The death of Madjiguène Cissé, pionaria of the undocumented movement

Madjiguene Cissé, September 22, 2006.

If the expression “sans-papiers” is found in Le Petit Robert, if the immigrants in question are no longer invisible, if the Parisian church of Saint-Bernard de La Chapelle (18e arrondist) entered the history of the struggles for the rights of foreigners in France in 1996, it is largely thanks to Madjiguène Cissé, who died in Dakar on May 15, at the age of 71. Coming from a working-cl Senegalese family, an extreme left-wing activist who became a German teacher, this fighter feminist with a burst of laughter, mother of three children, was a major actress at a key moment who, thirteen years after the March for equality of 1983 animated by the young people resulting from North African immigration, registered the families of African origin in the French political landscape.

Neither the occupation of Saint-Bernard by some 300 Africans in an irregular situation, nor the emotion following the irruption in this church in the Goutte-d’Or district of the police, with the blows of a merlin axe, August 23, 1996, would probably not have existed without Madjiguène Cissé’s convictions on the right of movement of former colonized people, without his fierce desire to ensure the autonomous organization of immigrants with regard to their supporters, without his charisma and his eloquence in front of the media.

By consciously participating in the popularization of a word – “sans-papiers” – this woman of conviction reversed the image of immigrants without a residence permit: with this expression, the “illegals” entered the light, the illegal have become persons deprived of a right. She herself will recognize that if the word hit home, it “ ign [les intéressés] to a position of victim, which is both right and problematic “. The “sans-papiers de Saint-Bernard”, by arousing a wave of solidarity and a mobilization of the left, probably counted in the success of the latter in the legislative elections of 1997.

Read the 1996 archive: Article reserved for our subscribers The government forces the evacuation of the Saint-Bernard church

Madjiguène Cissé also personifies a certain generation of Senegalese who entered politics after May 68, which was also, from Dakar to Saint-Louis, a time of anti-imperialist, anti-apartheid and opposition to President Léopold. Sedar Senghor. Under the auspices of Mao, Lenin, Frantz Fanon and Patrice Lumumba, she campaigned for the Revolutionary Movement for New Democracy, a group of Maoist origin banned until 1981 and renamed in 1991 “African Party for Democracy and Socialism”.

At the head of a network of 150 ociations

A university scholarship in Saarbrücken (Germany) enabled her to obtain a diploma as a German teacher. And it is by crossing the Rhine that she discovers France “not at all disappointed”. With a tourist visa, she moved to Paris in 1993. The illegality of her stay did not prevent her from becoming head of a German-language telemarketing team. Citizen of the world, she claims the right to live freely in France, as a just return from “colonial plunder which continues in other forms”while affirming that its place is ” in Africa “.

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