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France And North Africa: The Whiff Of Neo-Colonialism Has Returned

Whether it’s in Tunis, Algiers or Rabat, France is faced with the near-impossible task of finding its diplomatic footing in countries that were under its colonial rule last century.

photo of a protester from behind with an Algerian flag

A file photo of an Algerian protest

Pierre Haski


PARIS — It went relatively unnoticed this week, but Algeria has recalled its ambassador to Paris. It's the language of international diplomacy to express a nation's discontent.

The matter at hand is not necessarily grave, and may be resolved quickly, but it shows just how challenging it has been for Franco-Algerian relations to find any semblance of stability, despite constant efforts from both sides.

And it is a reminder that the same problem is shared by the three main countries in northern Africa, albeit for different reasons.

The spark behind this latest Algerian tension is the fate of a woman, Amira Bouraoui, a figure of the Hirak, the democratic movement in Algeria. This gynecologist and activist fled illegally from Algeria to Tunisia, fearing she would be arrested again.

Bouraoui carries dual Algerian and French nationalities, yet was detained when she wanted to leave Tunisia with her French passport. She was threatened with deportation to Algeria, where she would surely be imprisoned. A negotiation with the French embassy allowed her to get on a plane to France, where she is now safe.

Unpredictable power dynamics in Algeria

As a first consequence, the Tunisian Foreign Minister was dismissed by President Kais Saïed, for being too accommodating to France. Saïed no doubt wanted to appease the fury of Algeria at the expense of France, which is not on his priority list at the moment.

France is facing so much anger in Africa because of its neo-colonial arrogance.

The second consequence being that Algeria has recalled its ambassador to France in consultation, an abrupt reversal to the recent warming of relations between the two countries. The Algerian Chief of Staff was in France last month, which was no small feat!

The power dynamics in Algeria are so unpredictable that it is impossible to know if this is a real crisis or simply a symbolic protest against a minor incident. In any case, the official press is kicking up plenty of dust: daily El Moudjahid wrote on Wednesday that "France, which is facing so much anger in Africa, because of its neo-colonial arrogance, will never change."

Ggynecologist and activist Amira Bouraoui doing a V sign with her fingers at a rally

Ggynecologist and activist Amira Bouraoui, at the center of renewed tensions

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Cold wind blowing from Morocco

One wonders if this diplomatic incident calls into question Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune's scheduled visit to France in May, a crucial moment in the "reconciliation" process. Tebboune has established a good relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron, but he is not the only one to call the shots in Algiers.

The weather in the Mediterranean is always that of a turbulent sea.

Relations with Morocco are no less complicated. First, because the Algerian-Moroccan rivalry means that efforts in the direction of one are taken as an affront by the other.

Second, because the Sahara affair continues to weigh on Moroccan foreign policy, as Spain knows well; and third, because Morocco has diversified its partnerships, with Israel for example, and looks less to Paris than it used to. Le Monde recently spoke of a "disenchantment" and a "cold wind."

A brief statement from the new French ambassador in Rabat last week made waves after the European Parliament voted to condemn the arrest of journalists in Morocco. "The vote of the European Parliament does not commit France in any way," he said, no doubt to calm the nervousness of the kingdom's leaders, but sending a disastrous signal to civil society.

Whether it’s in Tunis, Algiers or Rabat, France is walking on eggshells, every gesture or statement is inspected for ulterior-motives and signs of the colonial history. Emmanuel Macron wants to be the one to mend old wounds, but the weather in the Mediterranean always comes with a turbulent sea.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Russia Is Doomed In Southern Ukraine: Logistics (And History)

The history of war shows that the losing side tend to lose ground as they are cut off from supply lines to replenish troops with weapons, food and material. Independent Russian publication Important Stories reports why this appears to be the dynamic at play right now for Russian troops in southern regions of Ukraine.

photo of a soldier carrying water

A Russian serviceman in June providing logistical support in Ukraine.

Russian Defense Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Vazhnye Istorii

Updated October 3, 2023 at 3:05 p.m.


A century and a half ago, during the American Civil War of 1861–1865, the foundations of modern warfare were laid out, marking the transition to large-scale, industrial-era armies.

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Innovations like the telegraph played a pivotal role, enabling coordinated operations across vast distances and swift responses to changing battle scenarios. The advent of breech-loading firearms and rifled artillery disrupted traditional infantry formations, driving soldiers into trenches for protection.

Meanwhile, the introduction of all-metal warships and the first use of submarines in combat hinted at the future of naval warfare. Balloons were employed for battlefield observation and reconnaissance, foreshadowing the era of aerial warfare.

Over the next five decades, automatic weapons, tanks, and aircraft further transformed the landscape of warfare. However, the most revolutionary and foundational innovation was the utilization of railways for the transportation and supply of troops. In 1862, the US Military Railroad Agency pioneered this concept, marking a historic milestone in military history.

These developments did not go unnoticed in Europe. Otto von Bismarck's Prussia, emerging as a European military leader, drew inspiration from North American military strategy and technology. They adapted these ideas to European warfare, systematically incorporating them into their military development.

Count Helmuth von Moltke, the chief of the Prussian general staff and the architect of the blitzkrieg concept, succeeded in nationalizing Prussian railways and aligning railway communications with the needs of troop mobilization and deployment. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 showcased the formidable effectiveness of the Prussian army, culminating in the capture of the French Emperor Napoleon III.

The Prussian school of military planning became a model for many European continental armies, including the Russian military. To this day, the principles of the Prussian military school continue to shape military education, traditions, and staff culture in post-Soviet armies. One such principle is the integration of military planning with the logistical framework provided by railways.

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