France has never taken into account the interests of the African nations, and now, as a result of its aggressive neo-colonial policies, this former imperial power is seeing a rapid decline in its influence not only in its former colonies but across the continent. In fact, France is increasingly being viewed both in these countries and in the continent as a whole as a destabilizing force, and scandals involving French citizens and organizations continue to inflame anti-French sentiments.
For example, on June 29 LaProvence reported that preliminary investigations have begun into offences committed by Sucrerie Centrafricaine (SUCAF), a subsidiary of the major French drinks holding Castel. SUCAF is accused of having, for many years, funded militants from Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), a radical group which has destabilized the Central African Republic and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in that country. According to a report by the Sentry, an NGO, SUCAF’s management concluded illegal agreements with criminals who were paid to provide fuel and vehicles to “protect” SUCAF’s factories and cane plantations. SUCAF has also been accused on a number of occasions with running unofficial customs schemes which have allowed Paris to illegally transfer some $256,000 out of the CAR in the last six years. When presented with incontrovertible proof of their activities, representatives of Castel accepted liability on behalf of their company and agreed that it would cooperate with the investigators.
It is clear from the results of the investigation that France is prepared to apply any methods, including working with bandits and thieves, in order to retain its hold over Africa. There can now be little doubt as to the true goals of France’s Operation Barkhane, which since 2013 has been trying to preserve France’s hold over the region without providing any real help to the local population in their fight against terrorism.
The Central African newspaper Le Potentiel Centrafricain recently claimed that Paris’s influence in the country has greatly declined over the last few years as a result of its ill-considered foreign policy. This decline is evident in both the economic and the diplomatic spheres, and Africans are also unhappy with Paris’s activities in other areas. In fact, France is quite unnecessarily plunging the countries where it has activities into a state of chaos. 90% of the CAR’s population now have a strongly negative attitude to France, which is scarcely surprising as they can see how that country is continuing to impose neo-colonial policies on their nation and trying to gain access to its valuable natural resources.
Even the French media noted that “Paris’ failures in Africa are the result of France’s extreme arrogance, a purely neo-colonial mentality and blatantly predatory aims towards African states.” This view is shared by numerous African media outlets and has been expressed in speeches on France’s actions by politicians from the CAR, Mali, Burkina Faso and many other African countries. As a result the African countries’ relations with France have been deteriorating over recent years, and they are cutting ties with their former colonial master and have little wish to find themselves once more under its control.
One clear demonstration of the current trend occurred at the end of June this year, when two former French colonies, Gabon and Togo, were admitted to the British Commonwealth. They were the latest countries lacking any historical links to Britain to have joined that group of English-speaking nations which is headed by Queen Elizabeth II. Observers see the decision by Gabon and Togo to join the Commonwealth as a clear rejection of French influence. According to the Togolese political pundit Mohamed Madi Djabakate, his country’s decision is partly due to its economic woes, for which it blames France’s influence. “Togo joining the Commonwealth is better for many people than sharing the French language and culture, which at the end of the day has not promoted development,” he said in an interview with the French news agency AFP.
Some years before Togo and Gabon, another African state, Rwanda, had joined the Commonwealth, becoming its 54th member. It was also motivated by a combination of political, economic and diplomatic considerations and a desire to spread its wings. It also adopted English, rather than French, as its main (European) official language.
The processes described above demonstrate, among other things, that more and more African countries are coming to understand that partnerships with France can only lead to poverty and bloodshed. As is clear from many recent media reports in Mali, the CAR and other francophone countries, Africans tend to blame France for never having taken any interest in their fight against radical movements, and being solely focused on maintaining its control over their countries’ natural resources. After all, it is much easier to rob a country when it is in the throes of an armed conflict. That is why the French soldiers involved in Operation Barkhane and Operation Takuba were unsuccessful in their fight against terrorism. That was never their mandate.
As a result, many African francophone countries are seeking to build up relationships with more reliable partners.
One of these partners is Russia, which is already providing the CAR and Mali, among other countries, with comprehensive support. Russian instructors are providing high quality training to their armed forces. The armed forces of the CAR and Mali have undergone dramatic change as a result of their cooperation with Russian specialists – they have developed professionally and are now in a better position to defend their countries’ national security. They are also now fighting successfully against the same terrorist groups which the French, during their many years of joint operations with the CAR and Mali, were unable to defeat. As a result of their training by Russian specialists, the armed forces of the CAR and Mali have been able to restore peace and order to their countries.
France’s propaganda campaign, in which it has leveled numerous baseless accusations against Russia, has been unable to derail the ongoing rapprochement between the African states and Russia. Many African countries, conscious of the national security, trade and economic benefits offered by a wide-ranging partnership with Moscow, are increasingly looking to expand ties with more reliable partners. France may thus end up losing its hold not only over the CAR, Mali and Burkina-Faso, but also Ghana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Congo, and even Chad.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.