A journey through the history ...
The Algerian War – A background
The war started by France in order to maintain her colonies in Algeria in the Early 1950’s had a disastrous end in 1962, this had a great impact on both France and Algeria in terms of political and social environment and there were lot of activities that happened during this period made a history Martin Windrow, Mike Chappell (1997, 41-48).
The primary impact was on the Military Troops and Civilians of both Algeria and France, this was responsible to destroy the Fourth Republic, and decisively transformed French constitution, divided the French army and politics fir ages and send several European families into exile. The movement was started by the Algerians against the French colonial government because they were being treated as second-class citizens in their own country. If we try and estimate the loss in terms of life, almost 25,000 French troops died and some 3,600 European civilians on the other hand from Algeria 155,000 Algerian troops along with 50,000 Muslim civilians which in itself is a monstrous figure Martin Windrow, Mike Chappell (1997, 41-48).
These are one of the few wars that happened during the decade from 1950-60 and were basically to attain independence from their colonial government. The philosophical start of the Algerian movement took place when the privileged Algerians were condemned by the French education system; there was a period when this revolution lost control as the concessions also benifitted themselves Martin Windrow, Mike Chappell (1997, 41-48)
Algeria: The French Colony
After the downfall of Napoleon in 1815 and before the revolution of 1830 the French Monarchy was not in a very good shape and were politically imbalanced and at that time in 1827 “Dey” the Algerian governor insulted French consuls. On this ground and in order to improve their domestic image the French Monarchs started a military campaign considering Algeria week (politically, economically, and militarily). The conquest of Algeria started in 1830 and carried on till 1900 with effective and fill development of Algeria as a French colony. The establishment and its goals can be well understood with the fact that in 1909, Muslims who were basically 90 percent of the population paid 70 percent of the direct taxes and 45 percent of the total taxes however they only produces 20 percent of Algeria’s Income Martin Windrow, Mike Chappell (1997, 45-55)
The thought of Algerian Autonomy
The initial thought of liberalization came into the minds of the upper class Algerians who could afford French education and took inspiration from the Arab Nationalism (1920 & 1930). It was “Star of North-Africa”, the primary goal of this movement was to coordinate political activity which was happening among the North African workers in France and later extended their views to work in the favor and well being of the North African Muslims. The people involved in this party were ( Members of French Communist Party, Labor Confederation and Ahmed Messali Hadj), Hadj was Star’s Secretary General and during the initial days the focus was to demand free press & association, ensure equal representation in the parliament based on suffrage, confiscation of large states and opening Arabic schools. Star was very much influenced by the Nationalist Ideas of the Lebanese Leader Druze Sakib Arslan, “Start of the North Africa” was banned in the year 1929 and worked underground for over five years till 1934and by then the coverage of its newspaper had reached above 43,500 mark. There was a sudden change in the thinking of Hadj, and he moved from communist ideology to a nationalist once and hence had to face challenges from the French Communist Party. In order continue to his efforts he came back with another party “Party of the Algerian People” which basically involved urban workers and the peasant farmers, and planned to improve the situation of the working class in France and at home (John Pike, 2005).
Now slowly and gradually the Islamic reformers gained confidence and popularity and therefore this was not appreciated by the French colonial authorities and hence by 1933 these elite Algerians were denied the permission to preach in official mosques and that led to great opposition of the French colonial government, and this was the first time that there was an open expression of disagreement against the French colonial government. Starting 1933 – 1936 there was a lot of addition to the number of protests against the government and as a result the government was forced to introduce new rules and regulations to ensure the required law and order are in place (John Pike 2005).
From 1936 to 1944 there was a silent work which was done by the outlawed PPA and there was a rise in political cells and paramilitary forces, during this period Messali Hadj’s message of freedom and liberty had also touched many hearts and this led to the growth of social unrest, finally in 1944-45 there was a sudden change in socio-economic conditions like low wheat harvest, shortage of manufactured goods, unemployment and this fanned the fire of nationalism. The first violent demonstration was observed in May 1945 in Algeria and Oran where there were several injured and 3 dead (John Pike 2005).
The unrest was very much visible in the public sphere by now and it was evident that the situations could be worse anytime, the nationalist leaders were involved in regular action and the day May 8, 1945 was evident of the first major violent struggle between the Muslim community and the colonial troops, There were strict instructions to the demonstrations that they must not use nationalist flags and placards etc. however this order was not accepted and therefore, gunfire was used against the marchers which resulted in killing of several people and the agitated crowd in turn killed about 103 Europeans, now as this news spread across the country the colonial officials had to face attacks from villagers and people full of nationalist feelings (John Pike, 2005).
The formation of FLN
With all the violence and disrespect of French rules happening the administration of the colonial government got disturbed and hence there was an attack on the Muslim community by French airplanes and ships killing more than 6000 people. Now that the normal political activities were also being cruelly suppressed by the French officials, it was time that in 1947 Hocaine Ait Ahmed formed Organization Spéciale (OS) in order to launch terrorist operations against the colonial government Irwin M. Wall (2001, 13-27).
Mouvement pour le Triomphe des Libertes Democratiques- which was called as MTLD added the next step to the movements and during the municipal elections the colonial government accepted and implemented their own strategy related to the seats distribution in order to keep the nationalists as far as possible however the Muslim community understood the French intentions well and hence it ended up in more dissatisfaction Tom Cooper (2005).
Ben Bella created Revolutionary Committee of Unity and Action CRUA (1952) in Cario to carry forward the work of OS which was broken by the French police in 1950, by this time the voice of Independence in Algeria had taken a proper shape and the major leaders involved were Ait Ahmed, Mohamed Boudiaf, Belkacem Krim, Rabah Bitat, Larbi Ben M'Hidi, Mourad Didouch, Moustafa Ben Boulaid, Mohamed Khider, and Ben Bella http://www.onwar.com/aced/data/alpha/algeria1954.htm(2007)
CRUA was very careful and regular with its work and therefore by October 1954 there were finally ready with six military regions and there was a proper strategy laid out along with separate roles for each person on one hand where the other leaders were busy with the military formation, Ben Bella, Ait Ahmed and Khaider were busy seeking foreign support so as to arrange the arms, ammunitions and funds. This was a time when the Algerian war of Independence was officially started with the CRUA getting renamed as National Liberation Front known as FLN and responsible to play the role of political director for freedom of Algeria, It had its Army wing which was National Liberation Army (ALN), and was responsible to conduct the liberation war in Algeria Tom Cooper (2005)..
The dawn of All Saints day November 1st 1954 was when the FLN’s masquisads or the so called guerillas attacked the major official places of the French government in the several parts of Algeria causing great Damage to the French government in Algeria, and there was a proclamation for the other Muslims of Algeria to come forward and join this effort. There was a strict response on this from the French government and there was an announcement made which said that Algeria is an Integral part of France and had been the same since a long time hence there was no negotiation or discussion possible related to Algerian Liberty Tom Cooper (2005)..
Meanwhile by 1955 the strength of FLN was increasing day by day with small level to medium sized groups joining it, including few well known names of Abbas (UDMA) and AUMA, there were other people who wanted to act as a mediator to find a common solution however they also had left all the hopes. On the other hand the officials of colonial government also were all set to bring FLN to an end and there fore there was sharp search operation carried out on Muslim civilians and any suspected person was killed cruelly Irwin M. Wall (2001, 13-27).
This was unacceptable to the FLN members and they used to only attack the military however in august 1955 the Waliya commander attacked European civilians killing 123, including old women and babies, this was a ferocious massacre and thus fanned the fire of war in both sides thus making it an open war situation in the entire Algeria. The ALN also started get more an more involved into hit and run violence during 1956 and 57 and targeted small offices, military encampments, mines, factories, transportation etc and the level of violence also increased as initially they were only targeting the Muslim supporters of French colony however later on they used to even kill civilians who chose not to co-operate. The Guerilla warfare was used as a technique to spread terrorist activities and it was easy for the guerillas to hide in civilian areas after giving an end to a successful terrorist plan. It was time now for the ALN to start taking control slowly and gradyally and therefore Aures, Kaybylie and other hilly areas were covered as hideouts and funds were raised using small level tax collection activities etc. The guerillas killed almost 6000 Muslims and 1000 Europeans during the above discussed period Irwin M. Wall (2001, 13-32)
The Battle of Algiers
It was time now to launch the Algerian freedom struggle in a bigger and stronger version and hence post discussions the FLN decided to ensure that their movement goes nationwide and decided to start a strike in entire Algeria, this was the new urban campaign where the struggle of liberation was to be taken from the small areas and villages to cities and the entire country. Battle of Algiers started on the 30th September 1956 with three women live bombers placing bombs at important French official places including the downtown office of the Air-France. This war once started maintained almost 800 attacks every month and was a cause of alarming number of casualties both European and Algerian. The strike was a message to show the spread of the message to attain liberty and despite the cruel counter attack of the French military it was successful to show the future of this mindset Martin Windrow, Mike Chappell (1997, 77-84)
The French government was not ready to believe that the situation was out of control even though there were several Muslim command-in-chiefs of the French military were announcing this for a while, but with the rise of attacks from the FLN they were bound to look at their military arrangements to ensure law and order and, hence they committed 400,000 troops out of which almost 170,000 were Muslim Algerians, on the other hand they also hired 150,000 volunteers muslim commandos known as “Harkis” and they also used the same Guerilla Warfare as used by the ALN troops Martin Windrow, Mike Chappell (1997, 77-84)
General Raoul Salan, the French army commandant implemented a different strategy in late 1957 to control the FLN activities and in order to do the same he introduces a system of quadrillage by dividing the entire country into sections and allocating the troops based on these sectors with complete responsibility to check all terrorist activities in that area. At the same time there was a new strict border patrolling system to check the infiltration from Tunisia and Morocco, and Morice Line was constructed which was a 320 KM long border that was covered with electric fence, barbed wire and mines. Raoul Salan was taken over by General Maurice Challe and he changed the strategy from quadrillage to the use of mobile forces and primarily worked with the motive to find-and-destroy. This new strategy proved successful and there was a major cut-down in the rebels however the political changes overpowered this success and it was by now that the movement had taken its next step towards independence Martin Windrow, Mike Chappell (1997, )
Introduction of new Constitution (Fifth Republic France)
De Gaulle planned a committee to introduce a new constitution in France (Fifth Republic), however there were two majors changes in the political involvement of Algeria, firstly Algeria was no more an integral part of the expected constitution and Muslims including women were for the first time given the right to cast vote on a common electoral roll along with the Europeans. There was a lot of protest against this voting by the FLN however despite the protest 80% Muslims voted and more than 96% approved the new constitution thus approving De Gaulle to become president in Jan 1956. De Gaulle initiated a new history in the political handling of Algeria and invited the Rebellious Leaders to have peace talks in order to make a new Algeria which would be close to France in terms of linkage and both Muslims and Europeans would be partners in the country, this offer was declined from scratch by the then Algerian Leaders Todd Sheppard (2006, 154-171).
There was a sudden international pressure on France in relation to Algeria as its colony, there were questions taken up by the United Nations on the same and was also very much against the treaty that it had signed (NATO) , all this forced De Gaulle to change his previous ideology on Algeria and suddenly there was a new expression of “Self-determination” which was introduced and led to discussion on self rule for Algerians Todd Sheppard (2006, 154-171).
The end of a long Struggle (1962)
The peace talks were restored once again and the FLN leaders joined conversations in Evian in May 1961, there were several discussions and then finally the French government announced that the cease fire will take effect on the March 19, 1962. In order to protect the rights of the Europeans it was decided that the colons will get legal protection and few rights for about three years from then. The rights were primarily respect for property, participation in public affairs, and a full range of civil and cultural rights. Post the relaxation period of three years Europeans were allowed to become either Algerian Citizens or they could have stayed there as aliens. The French electorate gave the approval to the Evian recommendations with 91 percent votes in favor, in June 1962 and 350,000 left Algeria that very month however there were other 1,400,000 Jews and pro-french muslims who moved gradually to France in about and year, and almost 30,000 Europeans chose to stay in Algeria Irwin M. Wall (2001, 88-91).
Finally, on July 1 1962 about 6 Million people casted their votes for the referendum on Independence and De Gaulle announced Algeria independent effective July 3rd, however July 5th is celebrated as Independence day in Algeria (basically the day when French entered Algeria).
Martin Windrow, Mike Chappell The Algerian War 1954-62 , (1997)
John Pike http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/algeria.htm,(2005)
Todd Sheppard The invention of decolonization: the Algerian War and the remaking of France, (2006)
Irwin M. Wall France the United States, and the Algerian War, (2001),
Tom Cooper http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_354.shtml (2003)