French president and politicians pay tribute to Aimé Césaire

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday affirmed “the whole France was in grief” over the death in Fort-de-France (Martinique), of Martinique’s writer and politician Aimé Césaire, aged 94.

“I would like to pay tribute to the memory of a great poet who became famous through the quality of his writings.

“We will remember an initiator with Léopold Sedar Senghor of the Negritude concept,” Sarkozy said while adding his voice to the unanimous tribute to the Martinique’s politician and writer.

“Through his universal call for respect for human dignity, awakening and responsibility, he will remain a symbol of hope for all oppressed people,” Sarkozy said.

“He will remain for all of us, one of the most emblematic figures of overseas politicians,” he said.

Expressing his “deep emotion”, the International Organisation of he Francophonie (OIF) Secretary General Abdou Diouf paid tributes to “the memory of a man who dedicated his life to the various fights waged on battle-fields for the cultural and political destiny of his skin brothers.”

“Aimé Césaire wonderfully showed in his writings what a renowned figure of the surrealism has described as ‘the gift of the song,’ the capacity for refusal and the power of transmutation,” the former Senegalese president wrote, while hailing “the man who lived his francophonie with his abundant works.”

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner believes Aimé Césaire will remain “the Negritude’s inspired poet and playwright who showed France’s desire for universalism and its deep ties with the Caribbean, the West Indies and the African continent.

“Throughout his fights for humanity, Aimé Césaire was as he had wished in his first Return to My native Land, a Jew, a cafre, a Hindu man from Calcutta, a man from Harlem who refuses to vote,” Kouchner recalled.

“France will not forget him,” he maintained, urging French cultural institutes and centres across the world to pay tribute “to this great humanist figure by showcasing the richness and diversity of his works.”

In a statement issued in Paris, the Francophonie Parliamentary Association (APF) noted: “like his brother Leopold Sedar Senghor, Aimé Césaire contributed to the existence of a diverse Francophonie respectful of people’s genius.”

“French-speaking parliamentarians will miss this man of letters, one of the world’s great francophone poets, an incomparable illustrator of the contribution of languages and cultures to universal history,” APF said.

Meanwhile, the first secretary of the French Socialist Party (PS), François Hollande, noted that as a politician, Aimé Césaire has championed the Left wing values throughout his life.

“Throughout his tenures of mayor, MP of Fort-de- France, he has stood up together with those fighting for the recognition of their rights and social equality,” Hollande stressed.

French Parliament Speaker Bernard Accoyer Thursday said a “special tribute” would be paid 29 April to Aimé Césaire who successively represented Martinique at the French Parliament from 1946 to 1993.

A playwright, poet, essayist and novelist, Aimé Césaire was along with Senegalese Leopold Sedar Senghor and Guyanese Leon-Gontran Damas, the founder of the Negritude Movement (Proud of being Black).

Noting that the fight must be started with the root of oppression, Aimé Césaire had called on African and West Indian Diasporas to return to “the native land” in a collection of poems titled “return to the Native Land” published in 1939.

He had then released “The Tragedy of King Christopher”, a play that became a classical of the Black African dramatic art.

Loyal to his first political convictions, Aimé Césaire had refused, in 2005, to meet in Fort-de-France, the then French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who he blamed for a bill of the French law, praising “the benefits of colonisation.”

He finally met Sarkozy as the presidential candidate of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) in 2007.

Meanwhile the controversial bill had been repealed.

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