Courtesy Reuters

Toward a Settlement in Algeria

ALTHOUGH nothing can be completely certain in a problem so complex and emotion-bound as that of the Algerian revolution, it is now at least clear that the statement of President de Gaulle on September 16 and the events subsequent to it represented a major turning point in that struggle. The policy enunciated in the presidential declaration made mention for the first time, with reservations, of the possibility of self-determination, by which all Algerians would freely choose between the three alternatives of integration with France, some kind of association, or independence. The formal answer of the rebel government, which calls itself the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, accepted the offer on September 28, with conditions, and expressed willingness to negotiate on political issues without insisting upon the precondition of French agreement to Algeria's right to independence. A short time later approval of the French Government's policy in the National Assembly by a massive majority consecrated the first concrete move toward a settlement in Algeria in the five years since the revolution began. There is a very important meaning to this ensemble of undertakings which has not escaped any of the protagonists, from the toughest military chieftains among the rebels to the farthest-right ultras among the Europeans in Algeria and their supporters in metropolitan France.

It is that self-determination, with the option of secession, implies recognition that sovereignty in Algeria belongs to the people of Algeria and no longer derives from the French constitution or from the sloganized concept of an Algérie française within an indivisible republic. The revolution has won on this essential and supreme point: the right to withdraw from the French Republic in honorable conditions. This right had previously been denied Algeria while it was extended at the time of the September 1958 referendum to all other French overseas possessions; and historians may well conclude in retrospect that from the moment the Fifth Republic was established as a federal republic the seed for settlement in Algeria had been planted.

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