- By Alade Fawole
Acepting the existence of a problem is the beginning of finding solutions to it. Now, there is a groundswell of public opinion across Africa against France’s ruthless neo-colonialism in French-speaking Africa, pilling pressure on the governments of the affected countries and forcing some of them to begin to consider necessary measures, even if still tentative, to free themselves from France’s chokehold. In Mali, Burkina Faso and now Niger, nationalistic and anti-French soldiers have taken over governments, and two of them, Mali and Burkina Faso, have expelled French military forces from their countries.
I’m not by any means endorsing military coups; just stating the facts. But this is also possibly the humble stirrings of a long overdue whirlwind of irrepressible mass opposition from country to country that will eventually end France’s iniquitous exploitation of its former colonies.
It may not yet be time to sing France’s Nunc Dimittis but it is certainly the beginning of the process of its well-deserved disgrace out of the continent. It matters little to me who kick-starts the process – soldiers or civilians, as long as Africans can rid the continent of this sick, rabid, sinister, and abominable foreign plunderer, whose sole pretence to wealth and grandeur in the community of nations is based on its rape of Africa while also hypocritically accusing the continent of being poor and underdeveloped.
It’s time all the Francophone countries gained real independence, for what they have is only a grotesque similitude, a mere parade of its externalities – national flag and anthem, military and police forces, a government which they are in control of. They do not even have own national currencies but the imposed CFA franc which benefits only France.
True independence implies that a country is fully in charge of its own affairs, not subject to any outside power or authority. Sadly, the Francophone states are pathetic neo-colonial enclaves, the type Kwame Nkrumah eloquently discussed in his seminal disquisition, Neo-colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (1965). Any country in the grip of neo-colonialism, he asserts, can never be a master of its own destiny. He himself discovered this bitter reality from governing Ghana, the country he had earlier led to flag independence in 1957. The plight of the former French colonies is far worse than those of their non-Francophone counterparts. Simply put, they are not anywhere near being in charge of their destinies, these having been diabolically taken away from them by Charles de Gaulle who turned them into genuflecting vassals of their former colonial overlord. And the leaders who tried to rebel against this comprehensive enslavement were summarily assassinated or violently overthrown at the behest of Paris.
Africa deserves to be truly free, and there is hardly a more auspicious moment than now for a collective revolt against France’s neo-colonialism, a time when hitherto dizzying geo-political realignments are occurring across the globe. Africans must leverage this unfolding new world order to achieve real independence for their countries.
As it is, the West’s firm grip on world affairs is inexorably slipping away; Europe’s situation today emblematizes the immediate post-Second World War era when their colonial empires had begun to crumble; their economies are in the worst shape ever – Germany’s manufacturing sector is collapsing and its economy already in a recession; France is witnessing severe economic downturns and unrelenting social unrests and street riots; Britain is trapped between “Great Britain” and “Little England” on account of the ill-conceived Brexit; Poland is chaffing under the crushing weight of millions of Ukrainian refugees, while all of them are being crushed by huge energy costs since the embargo placed on Russian sources. Even France’s Emmanuel Macron had to drop national hubris and supplicate South Africa for invitation to the just concluded BRICS summit in Johannesburg. It was wisely turned down. The world is changing very fast, and Africa must not be left with the short end of the stick, but stand up against the West’s strangulating economic and financial hegemony, leverage the ongoing de-dollarization of international trade the way BRICS is doing.
African countries must work together to rid the continent of France that has ravaged, plundered, oppressed, suppressed, humiliated and is still profiting from its abominable neo-colonialism. Africa must rise in unison, with one voice and with everything the continent can muster – political action, diplomatic pressure, propaganda to mobilize international public opinion against France on all global platforms, economic boycotts and embargoes where possible, getting rid of French military bases on African soil, and recalibrating diplomatic relations with France. Collective action is required to encourage and strengthen the spines of the governments of French-speaking countries, to let them know that the whole Africa has their back in this second liberation struggle.
This is where the African Union should rouse itself from lethargy and fear, take a bold and decisive stand against this destructive neo-imperialism, and speak out powerfully and courageously to back these countries with necessary action in their second liberation struggle. The collective voice of Africa’s 55 nation-states must be heard loud and clear to put pressure on France to end its pernicious neo-colonial oppression. Whatever anyone might say about them, a few courageous leaders like Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni, William Ruto, even the intrepid activists like Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao (former AU Permanent Representative in Washington DC), and Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters of South Africa, must be harnessed to strengthen the spines of the weak ones to stand up for what is right by demanding end to French oppression.
I personally consider the matter weighty enough for the African Union to consider convening an extraordinary summit to take a collective African stand on France’s neo-colonialism, and collectively utilize every possible global forum to canvas end to injustice like the defunct OAU did in January 1976 on Angola. The world cannot fail to acknowledge and respect collective voice and actions, the OAU proved this with respect to apartheid.
We need to assist the Francophone countries to terminate all the unequal treaties and obnoxious neo-colonial pacts that France has used to hold them in bondage. They must be free to diversify the locations of their sovereign investments and keep their external reserves wherever they choose; there should be no more restrictions on how they choose to spend their money, sell their produce to whomever they want without having to obtain permission from Paris; freely import whatever foreign products they want; their military, police and intelligence forces to be detached from France’s stranglehold, and all French military troops be removed from their soil; and payment of so-called colonial debts must be terminated forthwith. Without doing all these, our current grandstanding on liberal democracy being the best system for us will remain hollow. Rwanda is a pace-setter, one of the fastest developing economies, and guess what: it is not a democracy!
Finally, the African Union must utilize every international forum to expose France for the amoral and immoral nation that it truly is, demand just reparations, and push it relentlessly the way its predecessor, the Organization African Unity, bravely championed the fight to destroy apartheid. This for me is a much more ennobling engagement than our current fixation with defending non-performing and anti-development democratic systems.
•Prof Fawole writes from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.