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World

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Afrique-France, Hollande en gendarme et VRP

by Pierre Barbancey and Rosa Moussaoui

Hollande Plays Policeman and Sales Rep At Paris Africa-France Summit..

Translated Monday 9 December 2013, by Isabelle Métral

The Élysée summit on peace and security in Africa opens in Paris today. France is seeking to reposition itself economically and militarily and persists in promoting neo-liberal policies that are incompatible with development.

In the speech he delivered in Addis Ababa on the fiftieth anniversary of the African Union, the French president mentioned “three challenges” in relation to “the future of Africa, the future of the relations between France, Europe, and Africa, and thus the future of the world,” namely security, development, and the environment. Admittedly, the three concepts are closely interconnected, but how they are to be defined is a moot question. The French president and his ministers swear by all they hold dear that “the days of Fransafrica [1] are over” (as Sarkozy himself earlier vowed) and they exhort the partners to look forward instead of backwards, forward to a future that the French president deliberately envisages as a promise of peace and security.

The theme will be at the center of the Africa-France summit (phonetically, the reverse order would be disastrous!) that opens today in Paris. Indeed, “France is willing to work with Africans to reinforce their capacities for action, to endow African armies with the means to face all attacks,” François Hollande insisted. What this means is now clear: an expedition to Mali to see the New Year in, another, soon, to the republic of Central Africa by Christmas Eve.

The facts tell a different story from the official declarations: France is indeed repositioning itself in Africa. First, militarily, in order the better to secure its economic hold. The government’s white paper on defense and security made public on April 29th perpetuates the overall military budget. The envisaged withdrawal of the French troops based on the African continent is therefore out. Far from it. The Sahel–Sahara zone, the Gulf of Guinea, and the Horn of Africa are now “top-priority neighboring zones”. As to the various French bases they now go under the title of “military operation bases in Africa” among which figures “the Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso zone”, the offspring of the intervention in Mali.

How can a country be called independent when foreign troops are stationed on its territory? The French attitude may well partly account for the absence from Paris of a number of African heads of State, like South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, and Rwanda’s Paul Kagamé.

The French strategy is at one with the world-wide domination strategies of the great powers against the competing emerging countries, China being the first among the the latter. A white-collar war, so to speak, is being waged in addition to the kaki-collar war. As anthropologist Benoit Hazard, an expert on Eastern Africa, sums up the case, “in many of the countries that constituted its private dominion, France has lost control in the economic sphere and in the mining or extraction industries. New African elites have no qualms about making the most of the competition between great powers and emerging countries. That is why the French strategy is now to reposition itself in a new geo-political configuration by directly intervening in the local military conflicts.

The day before yesterday, in the drawing-room at the Treasury – the ministry has been closely associated with the summit on “peace and security in Africa” – Minister Pierre Moscovici, assisted by former Foreign Affairs Minister Hubert Védrine, unfolded the complementary part of the diptych : “Africa-France for a new economic model”. The fifteen proposals he made are all consistent with the neo-liberal policies which political and economic blackmailing has often imposed upon African States. Moscovici put it in a nutshell, saying “One of the conclusions of this report is that the private sector must be given pride of place, and a say.” Which is one way of justifying the pursuit of structural adjustment policies that, for several decades, have annihilated public services under the rule of the IMF and World Bank, when public services are the only firm bases for development policies in the service of the populations. In all spheres the vice of economic dependence gets a tighter grip as the private sector, represented by western multinationals spreads its tentacles farther and farther around.

Africans do not want to see those private companies – on which they have no hold – play the role of Trojan horses for a 21rst-century version of colonialism. French public money must not be used in order to establish a military tutelage over the African continent for the benefit of private companies, with politicians being reduced to playing the role of Sales Rep.

[1Françafrique (here translated as “Fransafrica”) is a portmanteau word originally coined by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire in order positively to refer to France’s relationship with Africa. It has now lost its positive connotation and is used critically to denounce the complex economic and diplomatic relationship France keeps with its former colonies sometimes seen as puppet states, and more specifically the "neocolonial" relationship between France and its African former colonies" through a system of both official and underground networks under the (presidential) Élysée’s authority.


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