Françafrique, a Never Ending Story

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Article published in The Funambulist 15 (January-February 2018) Clothing Politics #2. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

Although we are in the 21st century, the past thirty years have seen a curious pattern. The president of a Western country, a few months after the start of his mandate, comes to deliver, every five years, an incongruous two-hour speech in an African country, about his vision of an entire continent. He comes to say, solemnly, that nothing will ever be the same and that from now on, France will deal with its African “partners” as equals. Disguised beneath the mantle of charity, this “before” issue refers to Françafrique: the neocolonial system of opaque domination over the former French African colonies.

In reality, Macron patently makes this journey in order to renew the old ties. He carefully omits past and present state crimes, sponsoring a whole host of more or less bloodthirsty satraps, some of them being the heirs of dynasties that have been in power for half a century.

From the Biafra War to the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi, to Congo-Brazzaville, the list of the crimes against humanity in La Françafrique is long. How did we come this far?

First of all, France has been a slave-owning colonial power. Throughout the centuries, these predatory practices, at the heart of its institutions, ranked this country among the wealthiest and most arrogant of nations. Severely weakened at the end of World War II, France ended up — under the battering it took from the anti-imperialist resistance armies of Vietnam, Algeria and Cameroun, as well as rising international pressure — granting independence to its sub-Saharan colonies in 1960. As we should have expected, this was only a façade, a “flag independence,” represented by co-opted presidents under the rule of French special advisers. Françafrique’s official storefront? Cooperation. Official cooperation between a new bourgeoisie compradore, denounced by Franz Fanon from the outset, and a politico-military apparatus coordinated from the Presidential Palace by its great intendant, Jacques Foccart.