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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Hommage national à Aimé Césaire

National Hommage to Aimé Césaire

Translated Sunday 20 April 2008, by Patrick Bolland

A National Funeral this Sunday (20 April) for the Martinican poet and politician, the voice of “négritude”, whose fight against colonialism found echoes as far away as Africa and the United States.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has declared Aimé Césaire to be “a symbol of hope for the oppressed” let it be known that he would be attending the funeral of the militant anti-colonialist.

And the idea of transferring the corpse of the poet and politician to the Pantheon, the Parisian temple that the “country has reserved for those it recognizes as its great men” was being proposed by the French culture minister, Christine Albanel, as well as by the Socialist candidate in the 2007 presidential elections, Ségolène Royal, who will also be going to Martinique.

Meanwhile, it is the people of Martinique who will accompany and play the honour guard to "Papa Césaire".

A funeral procession with the corpse of Aimé Césaire will travel through the streets of Fort-de-France on Friday to the Dillon Stadium, where the population will provide the honour guard until the burial on Sunday.

A week ago, Aimé Césaire was admitted to the University Hospital Centre “for reason of health, particularly cardiac problems”. A central figure in the anti-colonialist movement, he held electoral office in his native Martinique for more than 50 years and was still "honorary mayor" of the capital of Martinique, Fort-de-France, a post he had held from 1945-2001, as well as being member of the French National Assembly from 1946-1993, and president of the Martinican Regional Council. He resigned from his presidency of the Martinican Progressive Party (PPM) in 2005. Aimé Césaire had been the voice, alongside the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor of the concept of "négritude" – black consciousness.

Since Saturday of last week, Martinicans had been awaiting the news of his death.

In Fort-de-France, as throughout the island, the sadness and resignation were being felt. A number of media were inundated with calls from listeners testifying to the island’s awareness of the loss of such a great man.

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