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Thiaroye 44: investigation into a massacre of skirmishers in Senegal

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Published on: 05/13/2022 – 12:46 What happened on December 1, 1944 in the Thiaroye military camp, near Dakar in Senegal? Eighty years after the events, the documentary “Thiaroye 44” looks for the first time at this massacre of skirmishers, repatriated to Senegal after having fought for France during the Second World War. Marie Thomas-Penette and François-Xavier Destors follow three young artists from Thiaroye who, out of duty of memory, explore with the help of a historian the gray areas of this drama. In November 1944, France was gradually liberated from the Nazi occupation. After four years of war, 1,300 West African infantrymen were repatriated by the French army to Thiaroye, to a military camp in the suburbs of Dakar. They claim the payment of their balances of captivity as well as various bonuses which were not paid to them. At dawn on December 1, gunfire broke out in the camp. The French army evokes a mutiny which it had to repress in blood. However, many gray areas remain. We still do not know how many were killed, or where they are buried. Ten years ago, in 2012, President François Hollande went on his first official trip to African soil in the small military cemetery of Thiaroye. His speech had the effect of a political bomb. “A bloody repression”, he said about the skirmishers who fell on this ground, on December 1, 1944, under the bullets of their French brothers in arms. For the first time in almost 70 years, the official version of the story of the events in Thiaroye was called into question. hostage” requiring a “response” to the disastrous balance sheet of 35 dead and 35 injured. In 2014, on the sidelines of the Francophonie summit, the French president still mentioned “a terrible, unbearable event”. He gave with great fanfare to President Macky Sall a copy of the archives related to the event. A commission of historians had even been appointed to finally shed light on this emblematic crime of colonial injustice. It has not happened. Nothing has leaked out of these archives and no one is surprised. The political and scientific elites seem, in Senegal as in France, to have turned the page. The number of victims remains undemonstrable. The mass grave where they are buried cannot be found. As if the memory of these soldiers was always buried, even concealed, in relations of domination which endure. their superiors of several tens, even hundreds, of disarmed skirmishers who claimed the payment of their wages of combatants. A crime without images fallen into oblivion, the greatest mass crime in the history of contemporary Senegal. The first of a long series committed by the French army at the end of the Second World War: Sétif in Algeria, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Cameroon… Because France felt that it no longer needed its ” colored troops”, because it was necessary to exclude them from the national narrative, to restore the colonial order, in defiance of its values ​​and its promises of equality. Three young artists Aïcha writes plays, Magui is a rising star of the rap, Babacar is an actor. All three grew up in Thiaroye, this popular suburb that vibrates to the rhythm of urban cultures such as rap, slam or graffiti. The colonial camp still harbors a military presence, but a city has grown up there in anarchy. Traces of history are scattered there: a few ruins of barracks, portraits of skirmishers painted on the walls, a military cemetery with empty tombs abandoned on the side of a highway, the school of “Martyrs” where young people find, sometimes casings in the sand. When they stroll through the streets of Thiaroye, perhaps they walk over their corpses? Together, they follow in their footsteps and seek to understand what really happened. Guided by Martin Mourre, a young historian specializing in the massacre who continues his investigative work in parallel, they delve into the contradictions of the military archives. They meet Biram Senghor, the son of one of the assassinated skirmishers who fights until today to obtain compensation, or Dialo Diop, one of the great militant figures of Senegal, to confront the knots that bind the story. of this slaughter. The truth sometimes seems tangible and yet it always slips away. The memory is perpetuated through the artistic performances of Aïcha, Magui and Babacar. The film aims to fill an important void: to date, there has been no documentary devoted to the massacre of the tirailleurs of Thiaroye. Only one film – fiction – escaped the clutches of censorship, “Camp de Thiaroye” by Ousmane Sembène, crowned at the Venice Film Festival in 1988 but banned in France for almost ten years, like the rare cultural works that have tried to perpetuate this memory. This film participates in the same momentum, that of a history shared between France and its former colonies, between generations, genres, the arts. It does not have the ambition to shed light on the gaps in this history, but to break the silence and ignorance by revealing a memory that is still very much alive, especially for today’s youth. To wonder about the drama of Thiaroye is to put your finger in the mechanics of colonial violence and to question its resurgence. The directors Marie Thomas-Penette and François-Xavier Destors 14:20 Follow this Facebook page for news about the documentary “Thiaroye 44”. The documentary “Thiaroye 44” is a Les films du sillage production in co-production with France 24 and Public Sénat , with the participation of TV5 Monde.

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