Earlier this week, Algeria held a referendum on a Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation proposed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Allegedly 97% of voters approved the project with a reported 79% turnout... though the opposition and journalists dispute the latter figure. The opposition called for a boycott of the plan.
In 1992, the Algerian military cancelled elections that were about to be won by the Islamist FIS party and a state of emergency was declared. What followed was several years of a dirty war between the Islamist militants and the so-called forces of order. It is estimated that over 100,000 Algerians have been killed since the start of the insurgency and some 6000 have disappeared without a trace.
Bouteflika's plan gives a pardon to militants, except those who took part in mass murder, public bombings and rapes. It also offers compensation to the families of victims. The plan is controversial because gives a blanket amnesty to the Algerian military, the country's dominant institution. "The sovereign Algerian people reject any allegation aimed at holding the state responsible for the phenomena of the disappeared," the proposed charter says. Hardly anyone believes this deception.
Most notably, the Algerian plan eschews the reconciliation model of places like South Africa and Rwanda. Those places instituted truth and reconciliation commissions. Pardon was conditioned upon full disclosure of what happened. The truth was revealed and people were allowed to grieve and move on.
Bouteflika's crude attempt to buy off victims' families, or more specifically their memories, is a hard sell.
"I do not want the government to give me money to compensate the loss of my son," says one man. "I want it to tell me the truth, and why the security forces kidnapped him - not more but not less."
The Algerian model asks citizens to pretend the viciousness never happened. You can't forgive if you don't know what you're forgiving.