Dakar (AFP)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe symbolically handed Sunday to Senegalese President Macky Sall a sword materializing the historical relations between their countries and the commitment of President Emmanuel Macron to restore works of art to Africa.

M. Philippe presented to Macky Sall the sword of Omar Saidou Tall, a beautiful piece of iron, brass, copper, leather and wood with its case belonging to the collections of the Army Museum in Paris.

If it is not yet strictly speaking a restitution, this gesture is "the first step", said the French Prime Minister during a ceremony at the Senegalese presidency in the presence of the descendants of the old owner.

Among political or commercial agreements signed Sunday between the two countries was initialed a convention providing for the deposit of the sword at the Museum of Black Civilizations of Dakar for five years, the time that is written a law on restitution itself. The saber is already for several months at the Dakar Museum in the form of a loan.

"We are bound by history," said Philippe, referring to colonization and privileged relations after Senegal's independence, "and this link takes a particular focus today."

He recalled that he himself treasured his officer saber.

"The sword that unites us here is infinitely more prestigious than the one I own, it is that of a great conqueror, that of a spiritual guide ... the sword of an empire founder, the empire toucouleur which included Guinea, Mali, present-day Senegal, is the sword of a scholar, "he said. "It's a saber lover who tells you, his place is indeed here, in the heart of the old toucouleur empire," he said.

French public collections contain at least 90,000 objects of art from sub-Saharan Africa. More than two thirds - 70,000 - are at Quai Branly, of which 46,000 "acquired" during the period 1885-1960. More than twenty thousand others are scattered in many museums, including Le Havre, of which Mr. Philippe was the mayor.

© 2019 AFP