France has restored to Senegal a sabre that belonged to a 19th Century Islamic scholar and ruler. French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, handed the sword to Senegal’s President Macky Sall in a ceremony in Dakar.
This 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.
“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 Civilizations Hamady Bocoum told AFP news agency.
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 Sundays 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.
About Omar Saidou Tall
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 there the French seized the sword, which had a French-made blade and a handle shaped like a birds beak.