Celebrating “Blood Ties”
By Murielle Delaporte
The SLD team was there early to capture the moments before the parade officially started: this video gives a sense of the ambiance surrounding the last preparation before marching from the Arc de Triomphe towards the Concorde. Elements of the joint forces in charge of the 2010 Earthquake Operation in Haiti were represented, as well as Detachment Epidote (dedicated to Afghanistan National Army training) and Task Force Vulcain (Bataillon de Commandement et Soutien) both deployed in Afghanistan (the latter in charge of support within the TF Lafayette was just replaced last April by TF Osterode). Among some of the equipment displayed, the American Buffalo, now used by French forces against IEDs in Afghanistan, with the Aravis armoured vehicles, as well as STDI UAVs, also used in Afghanistan, were taking part of Bastille Day for the first time. A total of 4,400 men (including the dropping of eight paratroopers on Concorde Square), 269 vehicles, 241 horses, 82 motocycles, 79 planes (including the French Fleet air arm celebrating its 100th anniversary this year) and 38 helicopters were all present to celebrate the French national holiday.
This Year’s Theme
Celebrating fifty years of independence this year from France, thirteen African nations were invited to open the traditional military parade on the Champs-Elysées: African troops from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Centrafrique, Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Tchad and Togo, legacy of the former French “troops of Africa” (Troupes d’Afrique), participated to the 14th of July as “brothers in arms” at the invitation of President Sarkozy, who wanted to honor the African troops role and sacrifice during World War I and World War II and their contribution in the liberation of France (“les liens du sang” or “blood ties” in English). After years of benign neglect, the French government has decided to grant African veterans who fought for France the same retirement pension that the French veterans currently receive.
This initiative has raised some polemic among various opinion-makers (Human rights groups protesting against some African governments; French politicians criticizing a return to the “Françafrique” traditional policy of influence on the continent; some Africans considering it as a symbol of domination; etc), but one shall remember the solemnity and symbolism of these soldiers pacing the pavement in unison and paving the way for better tomorrows under a quasi-tropical rain in Paris during the day of celebration.
Credit photos: Brothers In arms, SLD, Paris, July 14th, 2010
*** Posted on July 14th, 2010