History Reviews

The empire that refuses to die – A history of Françafrique – Review

Find here the review in French which was translated by Véronique Abrahim (IG @the_ushindi, Twitter @Ushindi_Hekima, and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/U.Hekima).

L’empire qui ne veut pas mourir – Une histoire de la Françafrique (The empire that refuses to die – A history of Françafrique) is a monumental 1008-page long book written in French on the criminal and incestuous relationship that France has long held with the Afrikan continent.

Under the direction, supervision and coordination of Thomas Borrel, Amzat Boukari-Yabara, Benoît Collombat and Thomas Deltombe, an additional twenty-two activists, journalists, economists, researchers contributed to further exposing the real truth behind French occupation, colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism.

The book is divided into six main parts:

  1. The Françafrique in its embryonic stage (1940 – 1957)
  2. Rigged independence (1957 – 1969)
  3. Delusion of grandeur (1969 – 1981)
  4. False political changeover (1981 – 1995)
  5. Unmasking and cover-ups (1995 – 2010)
  6. The time for “reconquest” (2010 – 2021)

With a vast amount of source materials at their disposal and a level of surgeon-like precision, the authors dissect the role France has played directly and indirectly in the murder of Afrikan peoples, the pillage and theft of natural resources, the coups d’états orchestrated from the Elysée, political assassinations, the fostering of civil wars and meddling in countries that are historically not under French colonial jurisdiction (Nigeria during the Biafra war or the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda), the role of charitable organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross and Caritas in smuggling weapons to war-torn countries (the representative of the Red Cross in Gabon was the military advisor to the French embassy in the country), language as a soft power mechanism meant to create and deepen intimate relationships that have military, economic and political consequences.

The origin of the term Françafrique, its conception and development are clouded in uncertainty. Nowadays, however, the general consensus is to view Françafrique as a more or less occult network in which France aims at holding on to its former domains at any cost. It is not by accident that, as more and more people became familiar with the nefarious reality of the Françafrique, the “France-Afrika” summits have been re-named “Afrika-France” to get rid of any negative connotation.

It is a malleable web able to reform in order to adapt to current realities which used the colonized minds of individuals the likes of Ivorian president Houphouët-Boigny and Senegalese president Senghor to keep exploiting Afrika.

“It is French and Afrikan political elites against the people”

Far from being victims of circumstances, Afrikan presidents (dictators) also leveraged their power to control Paris. During election time, the successors of Houphouët and Senghor and the head of states like Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville are known to donate millions of dollars to friendly French political parties and presidential candidates who will also scratch their backs. It is French and Afrikan political elites against the people.

Chapter 7 of part 5 reminds us about the power the media have to mold, shape and create reality as well as heavily influence public opinion, prepare them for an imminent change (like the demonization of Burkinabe revolutionary president Thomas Sankara ahead of his assassination) and perpetuate colonial clichés. As Malcolm X taught “if you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing”. French media has seldom sided with the truth and was often manipulated by the powers that be to create a narrative in their favor.

This book which was first published in 2021 is a necessary, essential, detailed, gut-wrenching account of the sheer brutality, evil, misery, deceit and crimes against humans and nature that France committed against all its colonies with a focus on Afrika and especially the Sahel, Northern, Western and Central Afrika.

“If all roads lead to Rome, all explanations and reasons behind Afrikan underdevelopment, national unrest, insecurity lead to 2 rue de l’Elysée and Matignon”

We see how France has, at times not so subtly, changed the course of Afrikan and world history. And how it went from hardcore military occupation to colonialism as a business venture where private entrepreneurs and companies control land, sea and resources for the benefit of the Metropolis.

As a linguist, I would have loved to see more practical examples of how the French language is pushed and used as a soft power mechanism. The existence of the “Games of the Francophonie” and a week in honor of that language (considered a language of love and romance by some, while for others it represents death and misery) show the dedication France has with keeping former subjects mentally in awe of the tongue spoken by Molière while internalizing an inferiority complex towards our Afrikan languages.

If all roads lead to Rome, all explanations and reasons behind Afrikan underdevelopment, national unrest, insecurity lead to 2 rue de l’Elysée and Matignon (residences of the French president and prime minister).

We are reminded of the bravery of revolutionary icons, fearless journalists like Norbert Zongo of Burkina Faso, courageous activists, bold presidents that dared say “no” and strong-willed people who have fought and resisted with all they had. May their fight not be in vain, may we remember their names, the sacrifice they paid in the quest of freedom and liberation.

Colonialism is always met with polar opposite views: the oppressor lies and uses different tools to falsify history, highlight the supposed benefit of occupation and the noble enlightened intent to elevate conquered people to the status of man. The oppressed, on the contrary, sings a song of unimaginable pain, of human, spiritual, material loss, of not knowing what could have been. Because beside the tangible current theft, as pointed out by Aimé Césaire, we have also lost potential.

There is probably only one truth that all humans share and agree with: everything that is born shall die. The Empire that refuses to die will, one day, bow down and succumb to death.

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