What Was The Purpose of the Algerian Civil War (1954-1962)?

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When after more than 130 years of colonial rule by France, the Algerian War commenced in 1954, Albert Camus was distraught. The second youngest writer to ever win the Nobel Prize was born in Algeria in 1913 and left his homeland in 1942 when the newspaper he voiced his opposition to French colonial policies in was put out of business. At that time, over 1 million European citizens also called Algeria their home, but the French government significantly suppressed the liberty of the 9 million Arabs and Berbers that also resided within the nation’s boundaries. Camus’ goal was to see a peaceful, unified confederation with France that incorporated the native peoples’ rights, but unfortunately, that set of circumstances never came to pass and tragically, the author perished in an automobile accident in January of 1960, so he never even experienced the ousting of the French from the country he loved so dearly. The Algerian War’s purpose was for the independence of the people. It was a war of decolonization that had such an impact, it led to the fall of the Fourth Republic in France. The reasons for this conflict seem fairly straightforward, however, it is not quite so clear cut as the French army fought within its own ranks and the Algerians were fighting amongst themselves as well (Suleiman, web).

A brutal conflict with an incredible amount of bloodshed, the Algerian War was fought with guerilla warfare tactics with many atrocities on both sides. The French had wrested control of the country from the Ottoman Empire in 1830 and incorporated it as a part of France itself in 1848 (Canuel, web).

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contentious. Many European citizens settled in Algeria (they were called pieds noirs) but it was not an actual colony. This caused the bond between the two to be of a more emotional and deeper nature, as the French were very interested in the lush agricultural plots along Algeria’s coastlines, which were only 120 minutes away from France by airplane. (DiMarco, web). Until the 1930’s, France continued its rule without much dissent because it pitted the groups indigenous to the region against one another quite successfully, but with the rise of nationalist fervor in the 1930’s the mother country came to experience some real problems in controlling Algeria (Canuel, web). For example in 1945, the French killed an estimated 6,000 people in a small riot near Setif after expressing nationalist sentiment during a demonstration of exuberance after the end of the World War II (DiMarco, web).

During the next nine years, various independence movements sprung up, but the French managed to suppress them all until the Front de Liberation Nationale or FLN leapt to the fore of the scene as it had gained a significant amount of support. Schooled in the art of Maoist warfare, the FLN embraced urban terrorism and bombings of civilians to hit French targets. The initial French reaction to the outbreak of hostilities on November 1, 1954 was rather mild. They simply did not comprehend the ferocity or tactics the FLN intended to utilize to oust them from Algeria. It very well could have been a form of complacency because after all the French had managed to put down various other insurgencies, so why would this one be any different? (Canuel, web).

When the Fourth Republic collapsed in April 1958, it was largely the result of the issues in Algeria. France was being decried by its Western Allies for the situation in Algeria and how they were fighting the war. By this meaning incorporating the use of guerilla tactics like their opponents and not adhering to the Geneva Convention’s regulations.

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interrogations as well as prisoners of war should be treated. That’s when Charles de Gaulle came of retirement and was reinstituted as the head of the French government. He refused to accept that Algeria wanted their independence and stiffened his commitment to the war with more men as well as materials. Also, General Challe came into power and instituted a plan that technically defeated the Algerian forces in the field because the varying nationalities were fighting amongst themselves in addition to the French wanting to hold Algeria at all costs. (Canuel, web) (DiMarco, web).

The war finally came to conclusion through the Evian Accords of March 1962 when at long last, France acknowledged the Republic of Algeria (Canuel, web). Some, however, argue de Gaulle was too lenient with the Algerian forces by offered to discuss peace during a cease fire. The insurgency forces took this to mean they were on borrowed time and as the French lost favor with de Gaulle’s behavior regarding a peace settlement, the pieds noirs and even those with the French army became to side with the insurgency movement (Canuel, web). Ultimately, the French lost one of their most prized possessions and this conflict set the stage for the use of terrorist tactics in future warfare, as well as the political instability that would come to pass in Algeria. Although their nationalist passion had cast aside the bonds of French rule, the numerous groups within the country fought amongst themselves for power. Also, a politically stable Algeria could only have occurred with strong system that could be introduced and the insurgency forces created no such plan. The new Algerian president and FLN leader, Ahmed Ben Balla immediately had to fight another war with Morocco over tensions between the nations over boundaries. He was removed from power in 1965 but his government was also repressive and rather autocratic.

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another internal revolt due to a high rate of crime, the dip in the price of oil, which it depends mightily upon for its economic stability and a very tight job market. So while the purpose of
the Algerian War was for the country to gain its freedom, the end result has truly been its citizens are still suffering under some forms of enslavement. It simply is at the hands of their countrymen, rather than those of the French (The Economist, web).

  • Canuel, H. “French Counterinsurgency in Algeria: Forgotten Lessons From A Misunderstood Conflict.” Small Wars Journal. 2010. Web. Retrieved from http://smallwarsjournal.com on February 27, 2014.
  • DiMarco, Lou. “Losing the Moral Compass: Torture and Guerre Revolutionnaire in the Algerian War.” Strategic Studies Institute. 2006. Web. Retrieved from http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/ on February 27, 2014.
  • Suleiman, Susan Robin. “The Postcolonial ‘Algerian Chronicles’ by Albert Camus.” The New York Times. May 10, 2013. Web. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/ on February 27, 2014.
  • The Economist. “Algeria’s Presidential Elections: Standing in One Sense.” The Economist. March 1, 2014 (Cairo calendar). Web. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/ on February 27, 2014.

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