Challenges of France in Africa
Jean-Luc Antoin Pierre Mélenchon, the President of a French party known as “France Insoumise” translated as “France Unbowed,” which I prefer to see as “France “Unshakeable”, the way Emmanuel Macron rebranded his own socialist group as “La Republiqueen Marche – Forward Ever The Republic; For me, both of them are “children” of France’s” Socialist Party which François Hollande and his “live-in-lover” Segolene Royale – as successive leaders, the lady first then the man – could not rejuvenate, hence allowed to factionalise, created. That Party that fought “unbowed” elections to pull France out of the Anglo-Saxon leadership of the world, a leadership itself divided in a “subdued” Germany, that created the cold war – capitalist/liberal economy against socialist/communist divides – found its footing in the unbowed leadership of François Mitterand. The man who fought assiduously to unseat General de Gaulle, George Pompidou, Giscard D’Estaing, almost four-decade battle. François Mitterand was on the saddle of the presidency for 14 years before giving up the ghost – (1981 – 1995).
Mélenchon seems to be the one re-echoing and trying to enforce what other factions of France’s Socialist Party could not achieve. Paradoxically, it is in conflict with France’s foreign policy of “entente” and “military pact” with Africa sub-Sahara, not necessarily the Maghreb – Arab Africa.
According to him, France spends every day €2 million (euro), about ₦1 billion to keep its intervention in Mali, Chad and Niger steady. And it is of no effect as he contends that, USA spends much more of that amount to create much more tension in that space than expected of it as (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) NATO ally in their protection of NATO members’ interest.
What Mélenchon did not specifically state is the interest of USA in organizing and creating the tension that pervades that space. Though, he murmurs that the creation of such tension fuels the funding of armament in that space. Certainly covert money-making business. He claims that, unlike USA, France has no enemy in the world, whether Russia or China or Islamic Fundamentalist. He, however, fails to admit that France is still a NATO member even when he advises that France should leave NATO. To him, Africa sub-Sahara should be left to face its problem amidst the greed of the contending big powers bent on dismembering the sub-Sahara like the way lions approach the hunting game when faced with herd of buffalo.
Mélenchon’s unexpressed interest is like that of Nicolas Sarkozy – protect more the Francophone Maghreb in the greater interest of Europe Mediterranean space than venturing into Africa – Sub-Sahara, a jungle of instability as no head of state is sure of its tenure or mandate. He reels out the situations in Central African Republic, Mali, Chad, Guinea – places Russia is seriously contending to control and could be made a NATO versus Russia war zone if France is completely pushed out there.
Pushing out France is what Macron’s Republiqueen Marche feels could be a disaster for what General de Gaulle, George Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing admit in their sense of what the Republic stands for – Fraternité with Francophonie countries, near and far as alternative or co-concurrence with Anglo-Saxon globalisation push.
The world, for sure, should admit that the heat is on France in moderating what cohabitation with Republican sentiments and Islamic waves could mean as France remains a testing ground for how to peacefully cohabitate with the two sentiments; the same way all the socialist Presidents in France, including Macron, had had to learn to cohabitate in free-style spousal relationships. Who would have ever thought that Laurianne, the current Guinean First Lady could have been linked to any liaison with Macron like no one linked neither Hollande nor Mitterand to any liaison till the end of their tenure.
The point being made here is that most African youths like those who engaged Macron in the recent 28th Africa – France Summit, so much so believe that France plays a “fumiste” game; that is, pretending to help Africa while milking dry Africa the way they pretend to be a country of great “Republican” bent but remain exploitative and imperialistic; even in spousal relationship, patriarchal exploitation pervades.
Indeed both African youths and Mélenchon are on wrong moral grounds in a world that has superceded republican and religious morals with what one would borrow from Chomsky as “Government and Binding Rules”. That is, every nation or people are bound by “Trade Rules”, dictated by the scheming of the custodian of the knowledge fountain backed by the tools it uses to dispense favour or administer punishment; like Francois Hollande admitted that his only adversary for successful or failed presidency is the world of finance that is beyond his control. Technology is also taking shape as next to finance world and both Mélenchon and African youths are certainly not finding their feet in that labyrinth. Hence, the need for France to ally with the African youths to help them in finding their feet as against the anachronistic defence pact. Let it be security protection based on mutual economic well-being. Africa has what it takes to keep its youths productive instead of endlessly military intervention provoked by greed.
Melenchon is born in Morocco by Spanish father descendant and Sicilian mother. Making France the country that could be seen as better diversified than any other country in the world and can accept anybody with republican sentiment to be its president as Mélanchon intends to be. All Francophonie, “fraternité” minded ones, are French citizens whether in the Caribbeans, Indian Ocean, Pacifics or in Europe. So, the presence of France in their midst should be able to deter military belligerence and curtail fundamentalist the way France in Europe is trying to curtail it.
Hence France out of Africa could be a treatise both Africa and France, and their people could greatly regret as further scramble for Africa goes on with Russia and China creating more confusions, and not as Mélenchons claims that it is USA. France certainly knows Africa better than Russia and China, having greatly exploited and lived in it before the two. France should learn the lessons required of reciprocity, and live-in-lovers on mutual benefit rules.
Ariole is a professor of French and Francophone Studies at, University of Lagos.