A Senegalese war veteran will cary the Olympic Flame. GETTY IMAGES

Former Senegalese rifleman Oumar Dieme, aged over 90, sees it as a remarkable opportunity to carry the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony of the upcoming Paris Games.

Dieme has remembered his days in the "Senegalese tirailleurs", which is a contingent of African foot soldiers who served France in both world wars and numerous decolonisation conflicts.

He elaborated that approximately 20 individuals from his village of Badiana in the southern Casamance region enlisted in the Senegalese Tirailleurs corps until its dissolution in the 1960s. The war veteran has been chosen as one of the torchbearers to carry the Olympic flame as it traverses through the Seine-Saint-Denis department of Paris for the Games' opening in late July.

"Many colleagues stayed behind. Others came back mutilated (or) are no more," he explained to AFP. "I'm the only survivor. It was a miracle that I was chosen. Given my age, I would like to be accompanied by my son," Dieme added. The department's proposal was approved by organisers, marking Dieme's former residency in the area before his relocation to Senegal in 2023.

"The choice of Oumar Dieme contributes to the essential work of remembrance, because the Senegalese riflemen have been forgotten for too long in our collective memory," Stephane Troussel, president of the Seine-Saint-Denis department, told AFP.

Oumar Dieme will carry the Olympic Flame at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES
Oumar Dieme will carry the Olympic Flame at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

Dieme is among the multitude of soldiers hailing from the former French colonies in Africa who served in the Senegalese Tirailleurs corps, established in 1857. He joined the corps on March 6, 1953, following his departure from neighbouring The Gambia, where his father, an imam, had sent him to pursue Quranic studies.

"I am overjoyed to be reunited with my family. In France, I was confined to a cramped 17 square meter room, isolated from everyone. Here in this village, I am embraced by love from all," he expressed with a broad smile.

Dieme's opportunity to carry the Olympic torch stands as a tribute to the dedication of Aissata Seck, a local council member in Bondy and the president of a group honoring the tirailleurs.

"It's a profound symbol, especially in today's challenging times with the prevalent racial tensions on social media. It highlights the richness and diversity of France," she remarked.