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Pain and Joy as Algerians Celebrate Independence

Fireworks explode above Sidi Fredj beach during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence from France, which occupied Algeria for 132 years, in Algiers, July 5, 2012.
PARIS, France — Algeria is kicking off its 50th anniversary of independence from France Thursday with a series of year-long celebrations. But many Algerians and French are marking the event with mixed emotions.

Algeria's 50th independence anniversary began on a sober note, as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika laid a wreath before a monument dedicated to Algerians who died in the war. Things lighten up later with a huge evening concert.

But Paris-based Algerian journalist Atman Tazaghart says the celebrations are edged with bitterness.

Tazaghart says that while Algerians are very proud of their independence from France, they also are disappointed. Their dreams of building a modern, democratic and prosperous society have not been realized. Despite the country's vast oil wealth, unemployment is high and many are angry at what they believe is a dictatorial state.

French feel equally conflicted about the anniversary - but for different reasons. The war of independence uprooted hundreds of thousands of pieds noir, of French settlers in Algeria. Many Harkis - Algerians who fought on France's side during the war- faced bloody reprisals. Thousands were resettled to France to live in poverty.

French and Algerians both committed atrocities during the war. They are still trading accusations.

In a recent French television report, the children of Algerian fighters offered grim memories of the war. One women said she waited 42 years to get news of her father's death.

Journalist Tazaghart says there are also second- and third-generation French Algerians who feel rejected in France. They idealize Algeria, but they don't realize all of its problems.

Algerians are still waiting for France to apologize for its colonial rule and the brutalities it committed during the war of independence. Some hope that will happen under French President Francois Hollande. But Tazaghart is among those who believe it will take time - and possibly a new generation of French and Algerians - to be able to bury the past.

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