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Hollande promises to give colonial-era massacre archives to Senegal

media Hollande addresses the Senegalese parliament /Joe Penney

France is to hand over its archives on a massacre of African soldiers fighting for France in World War II to Senegal, President François Hollande announced on his visit to Senegal on Saturday. And he told the country’s National Assembly that the controversial Françafrique policy is over and done with.

Dozens of African soldiers, known as tirailleurs, were shot dead at Thiaroye, in what is now Senegal, on 1 December 1944 when about 1,300, who had been held prisoner by the Germans, mutinied, demanding that bonuses owing to them be paid and equal treatment with French soldiers.

Official figures put the death toll at 24 but many historians believe the figure to be an underestimate.

The killings were the subject of a film, Camp de Thiaroye, by Ousmane Sembène and Thierno Faty Sow.

“The dark side of our history includes the bloody repression at the Thairoye camp in 1944 which caused the death of 35 African soldiers who fought for France,” Hollande told the Senegalese parliament. “I’ve decided to give Senegal all the archives that France has on this tragedy so they can be put on show at the Thiaroye memorial.”

The tirailleurs regiments, founded in 1857, recruited, sometimes by force, from French colonies in west Africa that have now become Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso.

In a speech where he also paid homage to the victims of the slave trade, Hollande declared that the Françafrique policy, often criticised as neo-colonialist, is over.

“There is France and there is Africa,” he declared, adding that he was not going to give the Senegalese moral lectures, in an indirect reference to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial speech in Dakar five years ago.

France agreed a 24.5-million-euro loan to Senegal develop tourism in Saint Louis, the capital of the former French West Africa that is a Unesco world heritage site.

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