Tony Chafer examines the paradoxes and complexities that underlie belated recognition of the contribution of African soldiers to the liberation of France in 1944.
In November 2001 African war veterans who had fought for France, the so-called tirailleurs sénégalais (‘Senegalese riflemen’, or light infantry; a misnomer as they were recruited from throughout sub-Saharan Africa) received a rare piece of good news: former soldier Amadou Diop had won an important legal victory. His appeal to France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, challenging the freezing of African war veterans’ pensions at their 1959 level, had been successful. The court ruled that the French government should pay him the same pension as it paid to French soldiers and furthermore that it should pay him in arrears for the whole period during which he had been underpaid. Finally, it seemed, colonial war veterans were to be better compensated for defending France.