March 1962 signaled independence for the former French colony of Algeria. It was painfully long and slow process, getting to this point – it was a conflict that spread to the streets of Paris and drove a deep division within French society.
Characterized as a truce without peace – a freedom without authority, the independence of Algeria brought 130 years of French rule; it’s last possession in North Africa to an end. A ceasefire was signed on the shores of Lake Geneva that ended the Algerian Nationalist rebellion, an uprising that became a seven-year war, costing upwards of a quarter-million lives and some $20 Billion. The ink was barely dry on the paper when the two principals; De Gaulle of France and Ben-yusef Benkada of Algeria took to the airwaves to announce the result. Without a clear-cut victory to either, and yet with honor and danger to both, they found common ground in pledging a cooperative future. The fear was not so much of the end of the Algerian revolution as much as it was a signal to begin a French revolution over this independence. Algeria was now unified – it was the French who were deeply divided over the issue. Some 1 million French nationals were born in Algeria. And France never considered Algeria to be a colony, but rather a suburb of France, thus making its independence inconceivable to many living there. The number of European Pied-Noirs who fled Algeria totaled more than 900,000 between 1962 and 1964. The exodus to mainland France accelerated after the Oran massacre of 1962, in which hundreds of militants entered European sections of the city, and began attacking civilians.
In this documentary, produced for NBC Radio by the News Division, the independence movement is explored and its implications on French society are discussed. The 60s would see a flurry of former colonies achieve independence – some were peaceful transitions, while others touched off years and decades-long civil wars between rival factions. Since this documentary was produced at the time Independence was declared, the outcomes and long-term effects weren’t yet known. But even in March of 1962, it was an important story unfolding in real time.