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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 11:29 GMT
France gives overseas veterans more
Cambodian soldiers
Soldiers who fought for France say they were misled
The French Government says it is allocating more than $70m to increase the pensions of war veterans from former French colonies.

The measure, which will come into effect next year, follows a ruling by France's highest administrative court ordering the government to treat French and foreign veterans equally.


What we are interested in is to have our right restored as in the Paris court ruling

Alioun Kamara, Senegalese veterans' leader
But the authorities in Paris say the size of war pensions will vary according to the cost of living in each of the 20 countries affected by the measure.

More than 100,000 veterans from former French colonies, particularly in Africa, have complained about being given less generous pensions than the French themselves.

The president of the Senegalese veteran association, Alioun Kamara, described the government's latest move as unfair.

"Injustice continues, especially when you talk of the life of each country, the means of each country; pensions have to be paid in relation to that. It is still unjust because, here in Africa, we are talking about poverty, not the cost of living," he told the BBC's French Service for Africa.

"What we are interested in is to have our right restored as in the Paris court ruling."

Widows' rights

Last year's ruling by the Council of State said the pensions of tens of thousands of African and Asian French army veterans had been kept illegally depressed for more than 40 years.

The decision was made in the case of a Senegalese man - Amadou Diop - who served in the French army from 1937 to 1959, rising to the rank of sergeant.

His lawyers argued that a 1959 law - known as the "crystallisation" law - which froze the pensions of colonial soldiers at the values of the time and made them non-payable to widows, was illegal.

The Council of State agreed, and ordered that his pension be brought into line with that of an equivalent French war veteran.

Mr Diop has died since the suit was launched, so the money will go to his widow.

Colonial regiments

At the time of the ruling, it was hoped that large sums of money would be paid to tens of thousands of African and Asian French army veterans.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from France's overseas possessions fought in the French army in World War II and in subsequent colonial conflicts in Madagascar, Vietnam, Tunisia and Algeria.

They formed regiments such as the Senegalese Tirailleurs and the Moroccan Spahis.

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