(BBC) – France has restored to Senegal a sabre that belonged to a 19th Century Islamic scholar and ruler.
It is part of a commitment to return to its former West African colonies key items of their cultural heritage.
The artefact originally belonged to the revered west African leader Omar Saidou Tall, who led an anti-colonial struggle against the French.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe handed the sword to Senegal’s President Macky Sall in a ceremony in Dakar.
“This is an historic day,” the Senegalese leader said. Some of Omar Saidou Tall’s descendants were present at the ceremony.
Mr Philippe said it was “the first step” in a project aimed at returning more Senegalese artefacts currently in French museums, which hold at least 90,000 artefacts from sub-Saharan Africa.
Their official report states that most of the Africa collection in Paris’ Quai Branly museum – approximately 46,000 pieces – was acquired with some degree of duress.
“It’s symbolic. It had been lent to us before, but now it is being restored to us,” the head of Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilisations Hamady Bocoum told AFP news agency about the sabre.
The curved iron, brass and wood sword has been kept in its leather sheath in the museum in Senegal’s capital on loan from France. But Sunday’s ceremony saw the item formally returned for a period of five years.
The next stage will be for French MPs to vote on whether to permanently return this and other artefacts.