In the history of Mama Africa being raped by assailants, France stands out for her sheer determination in sparing no effort to continue to have unimpeded access to the continent’s mineral resources as well as her human resources.
Since France, a country about 80% the size of Texas became aware of Africa’s vast resources, its presidents from the Fifth Republic (1958 till date) have led the charge from colonization through neo-colonization to keep a finger in Africa’s pie.
From Charles de Gaulle (1959–69), Georges Pompidou (1969–74), Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1974–81), François Mitterrand (1981–95), Jacques Chirac (1995–2007), Nicolas Sarkozy (2007–12), François Hollande (2012–17) to the current president Emmanuel Macron (2017– ), African states which were colonized by the French have known no true freedom even if France has had to agree to political independence of the states because of the demands of the times.
In West Africa, France oppressed through colonialism the likes of Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Niger.
In the East, they ruled Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, Somalia, Seychelles and Comoros. In North Africa, they held reign over Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
Then in the Equatorial region, they held sway over Chad, Gabon, Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.
It should be understood that as a permanent member in the UN Security Council, France still remains a powerful nation, and an influential player in global affairs, however, France’s sins against African states must be made known. Without exaggeration, France can be said to be responsible for the impoverished state of many of the African states they colonized. It is not to say Britain, America, Portugal, Spain and Belgium do not have their own horror tales on the continent.
France compelled African states to sign a harmful pact which demanded the latter to deposit their national monetary reserves into the former’s Central Bank. France then allows them to access only 15 percent of the money in any given year. Should the need arise for more funds; they have to borrow their own deposited money from the French Treasury at commercial rates.
For leaders such as Sékou Touré of Guinea, who found the demand from Charles de Gaulle (1959–69), ridiculous and made it known that Guinea demanded independence without such a caveat, de Gaulle made sure to destroy the little infrastructure the French had built in the country, taking along everything else.
Putting Guinea in the difficult space, it wanted it to serve as a lesson and deter other freedom fighters from the Francophone zone from demanding what was due them; Ghana’s leader and advocate of Pan-Africanism – Kwame Nkrumah – came to the rescue lending £10 million to help with the re-building effort to lift the country.
But fear had been cast in the hearts of the other African leaders. The result is that France has held the national reserves of 14 African countries since 1961 including Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.
Curiously, only a select few officials know how much funds sits in the operational accounts, and the component invested as France shields the details from the African governments and the central banks’ leadership.
Despite its secrecy, observers reckon the combined funds from the francophone countries’ reserves cross the $500 billion mark. The French in essence use the African state funds to undertake developmental projects in its country as well as trade on the Paris Bourse now called the Euronext Paris to the detriment of the vulnerable Africans.
France also claims the right to exploit any natural resource discovered in any of its ex-colonies. African heads of state who sought other investors or partners without recourse to the French soon found themselves out of power thanks to French commandos who effect regime change against the people. Laurent Gbagbo found to his horror the lengths the French could go to oust him when he opted to open Ivory Coast up and allow the Chinese and other nationals bid for infrastructural projects as against awarding it straight to French companies who had been found to be uncompetitive.
Ivorian Félix Houphouët-Boigny proving himself a good puppet doing the bidding of his French masters, left French companies owning and controlling major utilities – water, electricity, telephone, transport, ports and major banks as well as in commerce, construction and agriculture in the country.
France also claims an exclusive right to supply military equipment and training to African military officers. Devising a sophisticated scheme of scholarships, grants and “defense agreements” which see the African countries send their senior military officers for training in France. Very much to France’s glee, they have trained and nourished thousands of traitors easily used for coup d’états or ferment chaos in African states. The Central African Republic’s Jean Bokassa, Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Houphouët-Boigny, Alassane Ouattara and Etienne Gnassingbe are all products of such policy.
Among others, the African countries are obliged to make French the official language of the country and of education to the peril of the local languages.
On the economic front, France’s former colonies are forced to use the colonial currency CFA (the CFA Franc). It’s worthy to note that France itself no longer uses the CFA Franc yet compels its ex-colonies to still pay for the printing of the currency. Despite the European Union condemning the imposition, France’s arrangement sees some $500 billion come to the French treasury annually making it resist moves to end the system.
The African countries are obliged to also ally only with France during a situation of war or global crisis. For such a purpose, French military bases as well as soldiers have been stationed across the countries to even stop the locals, were they to rise against French interest.
In Haiti’s case, a key source of development stagnation has been France demanding Haiti compensate it for its liberation with funds equivalent to $21 billion from 1804 to 1947 for the losses caused by the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of Haitian slaves. The country has not recovered economically since. With France taking its pound, America’s meddling in the affairs of the state including kidnapping its beloved President Aristide very much against the people wishes has further worsened the situation. But this same democracy-touting America imposed François Duvalier (papa doc) and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier (baby doc) on the Haitian people bringing untold hardships.
Togo’s Olympio and Mali’s Modibo Keita have all fallen to their deaths on the swords of the French.
The French know too well the fate to befall them should Africa extricate itself from their stranglehold.
François Mitterrand said of France: “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.”
Former French President, Jacques Chirac, in March 2008, put it best: “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of twenty-third power.”