Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 March 2022
In the year when France commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of its territory from Nazi rule by the Allied Forces, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal initiated a commemoration of the contribution that the Tirailleurs sénégalais made to this military victory. Inviting the heads of different African states whose colonial subjects had joined the colonial army of Tirailleurs, the Day of the Tirailleur was celebrated on 23 August 2004 to commemorate the day of the landing at Toulon. In the Senegalese media, the ‘blood debt’ of France to its African liberators was widely debated, and the discrimination in pensions that African veterans have experienced since political independence was widely condemned. During the day, a statue of the soldiers Demba and Dupont was unveiled at its new location to recognize the contribution Africans have made to France’s military history. This colonial statue was first inaugurated in 1923 to recognize the role played by Tirailleurs in the First World War; it is now recycled to remind France of its colonial debt. The Day of the Tirailleur reminded France of its obligations towards the Senegalese migrants in France whose legal status was very much debated at the time. By reinstating a colonial statue and recycling the social capital made by sacrifice, the Senegalese government appropriated and reinterpreted African history, recycling its colonial legacy as a technique of repair.
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