The Generals' Putsch
Important elements of the French army and the ultras joined in
another insurrection in April 1961. The leaders of this "generals'
putsch" intended to seize control of Algeria as well as topple
the de Gaulle regime. Units of the Foreign Legion offered prominent
support, and the well-armed Secret Army Organization (Organisation
de l'Armée Secrète--OAS) coordinated the participation of colon
vigilantes. Although a brief fear of invasion swept Paris, the
revolt collapsed in four days largely because of cooperation from
the air force and army.
The "generals' putsch" marked the turning point in the official
attitude toward the Algerian war. De Gaulle was now prepared to
abandon the colons, the group that no previous French government
could have written off. The army had been discredited by the putsch
and kept a low profile politically throughout the rest of France's
involvement with Algeria. Talks with the FLN reopened at Evian
in May 1961; after several false starts, the French government
decreed that a cease-fire would take effect on March 19, 1962.
In their final form, the Evian Accords allowed the colons equal
legal protection with Algerians over a threeyear period. These
rights included respect for property, participation in public
affairs, and a full range of civil and cultural rights. At the
end of that period, however, Europeans would be obliged to become
Algerian citizens or be classified as aliens with the attendant
loss of rights. The French electorate approved the Evian Accords
by an overwhelming 91 percent vote in a referendum held in June
During the three months between the cease-fire and the French
referendum on Algeria, the OAS unleashed a new terrorist campaign.
The OAS sought to provoke a major breach in the ceasefire by the
FLN but the terrorism now was aimed also against the French army
and police enforcing the accords as well as against Muslims. It
was the most wanton carnage that Algeria had witnessed in eight
years of savage warfare. OAS operatives set off an average of
120 bombs per day in March, with targets including hospitals and
schools. Ultimately, the terrorism failed in its objectives, and
the OAS and the FLN concluded a truce on June 17, 1962. In the
same month, more than 350,000 colons left Algeria. Within a year,
1.4 million refugees, including almost the entire Jewish community
and some pro-French Muslims, had joined the exodus to France.
Fewer than 30,000 Europeans chose to remain.
On July 1, 1962, some 6 million of a total Algerian electorate
of 6.5 million cast their ballots in the referendum on independence.
The vote was nearly unanimous. De Gaulle pronounced Algeria an
independent country on July 3. The Provisional Executive, however,
proclaimed July 5, the 132d anniversary of the French entry into
Algeria, as the day of national independence.
The FLN estimated in 1962 that nearly eight years of revolution
had cost 300,000 dead from war-related causes. Algerian sources
later put the figure at approximately 1.5 million dead, while
French officials estimated it at 350,000. French military authorities
listed their losses at nearly 18,000 dead (6,000 from noncombat-related
causes) and 65,000 wounded. European civilian casualties exceeded
10,000 (including 3,000 dead) in 42,000 recorded terrorist incidents.
According to French figures, security forces killed 141,000 rebel
combatants, and more than 12,000 Algerians died in internal FLN
purges during the war. An additional 5,000 died in the "café wars"
in France between the FLN and rival Algerian groups. French sources
also estimated that 70,000 Muslim civilians were killed, or abducted
and presumed killed, by the FLN.
Historian Alistair Horne considers that the actual figure of
war dead is far higher than the original FLN and official French
estimates, even if it does not reach the 1 million adopted by
the Algerian government. Uncounted thousands of Muslim civilians
lost their lives in French army ratissages, bombing raids,
and vigilante reprisals. The war uprooted more than 2 million
Algerians, who were forced to relocate in French concentration
camps or to flee to Morocco, Tunisia, and into the Algerian hinterland,
where many thousands died of starvation, disease, and exposure.
Additional pro-French Muslims were killed when the FLN settled
accounts after independence.
Data as of December 1993