Algeria demands archives back

Algeria demands archives back

ALGIERS - Reuters
When French soldiers and administrators left Algeria after more than a century of colonial rule, they did not go empty-handed.

They took historical artifacts, books and maps, a national heritage that still sits in French libraries and archives today and which Algeria says its former colonial master should return.

France and Algeria this week mark the 50th anniversary of the July 5, 1962, independence declaration that ended French rule. Each side will reflect on the problems that entangle them.

Algerians want Paris to apologize for decades of colonial servitude and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people who fought for independence. France wrestles with its legacy in the form of a huge community descended from Algerian migrants that struggles to integrate into French society.

Set against these problems, the missing archives are not the most serious issue weighing on French-Algerian relations. But the tussle captures the deep sense of both grievance and mutual dependence that remains between the two countries half a century after they broke apart.

Abdelmadjid Chikhi, director of Algeria’s national archive center, said his counterparts in France had offered a compromise: Algeria would be given access to copies of the disputed items if it abandons its claim to them. He refused.

“We’re not going to give up our right. We’re not going to give up our property,” he said in an interview in Algiers. “Quite simply because it’s something that belongs to us. What’s mine is mine. I’m not going to sign away our national heritage.”