Feb 05 2010

Are the French “retreating” from their long history of disruptive intervention in Africa?

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 8:38 PM

Stephen Smith, the respected Africa analyst, thinks the answer to this question is yes. A former Africa editor of Le Monde, Smith knows as much about Francophone as anyone and his long essay on the subject, newly published in London Review Books, contains much of interest and is well worth reading closely. Yet I’m respectfully skeptical about his “retreat” thesis. The French have occupied Ivory Coast for years, insuring a partition of this benighted country. They have military forces stationed indefinitely in Chad. In their role as the leading influence on the European Central Bank, the French have guaranteed (at some cost) the continued support for the African franc, the legal currency in countries as diverse as Senegal and Cameroon. The French also insured that the sons of both Bongo and Eyadama took power in Gabon and Togo after the death of their fathers, both effectively the longest-running dictators in Africa. All this — and Smith must ponder the question of whether the French are retreating from Africa? What would staying the course in Africa be for the French: reinstituting slavery in their sphere of influence? The France have shifted ground certainly in Africa, and outside of the Francophone zone, their influence is tiny. But retreat? Only in Rwanda have the French left a former country of influence, and in Rwanda the French did not retreat: they received an eviction notice from Rwanda’s president.

Comments are closed.