the drama of the harkis, recruited, betrayed, abandoned

The harkis on horseback pass in front of the official tribune, in Algiers, on May 8, 1957, during the military parade commemorating the end of the Second World War.

While a war, which officially isn’t one, is about to end, another drama has already begun: that of the harkis. On March 18, 1962, the Evian Accords put an end to more than seven years of conflict between the colonial power and the National Liberation Front (FLN). Between them are auxiliaries engaged in the French army. From 1954 to 1962, between 200,000 and 300,000 harkis, according to estimates, had been recruited: enlisted by force in the prime of life or by choice, often torn apart – in the same siblings, some could be FLN –, all tormented by these “law enforcement operations”. Whatever the motivations that led them to serve the tricolor flag, for them, the date of the signing of these agreements is synonymous with betrayal and abandonment.

The “betrayal” first. With the approach of independence, the French authorities multiplied the promises, in particular of protection, intended to reassure these Muslim fighters. Declarations which will however be in contradiction with the acts. But at this precise moment, how can we question the solemn Gaullist word, carried by eminent personages of the State? In addition, from November 9, 1961, during secret contacts prior to the Evian agreements, the provisional government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA) admitted to Louis Joxe, then Minister for Algerian Affairs, the principle of “non-retaliation”. against the Muslims who were engaged with France.

“No one can be worried”

This could explain why nothing is specifically provided in these agreements to protect them. Both parties agree that “no one [puisse] to be worried, wanted, prosecuted, condemned (…) because of acts committed in connection with the political events that occurred in Algeria before the day of the proclamation of the ceasefire” (declaration of guarantees). Or “to prohibit any recourse to acts of collective and individual violence” (section 2).

In December 1961, the Obelisk plan, which consists of disarming all auxiliaries, is implemented

The French authorities therefore do not consider it useful to organize a massive transfer of harkis with their families to France, with a few exceptions – those who manage to prove that they are threatened. Their repatriation to France is not, in any case, “neither to be expected nor to be desired, even less to be encouraged”can we read in a report made by a senior civil servant a year before the agreements (Chantal Morelle, “French public authorities and the repatriation of harkis in 1961-1962”, Twentieth century. history review2004/3, noh 83). The State understands that the auxiliaries will prefer to stay on their native land, in safety, in the new Algeria. The GPRA, the political arm of the FLN, did it not get involved?

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