Francophone Africa and the Conundrum of Military Coups

Francophone Africa and the Conundrum of Military Coups
The intrigues of the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century enabled France to be a major player in African questions including contemporary Africa. This is evident in the number of territories it colonised. Though the 1960s occasioned a wing of independence in these Francophone Africa, military takeovers have remained a common practice in these countries. With the exception of Sudan, all military takeovers within the past three years in Africa have occurred in Francophone Africa including Niger in January 2023, Burkina Faso in January 2022 which ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kobore. On September 30 of the same year, another military takeover in Burkina Faso ousted Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damba and installed the youthful Captain Ibrahim Troare. A similar situation had transpired in Mali where on August 18, 2020, the military overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Eight months after, the military overthrew the transitional government and installed Colonel Assimi Goita as President. On September 5, 2021, the military in Guinea ousted President Alpha Conde and installed Colonel Mamady Doumbouya. In Chad the death of President Idriss Deby Itno paved the way for the military to unconstitutionally install his son, General Mahamat Idriss Deby. The most recent case is Gabon where the military overthrew President Ali Bongo Ondimba and installed General Brice Nguema as Transitional leader in August 2023. In most of these cases, the military has accused the ousted regime for promoting bad governance, corruption and the inability to provide security to citizens. Moreover, with the exception of Chad, all the military takeovers in Francophone Africa have been received by an outburst of general jubilation and void of any major resistance. This indicates the discord that reign between the civilian regimes and population. This underscores the major challenge faced by these countries (Francophone Africa) whose common denominator is the French language and French franc.
Francophone Africa; the Heartbeat of Africa’s Instability
In the race to colonise African territories, France settled on at least 14 Africa territories mostly in West and Central Africa. Colonialism under the French direct rule system trained Africans to think French and behave French and violence was the main instrument of conflict resolution exhibited in an authoritarian system. Considerations for independence were not feasible as France was attempting to establish a French Empire with Paris as headquarters, while African territories colonised by France were to serve as Provinces. However, the rise of the Pan-African movement in the 1940s, the creation of the United Nations in 1945 and a general drive for colonial territories to be freed forced France to grant independence to these territories. As such, beginning 1960, most French colonial territories gained independence. Despite independence, the protracted training under French system enabled them to retain major colonial relics which still tied them to France; the French Franc, French language and lifestyle. The control France retains over these economic and cultural instruments is translated into a strong influence over Francophone African countries. Moreover, the 14 former French colonies pay ‘colonial tax’ to France amounting to about 500billion USD yearly. Besides this, the foreign reserves of these countries are stock in the Paris Treasury which act as a de-factor Central Bank for these countries.
This underlines the leverage France has over the politics and economy of these countries. Francois Xavier Verschave explains this relationship and affirmed that the selection of most leaders in Francophone Africa is highly influenced by France. In doing this, France protects its interest in Africa through these African leaders. The heavy influence of France on these countries have produced an elite which pays more allegiance in satisfying the aspirations of France than their own citizens. As such, though these countries are ‘independent’ the colonial mentality and practice still reigns which favours the reign of force, the maintenance of the citizens in the position of servitude and the satisfaction of the colonialist.
Given this atmosphere, sub regional bodies have fostered a conflict management plan which focuses on the consequences of the conflict while evading the root cause. For example, in the West Africa sub region the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) have sanctioned member states where military takeovers have been staged. It has also called for the reinstatement of ousted Presidents. While in Central Africa, the sub regional body, CEMAC, has mostly remained mute in the face of these military takeovers. Sanctions have never forced a President of group of military leaders in similar scenario to resign. Rather, the already impoverished population pays the price like in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. Moreover, the silence maintained by CEMAC may also be interpreted as acceptance of the pattern of military rule.
Negotiating a Francophone Africa Problem
Despite long period of independence, Francophone Africa has remained embedded in political and economic challenges. For example, Niger which produces uranium is one of the poorest countries in the world because the proceeds of the extraction benefits Franc more than the citizens of the country. Whereas countries like Namibia which became independent in 1990 have shown great potentials of economic and human development and has never been embroiled in any political or military takeover. Paradoxically, Francophone Africa remains one of the richest regions in the world in terms of agricultural and mineral resources, yet contains some of the most turbulent, unstable and poor countries in Africa and the world. This is rooted in a juxtaposition of colonial relics and the inability for these countries to erect an Afro-centric environment which reflects their realities and an academic system which abhors local realities. This therefore, implicates the building of Africa-styled institutions and the generation of an academic system which reflects the realities of the states.
Moreover, all colonial accords linking France to these former French colonies should be revisited. Most of these accords puts Francophone Africa in a subservient and dependency position to France. According to these accords, France is entitled to a colonial tax, it intervenes militarily in these countries when their ‘security’ is challenged. It also medleys in the politics of Francophone Africa countries. For example, in 2019, the release of jailed Cameroon opposition leader, Maurice Kamto was made possible following pressure from French President, Emmanuel Macron. In 2021, President Macron traveled to Chad to back the Presidential inauguration of General Mahamat Deby. This singular act gave him international acceptance and certification as the new President of Chad even though his assertion followed an unconstitutional maneuver. Moreover, France is prioritized economically by these countries and France has remained the biggest economic partner of these countries for the greater part of the 20th and 21st centuries. The French Franc remains the official legal tender and its parity to Euro is fixed by France. As such, the Paris Treasury serves as a de factor Central Bank to these countries. These accords limit the political and economic evolution of Francophone Africa. Revisiting these accords would transform Francophone Africa from dependents on France to partners to France.
The intervention of the international community should also be focused on these colonial accord. Suspensions and sanctions only hurt the common man who is already hurt by the challenging political and economic situation. Most sanctions and suspensions are geared at restoring individuals to power, void of satisfying the aspirations of the greater masses. Given the massive reception these military takeovers have received among the citizenry, such moves by the international community only deepens the divide between the leaders and their people. Rather the international community must work with the civil society to gauge the aspirations of the masses and align itself to it.
These countries must be assisted to build strong institutions which promotes good governance, checks and balance and challenge individuals internalizing their stay in power. As such, the international community must focus on good governance which should be translated into a better standard of life for the citizens. For example, in Burkina Faso, Blaise Compoare had been in power for 27 years and the country remained one of the poorest in the world. Also, in the 1970s some of these countries were on the same development indices and platform with Korea. However, today Korea is one of the most developed and advanced countries in the world and it supplies aid to many African countries.
In contrast to Francophone Africa, English speaking African countries have shown much stability with the relative stability with political transitions void of bloodshed or organised rebellion. Recently in Liberia, incumbent George Weah conceded defeat to the opposition leader, Joseph Boakai – a scenario which had occurred only in one French African country, Senegal in the history of contemporary Africa. As such, while English speaking Africa is moving towards mainstream democracy void of military rule, Francophone Africa is embracing a military reawakening rooted in political power struggle.


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