France has returned some African artifacts in its possession to Senegal. The French Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe, who was in Senegal over the weekend presented swords belonging to 19th Century Islamic scholar and ruler, Hajj Umar Saidou Tall to President Macky Sall.
Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe of France was in Senegal on an official visit. The French Prime Minister visited Senegal to hold talks with President Sall on various bilateral agreements. After the meeting, leaders of the two countries signed seven bilateral accords.
The swords, which have been in France since the 19th century belonged to Senegalese scholar and ruler, Hajj Umar Saidou Tall, who led an anti-colonial struggle against the French in the 19th century.
It was part of the items taken from Senegal after Hajj Umar Saidou Tall and his followers were killed.
France has in recent years pledged the return of historic artifacts looted from its former colonies, especially in West Africa. There remain a large number of African artefacts locked up in French museums.
The Prime Minister at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Dakar handed over the relic – curved iron, brass, and wood sword in its sheath to President Macky Sall.
"It's symbolic. It had been lent to us before, but now it is being restored to us," the head of Dakar's Museum of Black Civilisations Hamady Bocoum told AFP news agency about the sabre.
Reports indicate that descendants of the scholar were present at the ceremony — their representative thanks both governments for working towards the restitution.
Prime Minister Philippe stressed that the return was "the first step" in Paris' resolve to returning more Senegalese artifacts currently in French museums.
El Hadj Omar Saidou Tall was a political leader, military commander and Muslim scholar who led the Tidjane brotherhood, a Sufi order in West Africa.
He fought French troops from 1857 to 1859 before signing a peace treaty with them in 1860. According to Senegalese historians, he disappeared mysteriously from the cliffs of Bandiagara in Mali, an area known for its dramatic landscape, in 1864.
His son Ahmadou (1836-1897) succeeded him and was defeated by the French in April 1893 in Bandiagara. It was here that the French seized the sword, which had a French-made blade and a handle shaped like a bird's beak.
French colonialists also looted books belonging to Tall, according to El-Hajj Mamadou Mactar Thiam, a descendant of the Muslim scholar.
"They took everything, including his library, in Segou, and I hope that all our books that are now in France will be returned to us," Mr Thiam told BBC Afrique.
Source: BBS, AFP, Africa News
Header Image Credit: Africa News