Independence of Algeria (July 5, 1962)

Independence of Algeria (July 5, 1962)

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At the end of a very violent conflict of almost eight years, and especially more than a century of colonial occupation, theAlgeria gains independence on July 5, 1962. The Algerian war, which has never worn that name for a long time, has left deep scars on the populations concerned, on both sides of the Mediterranean, with consequences that are still noticeable today. Independence itself, and the conditions under which it was achieved, have also had an impact on Algeria today.

Seven years of conflict

As France tries to settle the Tunisian and Moroccan questions, the situation deteriorates sharply in Algeria on November 1, 1954. The National Liberation Front recently created by Ahmed Ben Bella organizes a series of attacks that kill eight people. The French government reacted swiftly by sending military reinforcements and repressive measures. Jacques Soustelle is appointed Governor General. The desire for independence on the one hand and to remain in the French Union on the other are irreconcilable and Algeria is sinking into a vicious spiral of attacks and repression.

In early 1957, the French army was heavily involved in the conflict, and during the “Battle of Algiers” did not hesitate to resort to torture to put the FLN networks out of harm's way. In France, the ministerial crisis is added to the insurrectional situation which reigns in Algiers, and causes the return of General de Gaulle to power. Ambiguous on the Algerian question, the latter opened the way in September 1959 to a process of self-determination, formalized by a referendum on January 8, 1961. On May 20, talks began in Evian with the FLN.

The Evian Accords: the end of the war?

There is still debate today to determine the effective end of the war in Algeria. In France, it is the Evian accords, signed on March 18, 1962, and followed by a cease-fire (all relative), which are supposed to mark it. But these negotiations are contested, both on the French side and the Algerian side, and the situation escalates again. The French of Algeria (the black feet) begin to leave the country, the OAS implements a scorched earth policy, the harkis are abandoned, and the Algerian separatists are torn apart despite their victory. The Algerian signatories of the Evian accords are far from achieving unanimity within the nationalist movement, already divided by FLN / MNA rivalries in previous years. The Tripoli congress of May-June 1962, despite a final agreement, revealed the rivalries that plague the FLN. The latter obtains primacy over the GPRA, which signed the Evian accords, which does not calm a real war between factions. The alliance between Boumediene and Ben Bella was needed for the situation to finally stabilize ... in September 1962.

Algeria’s independence

Meanwhile, despite the tensions between Algerians and the terrorist actions of the OAS, a referendum was organized in Algeria on July 1, 1962, and the "yes" to independence won by more than 99%. The results are recorded on July 3 by General de Gaulle, and independence proclaimed two days later, on July 5, 1962. A date more than symbolic since the beginning of the colonization of Algeria is generally linked to the capture from Algiers, July 5, 1830. Throughout the country, there is popular jubilation, to celebrate independence but also the end of violence. The people shout "Seven years is enough!" ", And yet violence among Algerians resumed between nationalists at the end of August, and therefore ended only in September, with the Boumediene / Ben Bella accords.

July 5, 1962: the Oran massacre

Sign of the particular conditions of this peace and this independence, the very day of the acquisition of its freedom by the Algerian people, takes place in Oran the massacre of a hundred people, without counting several thousand missing who will not be all found in the following weeks. As the Algerian crowd reaches European neighborhoods, gunshots erupt (some evoke a provocation by the OAS), and begins a hunt against the French still present. The French army did not intervene, and the survivors spoke of scenes of torture, looting and kidnappings.

The next day, the FLN restored the situation, and on July 12 Ben Bella entered Oran. As often in this kind of event (like Sétif and Guelma on May 8, 1945), the final toll varies depending on the sources, between more than a hundred victims, and thousands following the numerous disappearances this day and the following. Regardless, the Oran massacre accelerates the departure of the French from Algeria to the metropolis.

This episode, often obscured like other dramas of the same order during this conflict (as was for a long time on October 17, 1961, for example), is however symptomatic of the conditions of independence, and especially of its painful consequences on populations on both sides of the Mediterranean. While the FLN must following its victory (re) build the country, the long work of history and memory has only just begun, and is far from over, fifty years after the independence of Algeria.


- B. Stora, History of the Algerian War, La Découverte, 2004.

- S. Thénault, Algeria: From "Events" to War: Received Ideas on the Algerian War of Independence, Le Cavalier Bleu, 2012.