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The Second World War and the Maghreb
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History: France

The Second World War has changed the History of the Maghreb. The collapse of France in 1940 constitutes a major event in the evolution of mentalities with regard to the colonial situation. The military defeat underlines the brittleness of France. The fight of 1940 cost the life 100.000 men of which the half belong to the colonial troops.
In same time, the British empire undergoes important reverses. The defeat of France is a shock wave which is propagated in all the French colonial empire.
Between 1940 and 1942, the French Administration is placed under the authority of the government of Vichy. Many political opponents are off-set in Algeria. The “Crémieux Law” allotting the citizenship to the Jews of Algeria is repealed. The Jews are expelled of the administration. The Moslems who fought for the acquisition of the French citizenship put to doubt the interest of their fight. The majority of the European population perceives Maréchal Pétain like holder of the legitimates authority and is opposed to General De Gaulle. All these elements lead to the toughening of the nationalist claims whose spokesmen divide on the attitude to adopt in the World War. Some of them lean in favour of an alliance with Germany and Italy and the others are in favour of the USA.
The Germans arrive from Egypt until the town of Biskra before being pushed back. The allied counter-offensive is pressed on the Maghreb which is used as starting point for the unloading on the Southern Coasts of France and in Italy. From 1943, Algiers becomes the capital of “France Libre”.
In Tunisia, the independence leader Habib Bourguiba leans in favour of Italy. His German political interlocutor is Klaus Barbie, the chief of the Gestapo at Lyon (France). The evolution of the conflict pushes the future Tunisian President to approach the Americans since 1943.
In Algeria, the “PPP” tears between partisans of the Germans and in favour of the allies.
In Morocco, the Sultan gives an opinion for the support of the U.S.A. and opposes in Vichy. His political choice will avoid a rupture within Istiqlal created in 1944 in spite of the temptation of some of its members to seek the support of the Spanish government of General Franco. Let us note that at the time of Moroccan independence, between 1956 and 1957, the pro-Franco supporters, in North, will be eliminated.
The Sultan receives in 1943, in Anfa, President Roosevelt who promises him the support of his country for the accession of Morocco to independence. The American ambassador Murphy also receives the Algerian leader Feraht Abbas in Algiers into 43. With the end of this meeting, a proclamation in favour of the independence of Algeria is written.
This situation of political “undulation” will last between 6 and 8 months, period during which the authorities of “France Libre” are shared between General Giraud who has the favour of the Americans and General De Gaulle who wants to restore the French Republic authority in the Maghreb. The government of “France Libre” raises new troops of Maghrebian origin to take part in the fights in Italy and France. The regiments of Algerian Riflemen (RTA), in particular, will play a main part of foreground in the fights at Monte Cassino near Napoli(Italy) and in Provence (South of France). In fact the troops of the 1st RTA enters in Marseille. The colonial troops take part in the release of France and take an active share in the fights in Germany and Berlin. Their participation in the victory will not be accompanied by a counterpart hoped as regards accession with the rights awaited either in term of French citizenship or for an autonomy or independence. The frustration which will result from this will naturally feed the will of independence.
This disappointment is reinforced by the fate which was reserved for the Maghrebians residing in France during the German occupation. A great number of them was requisitioned since 1941 to build the Wall along the Atlantic coasts.
In 1944-1945, the independence movement is powerful. The Arabic League is created in 1945. From now on all the conditions are met to engage of the movements of great width.
The United States are favorable to the decolonization. France and the United Kingdom are particularly weakened at the end of the War. The San Francisco Meeting creates the O.N.U. The Right to self-determination of People is proclaimed.
In Algeria, “Les Amis du Manifeste de la Liberté” make the unit of the nationalists. Within the movement the partisans of Messali Hadj are in a majority. The French government exiles their leader at Brazzaville (Congo), there even where General De Gaulle had chaired a conference intended to grant new rights to the colonized people and to save the colonial empire. On May 8, 1945, in Sétif (Algeria),the “PPP” organizes in a great demonstration claiming the release of Messali Hadj. The events turn to the riot then to rising. It seems that actually the PPP had considered an insurrection but the order had cancelled some the 5 or on May 6. This version was confirmed by Feraht Abbas and Aït Ahmed. An attempt at rising also occurs in Constantinois (Algerian area).
Repression is wild. According to versions', it between 10.000 and 45.000 would have died there in two months. Rising is drowned in blood but a ditch is dug between the European Communities and Maghrebian. The nationalists, among whom the moderate ones, are imprisoned. The result is the rise to power of the “extremist” tendency of the PPP for which the armed struggle becomes an absolute requirement.
Sétif, incontestably, is the beginning of a process which will lead to the terrorist attacks in November 1954 and the beginning of the War of Independence.
Since 1947, the “Organisation Spéciale” (OS) -the Special Organization- within the PPP is created which becomes the MTLD (an other Algerian Party) being used as legal window with the movement directed by Aït Ahmed and Ben Bella. The “OS” counts 1.000 to 1.500 fighters and prepares the fight of the future troops of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale).
The PPA-MTLD is torn by the political struggles intern which oppose “extremists” of the OS and the “moderated” which was elected in 1947. In 1950, at the time of a steering of a Post Office in Oran, the police discovers the existence of the OS and its fastening with the PPA-MTLD. The crisis bursts inside the party. Messali Hadj refuses to repudiate the activists of the OS. The “moderate reformists” oppose him. He is found insulated and settles in France. The Central Committee of the party is quickly overflowed by the members of the OS who take the control of the internal capacity and the financial reserves. They decide the creation of the “Front de Libération Nationale” (FLN).

The things will occur differently to Morocco and to Tunisia.

Morocco is not a colony but a French Protectorate. The French Resident represents the Colonial Government and holds the reality of the capacity but the Sultan is a central character incarnating the Moroccan State which is placed in the center of the national political life by a proclamation of the party Istiqlal, in particular, by Ben Barka and Balafrej. The Sultan marks his opposition to France in his speech of Tangier in 1947. The French Government wants then to demolish themselves of him and to put at its place a more flexible man.
On August 20, 1953, the Sultan is deposited after the French Government obtained the support of Ben Arafa (the Glaoui).
This takeover by force causes the reaction of the population within which Istiqlal has an important influence. Strikes and public demonstrations follow one another. Fighters groops are organized in North. Negotiations open between French Government and Moroccan nationalists in 1955. The Sultan, who had been exiled, returns in Morocco in November. Independence is proclaimed in March 1956. The Sultan becomes the King of Morocco under the name of Mohamed V.

In Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, with the head of the nationalist party “Néo-Destour”, seeks the support of the international authorities to obtain independence. The colonists people oppose the attempts reforms engaged by Jean Mons, the French Resident. The General Secretary of UGCT (Tunisian Trade Union), Feraht Hached, is assassinated in November 1952 by a secret organization named “the Red Hand”, of which have knows now that the members belonged or were handled by the French Special Services. The situation becomes explosive. The movement armed with “Fellaghas” (Nationalists fighters) makes its appearance into 1953. In Carthage (near Tunis), in 1954, the President of the French Government Mendès France promises the opening of negotiations to prepare the independence. The French Government, however, requires the disarmament of the Fellaghas movement. The nationalists are divided on this question whereas the armed fixings start in Algeria. The two tendencies clash. Bourguiba is favorable to disarmament.
Finally he wins and Tunisia becomes independent in March 1956.

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