Monday, May 29, 2023

After life in exile, 9 Senegalese skirmishers leave France to return to their native land

Nine very old skirmishers who fought for France, notably in Indochina and Algeria, arrived in Senegal from Paris on Friday to end their lives peacefully after a long battle to have their “sacrifices” recognized by the French authorities .

To find the country of these ancestors, to live in their old days: nine skirmishers, of very advanced age, who fought for France, especially in Indochina and Algeria, Friday 28 April, end their lives in peace in Senegal From rushed to finish. A happy epilogue to a long battle with the French administration for recognition of his “sacrifice”.

When the first of them, Blaise Diagne, walked through the door of the plane at the airport, set in his wheelchair, his white beard, wearing a traditional brown boubou, families and veterans broke the first applause.

Nine very old skirmishers who fought for France arrived in Senegal from Paris on Friday, April 28, 2023. AFP – Cillo

The hour of meeting had rung. Some smiled, others wept, all marked by a feeling of returning to their native country in the twilight of their lives.

A moment made possible thanks to an outrageous measure decided by the French government that allows them to live permanently in Senegal without losing their minimum old-age allowance of 950 euros per month.

“The Family Baobab”

One of them, Sidi Dieme, brother of Omar Dieme, told AFP just before his arrival: “He is a patriarch, he is really the baobab of the family today. We miss him very much.”

“The remedy may have come a little late, but the emotion that dominates today is joy,” he continues, adding that his only regret is that his eldest “will not be able to benefit from the same medical platform that France has.” in”.

“We prepared what they like best, mafe”, a traditional Senegalese dish. “He is in a hurry to return to the village in Casamance, because he feels better there than in Dakar,” he added.

The first stage of the withdrawal is a meeting with President Macky Sall at the presidential palace on Friday. A reception is scheduled for Saturday at the French Embassy.

All elegant in impeccable suits or traditional tunics, wearing their military medals with poise, these Senegalese left their 15 square meter studio at dawn in a house in Bondi, in the Paris region where they had lived for years .

“Long live France and Senegal”

“Long live our fathers!”, “Long live France and Senegal!”, we heard moments before his departure from group photos or exchanges with French Foreign Minister Patricia Miralles. “We will miss you! But the family is waiting for you there …”, launched the Secretary of State, gone.

“I am very happy to return to Senegal and take advantage of the rights I had in France for 25 or 20 years, it was difficult for our relatives to travel, and also for our age…”, N’ dongo Dieng (87) told AFP wearing his military medals on a mustard tunic.

This happens “recently”, because “many comrades died before they could benefit from this measure …”, lamented the veteran. The extraordinary assistance also finances their travel, their return flight and their resettlement.

“I am very emotional,” Assata Seck, president of the Association for the Memory and History of Senegalese Riflemen, told AFP before boarding the plane.

The granddaughter of a tirailleur, she was the lynchpin who worked for his recognition, for 10 years, until French President Emmanuel Macron announced this outrageous measure for his allowance in early 2023.

recognize the sacrifices

“The fact that they can finally go home is a real relief and it is the culmination of a very long fight” so that they can have “a dignified end of life”, according to Aita Sek, who believes that the French state “has did the “right thing”.

For Claire Miot, lecturer in history at the Institute of Political Studies in Aix-en-Provence (France), “It is a recognition of their sacrifice in the service of France that is too late because they are men who are 90 years old, Not to mention the soldiers engaged in World War II who are mostly dead”.

Senegalese Skirmishers At A Training Camp, December 4, 1939
Senegalese skirmishers at a training camp, December 4, 1939 © AFP, Archives

The French corps of “Senegalese tirailleurs”, created under the Second Empire (1852–1870) and disbanded in the 1960s, brought together soldiers from the former colonies of Africa. The term designated all the soldiers from Africa who fought under the French flag.

After Friday’s departure, there are still 28 skirmishers in France – all of Senegalese origin – many of whom are expected to return soon.

According to the historian Julián Fergatas, author of several works on the subject, there were more than 200,000 during the First World War, 150,000 for the Second, 60,000 in Indochina.

Julien Fargatas, who organized these skirmishes between Bondi and young people in France, underlined that “they are representative of an era, and the living memory of the skirmishes”.

According to family tradition, 95-year-old Yoro Diao, a volunteer in the French army, wants to “rest” in his buttonhole at the Legion of Honour, Caolac in central Senegal.

“This is a very important day for us, and a memorable one!” he told AFP before boarding the plane. “Our children and our grandchildren will always remember this… that grandfather returned from France very happy that day”.

with AFP

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