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Tunisia: Historians said the issue of settlement, carried out at the expense of massacres, was at the heart of the French invasion of Algeria in the 19th century, which celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence on Tuesday.

In particular, the first seventy years following the landing of French forces in Algeria in 1830 were marked by mass killings, including the ominous “smoke”, and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people.

“Initially, the logic of substitution was called + repression of Arabs +, then the logic of land exploitation and plunder,” explains Olivier Le Coeur Grandmaison, a French specialist in colonial history.

His Algerian colleague Hosni Kitoni, a researcher at the University of Exeter in Britain, agrees, “It was a policy of replacing one people with another.” “It was basically a policy of replacement. A policy of settlement.”

If he does not reject the term “settlement colony”, then the French historian Benjamin Stora dismisses the idea of ​​a deliberate strategy: “There was no detailed thought to replace the population”, “this was not a policy of replacement” .

It was, he said, “similar to the policy in the American West. You install settlers to control the country. There is no strategy. It’s a progressive settler colony, plus the population is getting into chaos.”


“The invasion of Algeria was horrific,” says Mr. Stora. “It was done with violence.” In Algeria, “the African army has seized (technique) + the infernal columns + used against the Vendeans, at the beginning of the French Revolution … we are slaughtering and transporting the population.”

Such is the case in Blida, near Algiers, where in November 1830 “more than six hundred women, children and old men were shot,” as historian Kitoni recalls.

Since 1840, when France faced a serious economic crisis, “the government chose the complete colonization of Algeria and its settlement by +French’s surplus population”, he explains.

According to Mr. Kitoni, between 1830 and 1930 the colonial administration seized 14 million hectares, part of which was kindly ceded to European immigrants, who increased from 7,000 in 1836 to 881,000 in 1931.

What has been called “+pacification + algeria” really begins with the appointment of General Bogod to the position of Governor General in 1840,” Mr. Grandmaison identifies.

The historian says it is a period of “total war”, in which “the distinction between civilians and soldiers, between battlefields and sanctuaries” disappears, even as civilians take refuge in them.

Colonial forces invent “Enfumade”. Historians have documented two of them in particular: Capiha (June 11, 1844) and Dhahra (June 18, 1845) with the extermination of entire tribes who sought refuge in caves and suffocated them with fires lit on the orders of French generals. says Mansour Kadeer, of the Krask Research Center in Oran.

These events are part of “state terrorism: the aim is the massacres to set an example and better subjugate the Indigenous +,” explains Mr. Grantmison, denouncing a “crime against humanity.”

Besides the smoke, he refers to the “destroying of dozens of villages and the displacement of thousands of civilians” without their livestock to less fertile lands, which led to famines and epidemics that wiped out these populations.


For Mr. Qadeer, there was, in the initial phase of the invasion, “a deliberate intention to eliminate, at least to reduce the (local) population so that they would not pose a danger to the occupying army.”

In 1880, the French demographer René Ricot calculated that “the indigenous population + decreased by about 875,000 people between 1830 and 1872”.

Despite this, the number of Algerians would begin to grow again, even doubling between 1906 and 1948 to reach 9 million.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune mentioned in October 2021 the toll of “5.630 million Algerians killed between 1830 and 1962”, meaning that the majority of victims during the conquest since the War of Independence would have killed between 3 and 400,000 Algerians, according to French historians and 1.5. Million according to Algerians.

In addition to figures that are still debated, “the most important thing in colonial conquest is the stripping of identity,” Mr. Stora estimates.

“When we took someone’s land, we made them lose their land-related name,” he says.

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