Most Francophone leaders on the African continent strive, supposedly in the name of Françafrique, to maintain close ties with the former colonial power.
This has been argued as an attempt at cordiality but it is perhaps much deeper. Senegal’s independence leader, Leopold Senghor, once preached the point that the destiny of France’s former colonies is inextricably linked to that of France.
What has therefore transpired since the 1960s, is a movement from the Africans towards the French.
For critics, this affinity is a spillover from the French policy of assimilation which regarded Francophone Africans as citizens but in the sense of second-class.
The chief effect of this acculturation means that many middle-class Africans in France’s former colonies are looking to be francalized in the same way Victorian values appeal to the privileged class in Britain’s former African colonies.
In the same vein, we are told Abidjan, the capital city of the Ivory Coast is “Petit Paris”.
France also rewards the loyalty of African leaders. Ask any political observer on the African continent and they will tell you that most coups in former French colonies do not happen on the blind side of Paris.
As follows are four African leaders who cannot get enough of the support the French government lavishes on them.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been at his post for the last 40 years. To pull this feat, it is non-negotiable that one has to be an authoritarian.
President Mbasogo is reputed to be one of the most anti-press freedom leaders in the world as well as one of the most corrupt. But his longevity and hold on power have been ensured by what he provides France, among others.
There are as many as 18 French subsidiaries in Equatorial Guinea. Some of these have profited from the country’s abundant petrodollars.
Paul Biya of Cameroon has the unenviable record of being one of the oldest presidents in the world. He is 87.
A lot of the time, Biya is sick and spends those periods in Switzerland, getting some of the best medical care available. Meanwhile, Cameroon is one of the world’s poorest places.
But he enjoys so much support from France despite the fact that Biya oversees terrible state crimes against English-speaking citizens in Cameroon’s north.
Last week, after he condemned violence in northern Cameroon, French president Emmanuel Macron was asked why France supports Biya and other dictators.
Macron responded: “France has a complicated role in Africa. When France says a leader has not been democratically elected, Africans tell us: why are you meddling? I put pressure on everyone, I work with the African Union to put pressure.”
In 2018, 67-year-old Chadian president Idriss Deby Itno, who came to power after a rebellion in 1990, booked 15 more years to his 28 years in power in constitutional reform.
The move was protested by any means that a suppressed people could. Yet, Deby prevailed, as he’s always done so thanks to support from France.
Last year, investigative media outfit African Intelligence reported that “French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is continuing to lobby in favor of the regime of Idriss Deby, a faithful partner of France whose position has been rendered fragile by a changing regional environment.”
President Deby is going nowhere soon, especially due to Islamic fundamentalist violence in the Sahel. In Deby, France has a trusted partner to keep boots on the ground.
For many, that Alassane Ouattara’s ascent to power alone was militarily aided by France means that the Ivorian president is a stooge. That may be unfair but it is not a silly opinion.
France has a penchant for picking a side in African conflicts, defending that side and expecting loyalty in return. Also, accusations against Ouattara, as a man who is too pro-France, were way before his 2010 contestations with Laurent Gbagbo.
President Ouattara has defended himself on the charges of loving France. But if he is also defiantly advocating pegging the new Eco currency against the Euro, he is not changing perceptions anytime soon.