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Yvan Colonna: the return to Cargèse

Arrival of the remains of nationalist activist Yvan Colonna in Ajaccio, Corsica, March 23, 2022.

Nineteen years after his arrest and transfer to the continent, Yvan Colonna returns to Corsica. The assassin of the prefect Erignac is dead and a legend is born. Following his assault on March 2 in Arles prison (Bouches-du-Rhône) where he was serving his sentence, and his death on March 21, Yvan Colonna (61) has become a double symbol: that of he is a hero of the Corsican cause and – in a sort of inversion of values ​​– that of a victim of the French State, although he remains the assassin of one of its senior representatives. The shepherd of Cargèse now embodies an emblematic figure of nationalism and it is a safe bet that his memory occupies a place of choice in the story of the gesture “patriotic” Corsica. Yvan Colonna enters insular mythology: that of the “honour bandits” who in previous centuries took refuge in the maquis to flee justice.

Read also: Yvan Colonna: guard of honor in Ajaccio before his funeral

It is a little after 10 p.m. on Wednesday March 23 and thousands of people form a guard of honor on the road leaving Campo dell’Oro airport in Ajaccio. The mortal remains of Yvan Colonna have just been disembarked from the plane which transported it from Marseille to Ajaccio. Moorish flags flutter in the cold wind. Candle flames tear through the night. The mortuary van advances slowly in the middle of a compact and silent crowd which bends over its passage. Near the funeral home, eight men, including Gilles Simeoni, president of the Collectivity of Corsica and former lawyer for Yvan Colonna, definitively sentenced in 2011 to life imprisonment for the assassination of the prefect Claude Erignac, seize the coffin covered with the bandera Corsica – the one already used for the coffin of Edmond Simeoni, father of Gilles and founding figure of nationalism – and carry it for several tens of meters.

The day before, the Community of Corsica had lowered its flags, as it would have done for an official personality. An initiative that the Head of State Emmanuel Macon described as ” mistake “. Late Wednesday afternoon, activists hung flags at the head of Moor tight with a black crepe of mourning on the gates of the Lantivy palace which houses the prefecture of Ajaccio – the same one where Claude Erignac has exercised his functions from February 5, 1996 to February 6, 1998, the date of his assassination – and a white sheet with the inscription “gloria à tè Yvan” (glory to you Yvan) on the gate. The gendarmes on duty did not move.

An icon

The death of the nationalist militant arouses intense emotion and strong anger. But she also de facto decreed a truce that high school students, students and all those who have been demonstrating for three weeks, observe without hesitation. These days in Corsica, the time is for pain and contemplation. In Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi, Corte, Porto-Vecchio and in other localities of the island, hundreds of women and men, nationalists or not, gathered on the forecourt of churches and masses were celebrated . This time of mourning devotes a kind of pause after the violence which has set various parts of the island ablaze in recent weeks. A time which, according to many actors and observers, could not be prolonged, once past the funeral of Yvan Colonna, Friday March 25 in his village of Cargèse (Corse-du-Sud). “I fear for the future”, entrusted to Worldthe mayor (Horizons) of Ajaccio, Laurent Marcangeli.

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