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African war veterans receive French citizenship

French President Fran├žois Hollande presided over a ceremony in which 28 African veterans received French citizenship in Paris on April 15,2017. Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool/AFP

African war veterans who fought for France in World War Two, Indochina and North Africa were given French citizenship during a ceremony at the Elysée palace in Paris on Saturday.

The 28 veterans, a majority of whom are above 80, received their citizenship in a ceremony presided by the French President François Hollande.

23 of them are Senegalese, two Congolese, two come from the Central African Republic and one from Cote d'Ivoire.

They will now hold a nationality that they had lost when French colonies became independent in 1960.

“This is the culmination of a long struggle, many years,” Aïssata Seck, the deputy mayor of Bondy (a suburb of Paris) said. Seck, who is a granddaughter of a Senegalese veteran started a petition last year in support of naturalisation of veterans which generated 60,000 signatures.

Although mostly a symbolic gesture, the naturalisation process will be useful for the recipients when it comes to travel arrangements.

Seck underlined practical advantages.

“Now these men will be able to return their countries of origin without being obliged to spend six months in France, that means if tomorrow they want to spend seven or eight months to make the most of their families, they can do it.

“When they were not French, they were obliged to check in every six months in France, just like criminals. Unlike ordinary French pensioners who can spend ten to eleven months overseas without any problem.” she says.

She said there are hundreds of pending requests for citizenship that President Hollande has promised will be processed.

In 2007, former president Jacques Chirac raised the pensions for Senegalese fighters to match those of other veterans.