October 20,1957 – The latest in a struggle for independence which began in 1954. The French colonial nation in Africa, part of that growing number of nation/colonies seeking a break with former European rule erupted into full-scale violence and civil war by 1957. It was a complex situation with no easy answers. The repercussions echoed throughout the world and finally ended in a settlement in 1962, granting Algeria independence but also leading to a refugee crisis, with some 900,000 French Algerians settling in France.
But in 1957 Algeria was still a French colony and there was no intention of giving it up at the time. Harsh repercussions were inflicted on those members of the Algerian National Liberation Front, and in turn members of the NLF and those sympathetic to independence were engaging in riots, protests and terrorist tactics in order to further the cause. The French stepped up their campaign of restoring the status quo and the situation went from bad to worse. Eventually toppling the Fourth French Republic, replacing it with the Fifth French Republic and a strengthened leadership in René Coty as President and Charles DeGaulle as Prime Minister.
60 years ago today, it was a matter of looking at the issues, the causes and the enflamed passions on both sides of those issue. There were a substantial number of Algerians not in favor of Independence, much as there a substantial number of French in Paris who were.
Like so many of these issues at the time; it was new and uncharted territory. The independence wheel had been set into motion since Britain granted independence to India in 1947. The Indochina War, which climaxed with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu signaled Vietnam‘s independence in 1954. Now it was Algeria’s turn – and they wouldn’t be the only ones during this period of change and upheaval. World War Two had taken its economic toll on Europe, and the former Allies could no longer support their colonies. But old habits die hard and there were many who felt granting independence to these countries was a loss of prestige in the world, making them weaker and no longer effective in leadership.
It was a story that was only unfolding this day, sixty years ago. And here is that NBC Radio News Special: Algeria Aflame, as it was broadcast on October 20, 1957.
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