Read this article to learn about Algeria’s struggle for freedom!
One of the longest struggles for freedom was launched in Algeria. The French occupation of Algeria had begun in 1830.
After the Second World War, France was engaged in a protracted colonial war to retain her rule over Algeria.
Unlike other French colonies, a large number of French colons (settlers) had settled in Algeria. In 1960, they numbered about a million.
They controlled most of the economy and the administration of Algeria and were determined to hold on to their domination even when the people and government of France favoured a settlement. The situation was comparable to some other colonies, such as South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, where White settlers were for long totally opposed to any settlement which would end their domination. In 1954, the nationalist movement in Algeria gave a call for a popular uprising. Soon after, a full-scale war of national liberation began.
The National Liberation Front (FLN) of Algeria set up its own liberation army which had its regular armed troops as well as guerrilla units. The French army in Algeria now numbered over 800,000 soldiers who resorted to large-scale atrocities and tortures. The FLN set up its Provisional Government which was recognised by many countries.
In 1958, a revolt by the French settlers and the French army in Algeria led to the overthrow of the Fourth Republic, as the French government since 1946 was called. General de Gaulle came to power in France and a new constitution creating the Fifth Republic came in force.
The French settlers and the army in Algeria had hoped that the new government would support the war to maintain French rule in Algeria. However, when they discovered that de Gaulle favoured a settlement with the Algerians, they organised unsuccessful revolts.
In March 1962, de Gaulle’s government opened negotiations with the FLN which led to a ceasefire in Algeria. An agreement was also reached on Algeria’s independence and the complete withdrawal of French forces from Algeria.
A referendum was held in France on the question of Algerian independence in April 1962 and the French people voted overwhelmingly in favour of Algeria’s independence. In a similar referendum held on 1 July 1962, 99 per cent of the people in Algeria voted in favour of complete independence. On 3 July 1962, Algeria’s independence was recognised by France. About 1,500,000 Algerians had been killed by the French troops in the war of national liberation.