He was thirty when unrest started in the country. Two years latter, in 1956, the unrest had turned into a full-scale war and he had to choose his side. Lounissi BELKACEM chose to fight for France and joined the French army as a volunteer. He was posted to Harka 84, within the II/24th RIMa. This small unit, specialized in counter-guerrilla warfare, was popularly known by the name of its leader: Commando KHODJA.
During the six years that followed, Harki Lounissi BELKACEM bravely fought under the colours of France. He participated as a volunteer in all missions assigned to his unit, including the most risky ones.
Thus, on February 6, 1958, his 20-man commando was attacked by a 100-djounoud katiba of the NLA (National Liberation Army).
The battle was extremely fierce and sometimes turned into hand-to-hand combat. Relieving the leader of his commando who had been fatally wounded, Harki BELKACEM and his buddies succeeded to prevent NLA combatants from advancing. For this feat of arms, Harki BELKACEM exceptionally received a commendation in the Army Corps Order.
Barely three months later, following another brave feat of arms, Harki BELKACEM received yet another commendation in the Division Order.
In March 1962, a ceasefire was declared. Several tens of thousands of harkis were demobilized and disarmed.
Lounissi BELKACEM, who remained in Algeria, was caught by the NLF (National Liberation Front) and sentenced to seven years imprisonment with hard labour. This miraculously saved him from being massacred as was the fate of several dozens of his harki buddies.
- 25 september 2001
Colonel Aziz MELIANI pays tribute to harkis
Several years later, he succeeded to enter France where he was granted a residence permit... a temporary one. His application for naturalization was rejected by the attending officer on grounds that...he could not express himself in French. Lounissi BELKACEM thus became liable to expulsion!
Very fortunately, his case was brought to the knowledge of Colonel Aziz MELIANI, commander of the Legion of Honour, who intervened in his favour. Informed of the situation, the French President asked the prefect of Seine Maritime to look into his case.
How can one imagine that it is finally at eighty-something years that this modest and courageous soldier, whose commitment to France cannot be questioned, is being granted French nationality, and the honours he merited? In addition to the military valour cross, Lounissi BELKACEM’s record of service - 6 years of war and 7 years of captivity – more than justify his being awarded the volunteer serviceman cross and the military medal.
(NB: A harki is an Algerian soldier who fought on the French side in the war of independence).