number of visas granted to Algerians wishing to travel to France.
The move would have “no impact” for students and business people, but rather the idea was “to annoy people” from the ruling elite who “used to apply for visas easily”, Le Monde quoted Emmanuel Macron as saying.
Last week, the French government said it was cutting the number of visas available to Maghreb countries including Algeria, citing their refusal to take back illegal migrants.
Macron also reportedly described the Algerian system as “tired” and “weakened” by the Hirak, the pro-democracy movement which prompted the resignation in 2019 of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
He refers to “a good dialogue” with current President Abdelmajid Tebboune”, adding that his counterpart was “caught in a system which is very tough”.
The website 24H Algérie accused the French president of spouting familiar themes pushed by the French political right and far right, rejecting any recognition of France’s “massive colonial crimes”. The private newspaper El Watan devoted its Sunday front page to “Macron’s misconduct”.
The comments attributed to the French president also caused a storm on social media, with many linking Macron’s statements to the upcoming presidential campaign in France.
In September, Emmanuel Macron apologised to Algerians who fought alongside French colonial forces in Algeria’s war for independence and were then massacred and ostracised as traitors.
Since taking office in 2017, the French leader has made moves to settle questions related to France’s colonial domination which began in 1830 and ended in 1962 after a bloody Algerian war.
In July 2020, the remains of 24 Algerian resistance fighters killed in the 19th century were returned to Algeria.
In 2018, France formally acknowledged the army’s systemic use of torture in the 1954-62 Algerian war. President Macron visited the widow of anti-colonial activist Maurice Audin, tortured and killed by the French army in 1957, to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the French Republic.