African soldiers who fought for France during 20th century wars can now live in their home-countries all year long, and still get their French retirement benefits.
Until now, they had to reside in France at least six months per year. The long-awaited decision by French authorities coincides with the release date of ‘Father and Soldier‘, a movie starring Omar Sy on the fate of Senegalese shooters fighting for France during WWI.
Veterans and their families have welcomed the decision, following years of battle with French authorities. Now retired, the Senegalese, Mauritanian or Malian men concerned by the decision were born under French colonisation. Their countries were also under French rule when an approximated 220,000 of them were recruited to fight for France in World War II, the First Indochina War or the Algerian War.
As most former African colonies and territories gained their independence in the 1960’s, French authorities have since then decided that those former soldiers are foreigners – even if they were born under French rule and fought for France. As such, the obligation to live in France at least six months a year to receive their pension applied to them.
Speaking to French media Franceinfo, Senegalese national Yoro Diao said he ‘wholeheartedly served for the French army’ in the Indochinese and Algerian wars.
However, the 91-year-old veteran who lives 6 months a year in a small room near Paris is looking forward to go back home permanently and recover his joie de vivre, as he says living alone far from his relatives half of the time is depressing.
The unfairness of the fate of African soldiers who fought for France is the main topic of ‘Father and Soldier’, starring ‘Lupin’ star Omar Sy.
The French actor plays a Senegalese father who volunteers to fight under French uniform after his own son is drafted by force by the French army in 1917. The duo is sent to fight in the French tranches, where the conditions they encounter are even harsher than those of their French peers because of their country of birth.
Like them, 200,000 were sent to France in 1914-1918. A French particularity, as no other colonial power unrolled soldiers in Africa to send them to Europe at the time.