This week’s links: French citizenship for WWII soldiers, book recs, and more

Chadian soldier in the French infantry during WWII. (Wikimedia)

Here’s a run-down of the interesting links we mentioned during this week’s episode of Ufahamu Africa.

First, France gave citizenship to 28 veterans of WWII and “other conflicts” who were of African origin: 23 Senegalese, 2 Congolese, 2 Central Africans and 1 Ivorian.  Quartz Africa writer Lily Kuo (@lilkuo) writes

Many of them were from Senegal, a country that sent more than a third of all of its military- age men to France to fight during World War I.

“France is proud to welcome you, just as you were proud to carry its flag, the flag of freedom,” president Francois Hollande said at the ceremony in the Elysée Palace in Paris, adding that his country owes these men a “debt of blood.” The honored veterans were between the ages of 78 and 90.

We had quite a few questions about this gesture by the French. For example, French President François Hollande is quoted in le Parisien as saying:

“Those who fought for France and those who make the choice to live there should be entitled to French citizenship.”

Where does this leave forced recruits who do not make the choice to move to France ?

The news story reminded us of our conversation about African soldiers in the colonial period in Episode 7 with historian Michelle Moyd (@mimoyd1), who had recommended a book that was also mentioned in Lily Kuo’s piece: Gregory Mann’s Native Sons: West African Veterans and France in the Twentieth Century.

There was some good news out of Egypt this week, as Aya Hijazi has been released from detention. An Egyptian-American, Hijazi along with her husband Mohamed Hassanein, founded an NGO that promotes a better life for street children. Hijazi, her husband, and six volunteers had been in detention for the past three years, accused of child abuse and trafficking. Wade McMullen, an attorney at the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Centre, which represented Hijazi, confirmed that Hijazi and her husband have been released and were with their family in Egypt. The Washington Post reports they have since flown to the U.S.

Following up on last week’s story from Zambia about treason charges brought against opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, we encourage you to read the in-depth report by Robbie Corey-Boulet (@rcoreyb): A Road Rage Case in Zambia is Renewing Fear for the Country’s Democracy. After its publication, the Zambian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement condeming HH’s arrest and saying that:

“Our country is now all, except in designation, a dictatorship and if it is not yet, then we are not far from it. Our political leaders in the ruling party often issue intimidating statements that frighten people and make us fear for the immediate and future.”

One last thing we’ll point you to — in preparation for this week’s conversation with Dr. Lahra Smith, we encourage you to read her piece with colleague Lauren Carruth on their research on refugees and migrants in Djibouti. The piece is titled, “Wealthier nations can learn from how tiny Djibouti welcomes refugees.” We draw your attention to one quote in particular, said by a refugee camp administrator:

In Djibouti, we have a big heart. We open our hand. Refugees should stay here and work with dignity.”

During our conversation with Lahra, she recommended three books. The first was Transit: A Novel by Abdourahman A. Waberi, which features Djibouti, if from afar. The second was City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp by Ben Rawlence. The third book recommendation was Making Freedom: Apartheid, Squatter Politics, and the Struggle for Home by Anne-Maria Makhulu.

Lastly, here are a few other things we found on the internet this week that we thought you might be interested in:

Community organizer Vava Tampa (@VavaTampa) has an Op-Ed in Al Jazeera English titled, “Congo: A dictator’s dilemma.” In the piece, Tampa argues DRC President Joseph Kabila has continued to cling to power beyond his constitutionally mandated term as a way to protect himself from being held accountable for the many Congolese deaths between 1998 and 2008.

Are Sudanese Arab or African? Read this letter from African journalist, Yousra Elbagir published in the BBC.

Watch this interview with artist Lina Iris Viktor, which includes her amazing work:

What are you reading or listening to this week? Tell us in the comments or tag us on Twitter (@UfahamuAfrica) and we’ll feature it in our next episode.

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