Colonial war veterans hail France's pension hikes

28th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

DAKAR, Sept 27, 2006 (AFP) - African war veterans who fought with the French army on Wednesday welcomed the former colonial ruler's decision to raise their pensions to match those of their French counterparts, albeit a little too late.

DAKAR, Sept 27, 2006 (AFP) - African war veterans who fought with the French army on Wednesday welcomed the former colonial ruler's decision to raise their pensions to match those of their French counterparts, albeit a little too late.

A Moroccan veterans' association, ANAC, hailed the move and urged France to implement it quickly as the veterans are now very old.

"It's a good move, but they have to move quickly, they have to activate it because each day there are veterans who die," the association's president, Mohamed Azzouzi, told AFP.

"They did this a bit too late. The majority of those concerned are already deceased," he said.

France announced Wednesday the decision to increase the pensions of war veterans from its former colonies, lifting a four-decade freeze widely seen as unjust.

The announcement coincided with the release of a film highlighting the discrimination suffered by some 300,000 troops from French-ruled Africa during World War II, who made up more than half of the total 550,000 fighters.

The movie, "Days of Glory", was shot in Morocco and shows Africans helping to liberate "motherland" France from Germany, but enduring discrimination from their white colleagues.

Many African war veterans on Wednesday expressed relief at finally being recognised.

"Better late than never," colonel Issa Ongoiba, president of the association of former fighters of Mali told AFP.

"We are satisfied, it is the price for our suffering and of the love which we have preserved for France despite the injustice we underwent," said colonel Dia Amadou Mamadou of the Mauritanian former fighters association.

Others were more skeptical.

"It's good news. We are very happy, but we wait to see the money," said Joseph Gbanhouan, head of former fighters in Ivory Coast, underscoring the mistrust the former colony still has towards France.

"There was discrimination ... we fought the same war but we were treated differently," he added.

Former fighters in Senegal, a key former west African colony, also gave a cautious welcome to the deal.

"We are waiting for clarifications. We would like to have the details on how the revaluation is to be done," said Alioune Camara, president of the national office of ex-combatants in Senegal.

The decision hikes the pensions for former troops from France's ex-colonies to the same level as their French counterparts at a cost of EUR 110 million a year starting next year.

President Jacques Chirac, who ordered the pension rise after seeing 'Days of Glory' in a private screening early this month, said it was an "an act of justice."

The French-Algerian director of the film, Rachid Bouchareb, is largely credited with the decision coming just months ahead of presidential polls in France.

French socialist presidential frontrunner Segolene Royal expressed regret in Senegal Tuesday that it took France the release of the film for it to rectify the injustice.

A 2001 court ruling for the government to revise the freeze had previously resulted in only slight pension increases in which the cost of living in the veterans' home country was used as a benchmark, not the pension paid in France.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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