France has been accused of turning her back on African ex-servicemen who risked their lives in her defence.
France has been accused of turning her back on African ex-servicemen who risked their lives in her defence. The challenge comes from branches of the ex-servicemen's association which held its fifth congress in Senegal last week (14-17 December).
SYNOPSIS: The Congress opened with a wreath-laying ceremony in Dakar. The presidents of three branches of the association represented the 600,000 fighters and war victims who has served under the French flag.
But the point of the Congress was not just to honour the dead. It also aimed to redress what it saw as a gross injustice done to the veterans. Although black soldiers had served jointly on the battle-field with white. Frenchmen, facing the same risk to life, they did not now receive the same kind of pension. In fact, Congress leaders claim, the payments are quite unfairly low.
In 1974, France promised to take steps towards redressing this imbalance. But the Africans claim there has been no such redress. Instead they say France continues to treat them as big children -- giving them equality in the misery of battle but deeming them inferior to their French counterparts in pension rights.
Speakers during the four-day Congress included the President of the Senegal federation of the association.
Delegates were urged to present a united front by M. Jean Ahui, the head of the association. He said the ex-servicemen's budget was very modest and they had only hope and their will as weapons of progress to obtain their just rights.