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Senegal stops French auction of first president's jewellery

By AFP
Senegal A photograph of Leopold Sedar Senghor in his house in Verson, western France.  By Lou BENOIST AFP
OCT 25, 2023 LISTEN
A photograph of Leopold Sedar Senghor in his house in Verson, western France. By Lou BENOIST (AFP)

Senegal has stopped a collection of its first president's precious possessions from going under the hammer in France, saying on Wednesday it had reached a "friendly agreement" with the auction house.

Jewellery, military medals, diplomatic gifts, and even gold fountain pens owned by Leopold Sedar Senghor and his wife were set to be auctioned in Caen, northwestern France.

But the auctioneer said last week it would delay bidding after the Senegalese state intervened, asking to negotiate with the current owner about buying the collection directly.

Organisers had said they would press ahead with the auction in December if an agreement could not be reached.

Senegal's culture ministry said it had spent $260,000 striking a deal to acquire the items on Monday.

Senegal said it had wanted to buy them to "preserve the memory and heritage" of Senghor, who was in power from 1960 to 1980.

A poet, writer and professor before he became president, Senghor was a champion of the anti-colonial "Negritude" movement in the 1930s.

He fought for former colonial power France during World War II and was the first African admitted to the country's prestigious Academie Francaise.

The 41 items included an 18-carat gold Order of the Nile necklace which Senghor received in 1967 after making a speech at Cairo University.

The deal came about after Senegalese President Macky Sall weighed in, asking the culture minister and the Senegalese embassy in Paris to carry out "appropriate discussions" with the auctioneer.

"The operation cost 244,000 euros," the Senegalese ministry said, adding it had reached a "friendly agreement".

"The mediation went very well... All the lots in this sale have been amicably transferred to Senegal by mutual agreement. All parties are delighted," auctioneer Solene Laine told AFP, without specifying the cost.

Senghor spent time in Verson near Caen after Colette Hubert, from Normandy.

He died there at the age of 95 in 2001.

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