The Africa-France Summit was held in Montpellier, France, on October 8, and for the first time since 1973 no African heads of state themselves were invited to the summit. Instead, Paris’s current relations with African states were discussed with businessmen, artists, and social activists.
As a result, the summit organizers did not manage to circumvent the political trend of relations between France and African states. Considering the Élysée Palace’s foreign policy of recent years leading to mass demonstrations in many African states, with locals demanding that the French leave the mainland, the summit’s main theme was the anti-French sentiment sweeping Africa. In particular, it was noted that Chad, Mali, and the Central African Republic are the most active in criticizing the policy of Paris.
Located in the Sahel part of Africa, Chad has a special historical relationship with France, as acknowledged by Paris. In its capital, N’Djamena is the headquarters for the French-led Combined Forces of Operation Barkhane. This operation is led in cooperation with five countries, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger, against the Islamist terrorist groups. But this French presence in Chad has come under increasing criticism in the country. Residents of N’Djamena denounce too much interference in the country’s internal affairs and much-accentuated paternalism. Anti-French sentiment became very strong after the death of President Idriss Déby in April and the establishment of interim military authorities in the country led by Déby’s son. Franceis accused of supporting the military’s seizure of power, which residents say was confirmed by French President Macron’s presence at President Idriss Déby’s funeral and the new head of the military junta. Since then, French flags have been burned at every demonstration against the current Chadian military authorities in protest of the policies of neocolonialism. The country’s inhabitants have denounced the interference of the Fifth Republic in the state’s internal affairs and accused it of attempting a shadowy takeover of power.
A similar rise in anti-French sentiment has been taking place recently in Mali. Residents blame the former metropolis for the failure of Operation Barkhane, saying France has not only failed to eliminate the militants but has reinforced them with arms and food. However, despite the apparent defeat, President Macron refuses to acknowledge that in all the years of their presence in the country, the Fifth Republic’s troops have failed to deal with the threat of extremism and ensure the safety of residents. Moreover, the French President tries to justify the military presence in Mali, notably in his interview on Radio France Inter regarding the completion of Operation Barkhane and the withdrawal of the military contingent from that African country. However, the French President did not voice the fact in this interview that during the years of presence in Mali, the foreign military contingent was not only unable to defeat radical groups but instead strengthened them significantly. Nor did the politician tell reporters how France had repeatedly threatened the authorities of the African republic with the withdrawal of troops, which turned into a mere manipulation and an attempt to keep control of the unruly state.
In early October, the interim Prime Minister of Mali, Choguel Kokalla Maïga pointed out France’s links to terrorists, saying official Bamako had evidence to that effect, and that terrorist groups on Malian territory were financed from abroad. In particular, according to the prime minister, French troops created an enclave in Kidal and handed it over to a movement formed with representatives of Ansar al-Din. This movement cooperates with the international terrorist organization Al-Qaeda (both formations are banned in the Russian Federation).
Therefore, it is not surprising that the spokesman for Mali’s M5-RFP party, Emile Bittar said on RFI radio that the Elysée Palace, which seeks to demonstrate its right to dictate political will to African states and unceremoniously invade their territory, is a disguised enemy for Mali and its representatives must leave the country immediately.
The willingness of the people of the Central African Republic to rally together to fight French neo-colonial pressure is reported by Le Potentiel Centrafricain. Moreover, staff members of Radio Lengo Songo stated that France and Western countries are trying to derail the upcoming national dialogue in the Central African Republic through controlled media like RFI, Figaro, AFP, Le Monde, France 24.
According to CAR Presidential spokesperson Albert Yaloke-Mokpem the former metropolis has deliberately “let its media off the leash” to discredit the Central African Republic along with its new partners, especially from Russia and Rwanda. The people of CAR are now seeing the benefits of the army’s close cooperation with Russian specialists, as FACA fighters managed to quickly level the threat posed by the militants and bring peace back to the country. Mokpem recalled how biased the Western media manipulated the crisis in late 2012 and early 2016 when President Faustin-Archange Touadéra took office.
The recent processes on the African continent and the rise of anti-French sentiment show that the former colonies have long been independent states not interested in unilaterally satisfying the appetites of foreign actors. France has lost influence not only in Africa but elsewhere as well. Regarding the earlier anti-terrorist Operation Barkhane declared by Paris, which ultimately failed without reducing the terrorist threat on the continent, the inhabitants of Africa have justifiable questions both for the French President and the French themselves: where did the considerable money for it go and to whom did it go?
The failures on African soil have certainly hit France’s position on the world stage and President Emmanuel Macron’s rating, which has only multiplied the years of foreign policy mistakes of the former metropolis. The head of the Fifth Republic pursues a neo-colonial strategy that is unsustainable in today’s realities. One of the main problems of Macron’s policy lies in the historically dismissive attitude of the collective West and European elites towards Africans. Meanwhile, they should not forget that the position of people of Chad, Mali, and the CAR has shown that the former colonies have long been independent states not interested in unilaterally satisfying the appetites of foreign actors.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.