In the summer of 1959, the French government announced plans for a test of the first French atomic bomb in the Sahara in Reggan, Algeria, to support its military and political powers. Also at the time, Algeria was engaged in a war of independence from France. African leaders and organizations protested almost unanimously against nuclear testing in the Sahara and became concerned with the dangers of nuclear fallout in their country as well as France’s colonialist attitude.
After over seven years of a harsh and bloody war between Algeria’s socialist National Liberation Front (FLN) and the French military, Algeria had finally claimed its independence from France in 1962. However, internal turmoil among the state’s leaders threatened to disrupt the country’s peace. At a FLN party congress in late May 1962, one of the leading FLN members, Ahmed Ben Bella, convinced the FLN to vote out the government-in-exile, the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA), and its leader Ben Youssef Ben Khedda.
At the beginning of April 1961, after nearly seven years of war in Algeria as France tried to maintain its control there, French President Charles de Gaulle announced that he would begin negotiations with the Algerian nationalists and soon relinquish control of the colony. At the time France had approximately 500,000 soldiers stationed in Algeria and very few remaining at home. Several of the generals in Algeria, however, did not want to concede to the Algerian nationalists.