dimanche 17 mars 2013

Ending 'Francafrique': A Debate On Al Jazeera's Stream

I've had the honour on March 12, 2013 to debate on Al Jazeera's Stream, with Cameroonian writer Patrice Nganang, whom I know through our common struggle for the freedom of Cameroonian writer and Blogger Enoh Meyomesse , Vincent Hugueux, from French magazine L'Express, and my friend Mohamed Diaby, top-blogger and social entrepreneur from Côte d'Ivoire, about the myth or the reality of the end of 'Françafrique'.

The greatest trick of the Devil is to pretend that he does not exist. The network of Françafrique has mutated, has transformed its political practices over the past twenty years. Let us not confuse a diplomacy that is normal, institutional and democratic with this network that is occult, escapes the democratic control and finally only serves the interests of a few.

I realized that a definition was necessary because we are dealing with a complex sociological situation. the best way to understand it, is to define it. During this debate, I proposed this definition:

Francafrique refers to France’s political, economic and media network of Influence, composed of African and French protagonists,  in African territories where France had a colonial grip. It must be specified that this Influence network is beyond the control of French democratic institutions.

After the debate, my friend Hamadou Tidiane Sy, Senegalese journalist and director of the School of Journalism EJICOM in Dakar, rightly advised me to specify the nebulous character of this de facto parallel diplomacy

End of Françafrique ?

On this difficult question, on the one hand you have the words, and on the other hand, you have the reality.

We all remember Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech the first time he went to Africa as a president: "Françafrique is Dead, it is time to begin normalized relationships with the former colonial empire." And we also have in mind François Hollande last year pronouncing almost exactly the same words in Dakar.

Reality is quite different:

1.     Strong suspicions were expressed on the role played by the entourage of former President Sarkozy in the presidential election in Gabon in 2009. The lawyer and lobbyist Robert Bourgi, a friend of Nicolas Sarkozy, who boasted of being the successor of Jacques Foccart, omnipotent master of this parallel network during thirty years, was among the first ones to receive a Legion of Honor from Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. In this video shot during the 2009 electoral transition in Gabon, he tells to a reporter of Panafrican TV channel Vox Africa about his support for his friend Ali Bongo. This video is a beautiful demonstration of what Françafrique is: on the one hand France and its official diplomacy say "we have no candidate in Gabon"; on the other hand, Robert Bourgi, a close friend and unofficial African Affairs advisor of former President Sarkozy, who listened to and followed Bourgi's opinions, says that his candidate is his friend Ali Bongo. Françafrique's official candidate was Ali Bongo, Ali Bongo won a contested election, followed by violence which left several people dead and caused riots against one of France's diplomatic mission in Libreville and other symbols of the French presence in Gabon. 


2.     On March 11, 2013 Newspaper Le Figaro announced that Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, dismissed the former head of West Africa Affairs, Laurent Bigot. This man can be considered as a whistleblower: he criticised France’s Policy in West Africa, and specifically in Mali, during a conference organized by French Think Tank IFRI in July 2012. He pointed out the fact that Malian so called and praised democracy was just a façade, explaining that former Mali president’s first and second election were highly questionnable and everybody, including France, chose to close eyes on this.

3.     And last but not least, the CFA Franc is an absolute non sense for the 21st century: 14 former French colonies have their currency printed abroad, by the French treasury,  and have to deposit 50 per cent of their currency reserves into a so-called "operations account" managed by the same French Treasury. In a recent paper, the African Development Bank's Bureau of Chief Economist recommends "the adoption of fixed but adjustable exchange rate regime with specific, transparent rules, which are well-known in advance." In other words, initiate a reform of this unfair  monetary institution. 

These are just examples of the long list of Françafrique's harms. It is difficult to assert that Françafrique is dead. The situation is comfortable for the African protagonists involved - I am thinking of heads of States whose legitimacy is questionned internally - but also for those in the French side who profit from this status quo. 

But one must bear in mind that for the 150 millions inhabitants of this "sphere of influence", the situation is becoming less bearable. After 50 years, the paradigm must be changed. There must be in France more judicial investigations into cases that involve members of this harmful network for the French society and for societies in African countries concerned. More trust should be put in representatives of civil society, dialogue must be fostered with the oppositions in these countries, and most of all Franc should trust the collective intelligence of Africans; especially younger generations, 70 millions under-25 citizens who want more democracy and economic freedoms. 

What's your opinion: end of Françafrique, myth or reality?