French President Emmanuel Macron received nine former Senegalese riflemen living in France on Friday at the Élysée who have decided to return to their country of origin thanks to exceptional financial aid from the French state.
"Today, it's done, it's official: they will be able to return at the end of the month. Finally", rejoiced Fatou Biramah, a spokesperson for the Association for Memory and History. Senegalese skirmishers.
"Our dear and tender, our grandpas, our elders, were received by the President of the Republic. Everything was moving. It was a tender moment, it was sweet. The President paused (compared to the controversies targeting him in France, in particular about the unpopular pension reform, editor's note). He listened to them, and above all he thanked them", she said.
The nine men, aged 85 to 96 according to the association, will soon begin a "permanent return trip to Senegal" after a life spent in France, which they served as soldiers during the wars of decolonization, mainly in Indochina and in Algeria.
This trip was made possible thanks to a derogatory measure decided by the French government, which allows them to live permanently in their country of origin, without losing their minimum old-age allowance.
Before that, "they had the obligation to stay six months a year in France to continue to receive this minimum old-age allowance of 950 euros per month - an allowance which notably allowed their families who remained in the country to have a minimum for provide for their needs", explains the association.
"All their families, wives, children, grandchildren, etc. are in the country", observes its spokesperson Fatou Biramah. A family had to leave to live in France for six months, “alone in rooms not exceeding 15m2”. "It was heavy," she says.
The aid put in place, the amount of which is not disclosed, aims to finance their return trip and their resettlement in their country of origin. Medical assistance in Senegal will notably be covered by France, according to Ms. Biramah.
The Veterans Affairs Secretariat estimates the number of "Senegalese tirailleurs" at 37 - all of Senegalese origin - living in France. These people, who have long suffered from a lack of recognition from France, are mostly alone.
Created under the Second Empire (1852-1870) and dissolved in the early 1960s, the French corps of "Senegalese Tirailleurs" brought together soldiers born in the former French colonies in Africa and enlisted in the French army.
The term came to designate all soldiers from sub-Saharan Africa who fought under the French flag, regardless of their nationality or country of origin. They participated in the Second World War and the wars of decolonization.