France Returns to Senegal an 18th-Century Saber That It Looted During the Colonial Period



The French prime minister Edouard Philippe handed over an important historical artifact that was confiscated during the colonial period to the Senegalese president Macky Sall yesterday.

The iron, brass, leather, and wood saber and scabbard belonged to Omar Saïdou Tall, an 18th-century military leader and founder of the short-lived Toucouleur empire, which encompassed parts of Guinea, Senegal, and Mali. The sword was seized from Tall’s son Ahmadou by the French in 1893 after they defeated him in battle in Mali. It had been part of the collection of Paris’s Army Museum but has been on loan to Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations for the past few months as part of France’s effort to right colonial wrongs. 

One year ago, French president Emmanuel Macron made a historic speech in Ouagadougou, during which he declared that the conditions for either the temporary or permanent restitution of African cultural heritage held in French museums would be set within five years. Since then, however, the momentum of the restitution debate has slowed while French politicians hash out the legal framework that would allow for full restitution— Read more.