My name is Said Bensoussan, I am old now, but I was young once. It was interesting time. I was only a child, but I still remember these odd times. In European held colonies in Africa, there were many different styles of rule. For example the British had a very relaxed way of rule, where one could make their own decisions about culture, and one’s way of life, but the French had other ideas. My homeland of Algeria was colonized by the French in 1830. The French were and still are very nationalistic. They believed they were the best, and that everyone else should conform to French standards. They forced their beliefs on us very forcefully. Most did not like it, in fact many spoke out about it. They held rule here for many years, but when we got the chance in 1954, we fought for our independence with all our might. I was only 9 years old at the time.
Several groups arose with the same goal in mind. According to Richard and Joan Brace, authors of book I just read published a book about this terribly violent time say, “nine Algerian nationalists formed the Comité révolutionnaire d’unité et d’action (CRUA) [Revolutionary Committee for Unity and Action]”, they then grew into the more commonly known group called The Front de Libération Nationale. According to Charles De Gaulle “The war was fought with great brutality on both sides, as nationalist forces in the National Liberation Front (FLN) intimidated the local population when necessary, assassinating opponents and detonating bombs in public places, while the French Army showed equal savagery toward both the FLN and anyone suspected of supporting it” In fact it was so costly in blood and money that many French believed they should have just given in, and turned the colony back over to us sooner.
The French fought back hard. They would kill people they thought might have something to do with “the enemy”. One of the farmers settled near my house was tortured and killed because he was seen talking to me. That is another thing Charles De Gaulle mentioned in his speech. “[the French Army] frequently resorting to torture.” In the end so many French people thought the war was not worth the time, money and lives spent on it, so the French gave in and gave the colony back to us, on the 5th of July, 1962.
When the French finally receded, they left behind a mess of the oil industry to be cleaned up. They had deals with other countries for our oil, so they were making a profit from our oil and in turn supporting Algerian, and their owen French farmers way of life. They turned a lot of Algerian people’s lives inside out and made us live a urban ways of life, and in the war the people not near their cities we killed. They were savage in their fight, “eventually taking the lives of more than 500,000, causing the displacement of as many as 3,000,000 rural Algerians, and wreaking havoc upon the economy” When they left, we had to create new deals for trade and profit off all the oil deposits that are present. Also while the French were here they industrialized a lot of the country. Our country after they left has stayed in the way of life. In addition there was an issue of language. Before they came everyone here spoke Arabic, it was my first language. While they were here, our language changed and added french based slurs over time, so our language wasn’t really our own anymore.
The operative language in our country became French. However in our homes, just like mine we still used many different dialects of Arabic. When they were leaving we gained their system for education, however it didn’t become used until more recent years. Our government made it obligatory around 2000. It has been quite a long while since I was in the age group to go to school, so I am not the best writer. My friend’s father taught me years ago. I now have the option to go to adult literacy classes, but I don’t think I will. All kids ages 6 to 15 are required to go to school, so over time we are becoming more educated. The education system, or lack of, caused some other issues that are being solved as education is more common. The french were the educated people in our colony and they held all the important jobs, so it has taken us a while to get those spots filled. We still have a high rate of unemployment, but over time that issue is resolving itself as more and more people are qualified to hold those positions.
Because our people were uneducated, we didn’t have good people to run our country. We had quite a few corrupt and or incompetent leaders, and it was especially hard to organize our country because we were so undeveloped. I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but now as I am older I see the true consequences of the series of events. Because of this we still struggle with terrorism all over our country today. It is some people’s views that we would be better if we were still under French rule. Our country is still considered a war-torn, uneducated, undeveloped country by most of the rest of the world. I hope over time that can change, but based on what I encounter in my everyday life, I don’t think that can happen for a while unless we get help from outside countries.
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