By Owei Lakemfa

France is a problem. In Africa, it is a man-child fighting hard to retain its feeding bottle. The United Kingdom-based Socialist Labour organised a virtual conference of Africans to discuss this and the current crises in Africa, with an emphasis on the Francophone countries. Co-ordinator Tokunbo Oke, in commenting on the theme, “The Niger Coup: Imperialism and the Crisis of Francophone Africa”, lamented that to discuss, the African people have to surmount the obstacles of various European languages as they are either Anglophone, Francophone, Iberiaphone, or Luxophone.

Ndongo Samba Sylla, a Senegalese development economist and co-author of the book Africa’s Last Colonial Currency: The CFA Franc, noted that the recent coups in West and Central Africa occurred in the same Francophone Zone and that they are all landlocked. He said the repeated coups in these countries show they have weak institutions and remain underdeveloped. He said the Niger Republic, for instance, had its highest real income per capita, a measure of a country’s economic health and the purchasing power of its citizens, in 1965, while statistics show that this same indicator in 2022 was 59 per cent lower. He made a similar comparison with Cote d’Ivoire, whose real income per capita in 2022 was 25 per cent lower than it was in 1975.

Ndongo argued that the CFA Franc currency France imposed on 14 African countries was a way of that country exploiting and impoverishing African countries. He pointed out that the invasion of Libya by France, the United States, and their European allies led to the spread of Islamist terrorism, which enveloped countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. He posited that if a zone is militarised, coups will become inevitable. Ndongo pointed out that even in Francophone areas like Senegal that have not witnessed coups, the leaders are no less tyrannical. He cited the example of his own country, Senegal, which currently has over 1,000 political prisoners. He submitted that the Francophone countries need to get rid of the Franc and France, adding that any war against the Niger Republic, which he said would be a proxy one, would destroy the participating African countries.

Mrs. Susan Awasom, a university lecturer in the Anglophone area of Cameroun, lamented that the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, which has not been able to raise a voice against France’s looting of the resources of African countries, suddenly finds its voice against the coup in Niger and even threatens to invade that country. She said France is propping up systems like “Biyaism” (Cameroonian President Paul Biya) while depleting the resources of the continent. She wondered why the treasuries of the Francophone countries could be found in the French Central Bank. She said youths in countries like Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Niger want France out of the continent as all it does is prop up puppet regimes that loot the resources of Africa. She advocated for a people-centred system.

My submission at the August 26, 2023, conference was that since France invaded Egypt 225 years ago, it has dug in, refusing to let go of a continent it regards as its Garden of Eden from which to eat and drink eternally. I explained that France is so greedy and vicious that it is ready to do anything to maintain its grip on Africa. I said that when Guinea preferred freedom to remaining a colony, France was so crude that it smashed all it could destroy in that country, including machinery, water pipes, and roads. I reminded the audience that when independence became inevitable in Cameroun, France ensured that no independent-minded person would be president of the new country. It trailed the pan Africanist pro-independence leader, Felix Moumie, to Switzerland, where its secret agents poisoned him.

I also recalled the fact that the first Togolese President, Sylvanus Olympio, was overthrown by France in Africa’s first coup when he decided to establish a central bank for Togo rather than remain in the Franc CFA Zone. In that case, a sergeant in the French Legion, Gnansingbe Eyadema, dragged Olympio from the United States Embassy, where he had jumped into, and executed him at the gates of the embassy. I reminded all that Eyadema, from 1967, remained in office until his death in 2005, with his son, Faure Eyadema, continuing the rule of his father until this day. I also pointed out that when ECOWAS decided to have a common currency for the West African Region, France sabotaged it by getting them to maintain a separate currency zone. I also pointed out that French troops installed Ivorian President Alhassan Oattara in the presidential palace, where he has now executed a civilian coup with an unconstitutional third term in office. I submitted that France should be forced out of Niger as the citizens are demanding and that any military invasion of Niger in the name of removing coup plotters should be seen by Africans as an invasion of the continent.

John Odah of the Organisation of Trade Unions in West Africa said the chaos that has made Haiti a failed state today is due to the resources extorted by France from that country.

Professor Izielen Agbon, an international scholar and petroleum specialist, made a beautiful submission on where Africans should stand on the issue of undemocratic civilian leaders and military coup plotters: “In Africa, it is best for the autonomous power of the working class and the peasant class to be expressed under a democratic system where they can choose their leaders and remove them whenever the need arises. A military junta or a corrupt civilian political government cannot replace the autonomous power of the labouring classes for self-development. In the final analysis, military, security, and police forces are coercive arms of the national ruling class used in the maintenance of class dominance over workers and peasants.”

Agbon further clarified that: “Under a revolutionary government that represents the interests of the people, the first step is the creation of a people’s army and the arming of the workers and peasants so they can protect their class interests.” He added that: “Only the people can liberate themselves. A progressive military junta cannot liberate the people even when the junta fights imperialist forces and the people temporarily support the junta. Neither can the national bourgeois ruling class, who loot the national treasury, nor imperialist foreign powers, whose primarily interest is the exploitation of the nation’s natural resources.”

Juliana Ojinnaka, a participant, posited that without the political and economic unity of African countries, Africa cannot make progress in its socio-economic and political development. The conference concluded that the best interest of the African people is to push France out of the continent and collectively build a united Africa where no one will be hungry or oppressed.