French President Emmanuel Macron announced last Friday that he would honour Algerian agents who fought for French colonialism against their own people in the 1950s, a week after he admitted that French forces had resorted to torture in Algeria.
According to Agence France-Presse, “Macron gave 26 Algerian agents high-level medals as an appreciation for their cooperation during the French colonisation of Algeria and their help to the colonists in their war against the Algerian resistance.”
These agents were known as the “Harki” and fought with the French colonial forces either voluntarily or joined them before the revolution started and then continued to do so. The two groups fought the Algerian resistance of the National Liberation Front and some fled to France after the Declaration of Independence in 1962, fearing they would be executed for their betrayal.
The word “Harki” has since been associated with the pop Algerian culture, which has started using the term to describe an agent or a traitor, according to the BBC.
About 150,000 “Harki” soldiers fought in the ranks of the French army and about 60,000 of them fled to France. The colonial power housed them in sheltering centres where around half a million of them lived in poverty and neglect.
Macron’s honouring of the Algerian agents comes after one week of announcing his apology for the “regime’s mistake” that led to the death of Maurice Audin, a French communist who supported the Algerian resistance and died under the French colonial forces’ torture in Algeria in 1957.