Wednesday, July 14, 2010

African Troops at France's Bastille Day

Today France is celebrating it’s national day, Bastille Day. President Sarkozy invited for the event some 13 African head of states. All from countries celebrating their 50th anniversary of independence.

Troops from Cameroon, Gabon, Niger, Chad and Congo-Brazzaville joined the military parade under the leadership of French military officials. All this happened among heavy criticism on two levels. First that many of the invited head of states are responsible for grave human rights violations. Inviting them gives a certain legitimacy to leaders who have no wish to respect the human rights and increase the life quality of the country’s citizens. Second because of the symbolism. Marc Ona, a Gabonese human rights activist compares African leaders at the parade to "colonial governors who find themselves together with chief colonialist Nicolas Sarkozy to celebrate keeping Africa in international penury".

Sarkozy’s argument is that African soldiers fought alongside French soldiers during World War I and World War II and that this is a way to honour them. But honestly I think there are better ways to honour the veterans then to invite their corrupt leaders to this parade.

Let’s not forget how France totally failed to grant the respect and rights of the African veterans of all post Napoleonic French wars. It is stunning how wikipedia’s entry on the Tirailleur Sénégalais fails to give more information about this insult towards the African troops who fought alongside Europeans during World War I en II.

It’s only in 2006 (after Rachid Bouchareb’s film on the Arab soldiers during WWII) that Chirac granted the pensions the veterans deserved. Most had died at the time. You can find some info on wiki in this article.

Some of France's African troops in Europe during WWII

Sarkozy further stated that the presence of the African troops just shows to the world the strength of the ties uniting France with its former colonies. And that is exactly what Sarkozy wants as in this globalized world the African nations have a lesser need to preserve the ties with their former colonizers as new nations (like China, Brazil and India) are investing and collaborating with them.

The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), an umbrella group for human rights organisations around the world, said in a letter to President Sarkozy that "It would be no small paradox that during a celebration of the values of the Republic, these values should be flouted by the presence of torturers, dictators and other predators of human rights, and that instead of pursuing them, France honours them."

Defence Minister Herve Morin said on national radio that there are no indications whatsoever that war criminals were present among the African units. Maybe not among the African units, and maybe not war criminals. But there are definitely criminals among the African head of states invited to France’s national day.

This article is based on a BBC News article you can find here

Below I add an intersting video analysis from


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