A row has broken out in France over an invitation to troops from former African colonies to march in Bastille Day parades – and a lunch for 12 African leaders hosted by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The idea is to mark the 50th anniversary of the independence of the colonies, and an agreement to grant African war veterans the same pensions as former French soldiers.
Colonial pensions had been frozen in the 1950s.
One army chief, Lieutenant Colonel Benoît Cappelle, said: “These are people who fought in our ranks in the first and second World Wars. They gave their blood and deserve our respect and they still fight with us in missions abroad.”
But opponents say many of the African leaders being feted run repressive, undemocratic regimes and should not be at France’s national day celebrations.
They accuse Sarkozy of exploiting the occasion to perpetuate France’s often criticised involvement in African affairs.