North Africa, the victims of nuclear crimes will be left without justice?
North Africa witnessed four explosions of the calibre of Hiroshima Nagasaki put together in the Mediterranean, at the home of the Tuareg, underground, and in the sky. Algerians remember cloud mushrooms and ochre storms, radioactive mists, and timeless poisons—stories from 60 years ago, which are not over yet. Zero lines on the European news, yet this is the history of humanity.
So it happens that, with a decree in the Official Gazette a few days ago, Algeria promises the decontamination of the Saharan sites where French nuclear tests were carried out between 1960 and 1966. The task is entrusted to a state agency: it will have to “rehabilitate” the areas of Raggane and all the others where Paris detonated 17 explosions before and after the independence of its former colony (only the first, Operation Gerboise Bleue, four times more potent of Hiroshima).
Who or what will pay is not clear at all. Not even the Algerian president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, has made it clear who and what will pay. In an interview, he only reiterated the request to France to “clean up” the sites and argued that, instead, talking about compensation would be like behaving like a “beggar people” who “belittle” their “martyrs.” Paris also welcomed the agency’s birth as good news.
Last March the Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire had detected radioactive cesium-137 in a cloud of sand from the Sahara. For now, however, the associations of Algerian victims, such as Taourirt, are not commenting: its president, Abdelkarim Touhami, a survivor, continues to report suspicious deaths, births of children with malformations, and out-of-the-ordinary cancer pathologies.
The question: will anyone ever realize it? The French Parliament has just rejected a proposal by MP Moetai Brotherson, who wanted to make a 2010 law on compensation “transgenerational” by extending the right to the descendants of those who fell ill from radioactive waste. Not only in Algeria but also on the other side of the world. Look on the map for Papeete, French Polynesia: a week ago, at least 2,500 people demonstrated demanding justice for the nuclear test victims. They are expecting Emmanuel Macron on July 25, but not everyone will welcome him.