Following the forced landing of the Ryanair flight in Belarus recently, and the arrest of a passenger, the name Ben Bella came to mind. Ahmed Ben Bella had a similar experience to the passenger, at the hands of officials of the France’s Fourth Republic in 1958.
I checked on Ben Bella in Wikipedia. His life and career casts light on the nature of France, the land of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the principles of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite. These Rights and Principles have motivated the bravest men and women of every creed and colour for the past two hundred and thirty two years.
Ahmed Ben Bella was born in 1916 in Oran, Algeria. The territory was deemed part of Metropolitan France, just as Ireland was deemed part of the United Kingdom He went to school where he was taught a French curriculum through French. He resented the contempt shown himself and other Moslems, and the indigenous culture by his French teachers.
Voluntary enlistment in the French Army was one of the few routes to advancement for those of his background and he joined up in 1936.Whilst in Marseilles he distinguished
himself as a footballer but refused the offer of a professional career.
When the Nazis attacked, Ben Bella won the Croix de Guerre manning an anti-aircraft post. On the fall of France he was demobilised, but joined a Moroccan unit of the Free French where he distinguished himself in one of the fiercest battles of the war, at Monte Cassino, saving the life and carrying to safety his wounded commanding officer, a Frenchman. He was promoted to Warrant Officer (Sergeant Major) and received the Medaille Militaire, the highest award of the Free French Forces, from General de Gaulle himself.
On May 8 1945, while France was celebrating the defeat of the Nazis, protests broke out in the Algerian town of Setif. Repression of North Africans by the French had intensified during war and the liberation of Europe did not herald the extension of The Rights of Man and Of the Citizen to them, the first to rally to de Gaulle’s Standard in 1940.
The Pro-Democracy Demonstrators were shot down in large numbers, although they were merely demanding equality under the French Tricolour. They were not Separatists.
But all changed, changed utterly and an estimated 1,500,000 Algerians were killed by the French in the eight years 1954 to 1962.
Ben Bella had returned to Algeria after the 1945 massacre deciding to organise for separation from France, The French attempted to assassinate him but he escaped. He later was captured and gaoled and escaped.
In 1954 he arrived in Egypt, where Colonel Nasser had overthrown King Farouk and championed Arab resistance to European rule and independence of Western and Eastern military blocs.
Ben Bella’s background was mirrored by that of Ferhat Abbas, which you may check on Wikipedia. Algerian Moslems wedded to the concept of the rights of man.
France has never apologised for nor offered reparation for the crimes committed in Indochina, the Middle East and numerous other countries in the years since 1945.
In this France is a contrast to Germany which has compensated some of Hitler’s victims and continues to punish Germans guilty of war crimes during the Third Reich.
North African Moslem immigrants and children of such immigrants born in France suffer inhuman treatment by official State agents today.
Some Irish politicians and media advocate the integration or alliance of Ireland’s Defence Forces with those of predatory powers.
The Irish Party leadership – John Redmond, John Dillon, Tom Kettle, Joe Devlin, T.P. O’Connor and their friends, urged Irishmen to serve Britain in a war described by Roger Casement as “The Crime Against Europe.” Hundreds of thousands enlisted and scores of thousands of them were killed.
No good came of that war , the root of most bloody quarrels continuing to this day. In 1918 the Irish electorate consigned its fans to the dustbin of history, the only appropriate destination for their admirers and imitators today.