At first I was thrilled by the news that France had returned the sword of the Senegalese hero Omar Tall, … until I read the fine prints! Then I read that this was a temporary return, more like a 5-year loan to Senegal, until the French parliament approves whether to permanently return it or not. Moreover, the sword was already on loan at a Museum in Senegal. Nevertheless, you will notice like me that the media titled it a ‘return.‘ In reality, this is more like a publicity campaign for the French who seemingly appear to be returning looted treasures.
Before delving into the excerpt below from the BBC article, it is good to say a few words about Omar Saidou Tall or Umar Tall, and why he is so venered by Senegalese. Omar Saidou Tall was a religious, political, and military leader who fought against French colonization in the region then known as French Sudan which encompassed Senegal, Mali, and Guinea. He opposed a fierce resistance to the French from 1857 to 1859. Senegalese tend to remember him as a hero of anti-French resistance, while Malian sources tend to describe him as an invader who paved the way for the French by weakening West Africa. We will go deeper into his life and legacy in the next post.
France has restored to Senegal a sabre that belonged to a 19th Century Islamic scholar and ruler.
It is part of a commitment to return to its former West African colonies key items of their cultural heritage.
The artefact originally belonged to the revered west African leader Omar Saidou Tall, who led an anti-colonial struggle against the French.
… Mr Philippe [France’s prime minister] said it was “the first step” in a project aimed at returning more Senegalese artefacts currently in French museums, which hold at least 90,000 artefacts from sub-Saharan Africa.
Last year a group of experts commissioned by France’s President Emmanuel Macron recommended that African treasures in French museums be returned to their countries of origin.
Their official report states that most of the Africa collection in Paris’ Quai Branly museum – approximately 46,000 pieces – was acquired with some degree of duress [not sure that they will return all these artefacts and leave their museums empty].
“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.
The curved iron, brass and wood sword has been kept in its leather sheath in the museum in Senegal’s capital on loan from France. But Sunday’s ceremony saw the item formally returned for a period of five years.
The next stage will be for French MPs to vote on whether to permanently return this and other artefacts.