Economic and social problems in African countries that gained independence right after their colonialist periods provided an opportunity and environment for neocolonialism to advance. Including particularly France and England, colonial powers had most of the valuable resources of the continent such as hydrocarbon reserves, telecoms, port management, administration of railways, retail trade systems and even the contracting companies that carry on the production of the substructure.
For this reason, colonial powers that granted independence to the countries at issue easily filled the power gaps that resulted from the governance crises of countries in the continent. The words of Doudou Thiam, a former foreign affairs minister of Senegal, make the situation more meaningful: “Enough! The independence that cannot go beyond the form…Unless we try to gain our economic and social sovereignty rights, we cannot reach real independence.”
With today’s conjuncture indicating a change in Western Africa, which is also the main subject of this article, it can be asserted that France’s fear of losing territory directs it to apply unethical methods that are updated with neocolonial strategies. Therefore, we can claim that this case is happening in two ways.
The first direction is the subject of the CFA Franc, which is the colonial currency. The reserves of the CFA Franc and the regional Western African states (all of it during the first foundation years, half of it in the current situation) were deposited into the French Central Bank. In this situation, it is also clear enough that many of the presidents who wanted to get out of the CFA region in recent years were smitten by forces supported by France.
In this context, it was expressed that the states in the CFA region will abandon the colonial legacy and the “Eco”, the currency of the continent that is determined by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), will come into use in 2020. On the other hand, it was reported that Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia, Ghana and Guinea refused to use the “Eco” as their currency during the meeting organized by the states at issue on Jan. 17. Actually, before the aforementioned meeting, discussions had been made about ECOWAS’ preparations on the currency “eco” developed after years of studies, and about how France was going to use “eco” and try to implement a new colonial type of system. Thus, it can be thought that this explanation is related to the subject and not a surprise.
The second direction is that the lately increased terrorizing activities in Western Africa form a basis for France to keep soldiers in the related regions. Against the case in point, both African society, including the financial initiative at first, and the African diaspora in Europe are seriously reactive towards the French attitude and they have been protesting. Communities at issue think that the military power of France, including 4,500 soldiers as part of the “Barkhane” operation that France has maintained since 2014 in the Sahel region, only caused an increase in both the terror and regional incapacity.
The incalculable explanations of Macron, who said he would ask the leaders about “the uncertainty over the increased opposition against France in the Sahel region” and “the leaders of the states that France has military power in them owe” him “an explanation” during the NATO meeting that took place on Dec. 4, 2019, drew a significant reaction from even Africa. In this context, the president of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, indicated that the tone of Macron is problematic and that Macron will not get anywhere with this tone. The presidents of Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast also reacted against the tone and words of Macron. As a result of all these, French bases were protested against in a lot of African countries, and demonstrations were forbidden in some other cities before Macron’s visit to the Ivory Coast and Nigeria between Dec. 20-22.
Pau Sahel Summit and French Concern
Upon the call of Macron, leaders of Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso as Western African states came together as part of the G5 Sahel Summit on Jan. 14 in the city of Pau in France’s south. During the Sahel Summit hosted by Macron, counterterrorism, the legitimacy of France in this region, new strategies and the restructuring of the operations were discussed with the participation of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, European Council President Charles Michel and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. Even though Macron trusts in this structure, it is known that America softened its support by decreasing the number of soldiers it has in Western Africa concerning the process of transformation of international politics. Because of this, the given circumstances worry France day by day, and France will increase its immoral politics in the region with the fear of losing power in the coming days.
French President Emmanuel Macron waits for politically supportive explanations from African leaders towards societal reaction against the lately increased military existence of France in the countries at issue. Paris not only expects loud and clear repetition of demand and support for French existence in the territory from other Sahel states but also wants its European allies to play active roles in the Sahel region if necessary. Moreover, even these European allies act hesitatively on the realization of the staging of a force of 500 troops called “Takuba”. It is known that such demand has not come from the Sahel states yet.
What Does French Military Existence in West Africa Mean?
Even though only four military bases of France are permanent all across Africa in the current situation, as in the Barkhane operation, which is the scope of the Sahel region, temporary bases are also becoming permanent in time. Although Macron claims that the French military existence in the region as part of the mentioned operations is only for African safety, it does not make it difficult to notice the reality that France is actually oppressing the countries at issue just like a carrot-stick relation, and through this way, it aims to maintain its economic gains from the valuable resources in the region. Because of this reason, France is trying to take advantage of the terror-related activities in Africa to protect and maintain the legitimacy of its existence in the region, especially in the military field. As a matter of fact, this circumstance demonstrates that France remarkably violates the security, stability, and sovereignty of the regional states, and in this conjuncture, old neocolonial powers like France will keep pillaging African resources. The protests of the diaspora both inside and outside Africa are seriously precious in terms of being aware of this pillage. At this point, the equation with multiple variables on the rivalry between France and England is the case in point.
As a result, as former Senegalese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Doudou Thiam emphasized, it has come to the time when African states consolidate their achievements in economic and social fields and say stop to this pillage. It is necessary to strike when the iron is hot because the young and dynamic new generation of Africa has the required potential to realize these ideals.