France must bounce back in Africa
IFrance is not going to desert Africa, at a time when the great powers of the Cold War (Russia, United States) and the powerful players like China, India and the Emirates, as well as Turkey. But how can Paris get out of the game when rising, from Bamako to Kinshasa, an anti-French feeling fed by the colonial heritage and political aberrations but above all fueled by the demagogy of putschist soldiers who have failed in their plans, and by the Russian propaganda? This was the essential challenge of the trip, the eighteenth in six years on the African continent which, from the 1er on March 4, took the President of the Republic to Gabon, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
It is difficult to reproach Emmanuel Macron for not having felt the shift of youth in certain African countries and the need to invent new relations with a continent where the former French possessions have too long been considered a reserved domain. . The speech he gave in 2017 to students in Ouagadougou displayed, beyond its clumsiness, an ambition for renewal and normalization. the shy one reform of the CFA franc initiated in 2019 and the policy of restitution of works of art appeared as millimetric, quickly eclipsed by the din of the security failure of the military operation “Barkhane” in the Sahel and by the image of a France violently dismissed from Mali then from Burkina Faso.
In this context, the task of thwarting the feeling of a France in decline in Africa is heavy. From Libreville to Kinshasa, Mr. Macron tried to get down to it by affirming the desire to initiate a new relationship with Africa, made up of“humility” and partnerships “responsible and balanced”particularly in the areas of environmental protection, agriculture and health.
But the vague announcement of a “desilhouetting” military bases, on which the claimed French influence is largely based, in reality, reflects the wide gap to which Paris is constantly forced. Just like the itinerary of the presidential trip, between a visit to two figures personifying the old wanderings of “Françafrique” (Ali Bongo and Denis Sassou-Nguesso) and an incursion into countries symbolizing the search for “new strategic partners” (Angola and Democratic Republic of the Congo).
The refusal to clearly condemn the active support of Rwanda – a country with which Mr. Macron is pursuing an active policy of reconciliation – for the rebellion which is putting eastern DRC on fire and bloodshed reflects the limits of the “franchise” claimed by the French president. Especially since he does not hesitate, at the same time, to underline the responsibilities of the Congolese leaders in the insecurity which reigns in their immense country.
It will take time, and much more than small steps and speeches, to convince of the reality of the aggiornamento put forward by the President of the Republic. To prove that a policy aiming to get out of the postcolonial backyard really brings opportunities, a new vision, and not marginalization, and finds a real echo. While economic, political and influence competitions are exacerbated in Africa, Paris cannot remain on the sidelines. But, at this pivotal moment, it remains to materialize the new beginning, the rebound of French policy in Africa.