Letters & Opinion

‘French Spring’ blooming bright in Africa!

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Western analysts continue running-out of words to describe the growing number of peaceful and bloodless coups overthrowing decadent regimes across the Sahel region of Africa, mainly affecting France’s 14 former colonies.

There have been seven coups in Africa in the past three years, the latest in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Niger – and all heartily-welcomed by citizens, including opposition parties.

Africans in former French colonies have long-abhorred the likes of the multinational oil company TOTAL that’s been extracting Gabon’s ‘black gold’ for the past 90 years, while the family of deposed ex-President Ali Bongo ruled for over half-a-century.

France and the Bongo’s family together drained the nation’s oil wealth for over five decades, while average Gabonese starved.

France has long-depended on Niger to provide uranium for its nuclear-powered electricity and weapons plants, but over 80% of Niger is without electricity.

However, unlike the past when coups were usually carried out by American and European-trained soldiers, the new breed of African military leaders are home-trained, highly-intelligent and well-schooled in French politics and diplomacy, economic and military affairs.

Their language also differs greatly from their predecessors, stressing protection and preservation of national resources, enforcing respect for sovereignty and eliminating institutions that preserve permanent exploitation decades after nationhood, through a policy of ‘colonialism after independence’.

Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Niger were all up against an early arrogant refusal by France to accept that it was ‘Game Over’ in their nations, Paris instead hotly fanning flames of possible external intervention.

In Burkina Faso, before departing, French troops destroyed everything at their bases – including motor cars.

The Niger army protected the expelled French Ambassador’s residence from being attacked by thousands, until Paris smelt the coffee and quickly back-pedaled on its earlier refusal to recognize times had changed – and recalled him.

Paris was also praying that pro-Western regimes in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would provide the fig leaves for African-led military intervention in Niger, with ‘international’ (NATO) support.

But Burkina Faso and Mali sent troops into Niger to help prepare for any such external armed intervention, which they say they’ll also treat as deployed against them.

In Nigeria, with the strongest military contingent in ECOWAS, the parliament voted against any military intervention in Niger.

Similarly, the populations of neighboring nations, especially in border regions, already suffering the difficulties created by border closures and sanctions, still fear the worse if ECOWAS was to do France’s bidding.

But Africa’s new military leaders are not in the tradition of Idi Amin or Robert Mugabe, instead thinking and talking more like Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta, Jerry Rawlings and Thomas Sankara, whose common denominator was putting their peoples and nations first – and seriously confronting the entrenched colonial order after independence.

Burkina Faso’s leader, Acting-President Ibrahim Traore , at 34 years the continent’s youngest ,best represents the new thinking: he maintains (for example) that if France, Europe and the USA want to continue using Africa’s uranium for nuclear energy, they should establish nuclear plants in Africa.

Traore also says desperate Africans should be discouraged from continuing to risk their lives boarding rickety boats to seek greener pastures in Europe and instead encouraged to march on their ‘national palaces’.

Today’s younger African leaders are also not about to hide their preparedness to seek assistance from Russia, if ECOWAS or the African Union (AU), French or NATO troops enter – including under UN cover.

Unwilling to accept the stark new realities in Africa, France and other Western nations are still barking up a wrong tree and demanding the impossible -like ‘immediate release’ of deposed dictators and ‘return to democracy’ – that would reduce the coups to meaningless events.

The knee-jerk responses about ‘democracy under threat’ only try to mask the fact that such ‘democracy’ emerges from crooked, unfree and unfair election machines created to keep family dynasties winning every poll, as in the case of the Bongos in Gabon and of Paul Biya, who’s been Prime Minister and President of Cameroon from 1975.

Indeed, what’s happening in Africa in 2023 is what former African Union (AU) Ambassador to the United States, Arikana Chihombori-Qao, exposed a few years ago, when she revealed that France had tied its former African colonies to continuing post-independence exploitation through several outrageous agreements.

Those unfair pacts ensured compulsory use by the new nations of France’s national currency after independence and depositing all foreign earnings in the French national bank, the depositing nations having only limited and conditional access to 20%, while Paris benefits from interest and investment of all.

Mali has cancelled such agreements that ensured only French companies extracted all the natural resources on unfair terms – including oil and gas, uranium, gold and other precious natural resources.

A look at any map of Africa today will show the straight lines drawn at the Berlin Conference in 1884-85, when the continent was carved-up and shared between Europe and the USA.

What’s actually happening today, however, is not a re-drawing of the lines dividing the continent, but of lines of engagement between former colonial masters and a brand-new breed of African leaders committed to finally confronting the former imperial powers.

France has been forced to eat humble pie and back-down; and the UN will also eventually have to withdraw its tens of thousands of Peace Keeping Forces (PKFs) that have failed to keep peace or protect citizens in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger – and now in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where over 50 persons protesting against PKFs were recently killed by soldiers, leading to a swift Kangaroo Court that placed culpability on a few local soldiers and politicians.

It’s another dawn of another new day in yet-another part of the world, this time in Africa, very-much-akin to the so-called ‘color revolutions’ of the ‘Arab Spring’ that the West initiated from Tunisia to Egypt.

Only this time, it’s everything of a blooming ‘French Spring in Africa!’

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