African troops participate in France's Bastille Day celebration

09:22, July 15, 2010      

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African soldiers march during the France's Bastille Day military parade held in Paris, capital of France, on July 14, 2010. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and leaders from 13 African countries attended the military parade marking France's Bastille Day on July 14. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei)

Some 400 African troops joined France's Bastille Day military parade on Wednesday but they were not mercenaries or French soldiers.

These troops instead came from 13 African countries to help mark the annual national holiday.

It was the first time that African troops marched through the Champs Elysees on July 14.

Some leaders from the former French colonies in Africa also made a historic first on Wednesday by standing next to President Nicolas Sarkozy to review the parade.

"The purpose of this gathering is not to celebrate your independence, you do it very well yourselves," Sarkozy said at a post-parade lunch. "But it is to celebrate the strong ties that history has forged between our peoples and to build for a better future."

Torrential rains did not dampen the enthusiasm of Parisians and visitors who turned out in large numbers to witness the annual celebration, which was emphasized by fly-overs of some 80 aircraft including Alpha, Rafael, Mirage and E3F jets.

The air show reached its climax when paratroopers landed near the Concorde Square carrying the national flags of the participating African countries in honor of the guests.

The two-hour parade was not the only show on the day's agenda.

A fireworks display centered on the Eiffel Tower was expected to attract another million visitors later Wednesday.

This year's celebration, however, was not without its troubles due to the tight budget caused by the sluggish economic recovery of the country.

Hosts and organizers had to skip the traditional garden party that used to treat hundreds if not thousands of foreign dignitaries to French delicacies in the Elysees Palace following the military parade.

Skipping the party saved about 780,000 euros (992,000 U.S. dollars), said government spokesman Luc Chatel.

The holiday marks the July 14, 1789, storming of the Bastille prison in Paris by angry crowds, which helped spark the French Revolution.

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