Colonial domination in Africa did not certainly end with new flags and new national anthems. The nationalistic euphoria of newfound political independence and self-determination that swept through the continent from the 1960s to the early 1990s symbolized an invaluable portent for transformative social change in Africa. It is one that should have been selflessly maximized for the total, holistic emancipation of the continent in the postcolonial Africa.
In all facets of political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions dictating the currents of life and contemporary history in modern and post-independent Africa, the malaise of perennial dependency on external powers coupled with the debilitating inferiority complexes make Africa a continent that is “walking still”, to quote the late Zimbabwean literary genius Charles Mungoshi.
But this should not be the case for the African citizen. The deplorable state-of-affairs reigning supreme across the entire continent, where sovereign nations have - and continue to - subvert their own agency regarding the progressive and inclusive development of their nations, preferring to give such important tasks to global hegemonic powers from both the West and the East, may be considered a tad anachronistic.
That is if one is to assess the dynamics of global geopolitics using the criteria of liberal diction that is predicated on “human rights”, “individual civil liberties”, “consumer choice”, and other terms of such like nature.
Because these high-sounding phrases of “modern freedom” - ironically preached by former Western colonial powers - lose their relevancy when one dissects the not-so-rosy situation for Africa.
It is to be expected nonetheless(that foreign powers control Africa's economy), even if a bit anachronistic because everyone preaches human rights yet does the opposite of what they preach.
Shouldn’t the continent of Africa have unfettered access in enjoying the inalienable “human rights” underpinning the cohesion of humanity in its entirety - abolition of war and achieving peace, ending hunger and starvation, ending inequality and unemployment, etc.?
External neocolonial domination is unsurprising because of inferiority complexes, conformity by the indigenous bourgeois ruling elite to the default capitalist global order of neoliberalism, and materialist envy and desire of global north opulent and classy lifestyles - these factors result in Africans making assumptions of superior political and economic capabilities possessed by Europeans, Americas, Russians, and the Chinese to the extent that they let their affairs run by external powers. But what they miss is that a boiling point ultimately comes.
Africa's Missed Opportunities for Revolutionary Change: Self-criticism and European Neocolonialism
From 1957 (with Ghana’s freedom) and the early 1960s (1960 was hailed as the 'Year of Africa' because 17 African countries attained independence) through to the 1980s and early 1990s (with the freedom of South Africa and Namibia), Africa has missed several crucial opportunities to shape its own trajectory of political independence fully complemented by holistic, democratic, and organic economic/financial emancipation.
But this is too heavy a burden to shouldered by Africa alone. While such self-criticism is inescapably necessary (self-inquiry on our failures, thereby resolving first our internal contradictions as put by Amilcar Cabral), it is remiss to gloss over the material fact that countless attempts by Africans to advance people-centered social policies for universal human progress have been cruelly thwarted and frustrated by Western neocolonial powers.
At every opportunity to propel empathetic and contextual social and economic transformation, Western global superpowers - France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, the European Union, Canada, and all their allies - have consistently destroyed African progressive policies through sponsoring coups, wars and conflict; assassinations; economic sabotage through sanctions; and other dastardly acts that negate progressive solidarity for humankind.
The West relentlessly intervenes in Africa in intrusive ways that are utterly disrespectful to the political and economic standing of Africa’s working class, peasantry, women, and the young who are unemployed; the masses. The colonial mindset of Europe having ownership over Africa and everything that Africa engages in remains prevalent to this day.
For instance, France has been involved in the assassination of 22 African presidents since 1963. Such imperialistic sentiments of owning Africa, (thus directing its trajectory by imposing leaders amenable to the whims and caprices of imperialists and foreign financialized capital), is horrendously absurd and totally unjustifiable.
France has always been criminally averse to genuine and organic African hopes and aspirations of pushing forth progressive social and economic policies that threaten the capitalist hegemonic order which France and all other advanced superpowers rely on to further exploit the poor of the world.
This ensures that the dependence of marginalized and impoverished people to the very same system that brutalizes and dehumanizes them is perpetually sustained.
That is why France has never released its chokehold over former colonies - the [right-wing and borderline fascist] reminiscence of their vast colonial empire in West and North Africa compels them to frantically maintain this capitalist neocolonial mess. A mess causing mass suffering in Africa.
The wars in Africa started by French intervention in sovereign affairs (having attained the "exclusive" military rights to intervene in West Africa through neocolonial machinations) to defend entrenched interests have spiraled out of control; and their failure to stop them has added salt to injury. Thus, making France a source of anger and resentment in Africa.
France has destroyed Africa through unjustified [liberal] interventionism in the continent's domestic affairs. And for that, all love is lost now. If there ever was an iota of that.
When Africans rewind the history’s clock and reflect on these unforgivable transgressions (French imperial influence played a hand in the elimination of fiery leaders such Burkina Faso's Thomas Sankara, Cameroon's Félix Moumié and Ruben Um Nyobe, among others), and their contemporary failure to stem the tides of extremist violence they fomented in West Africa, French unpopularity becomes palpable.
Why French (and Western Influence at large) in Africa is Becoming Unpopular
Imperial powers have advocated for democratic strands that are off-the-mark and alienating for African contexts - such purported democracy being steeped in liberal capitalist thinking; it unashamedly preaches policies that kill Africa’s masses: excruciating austerity, free-market ‘trickle-down’ economics, liberalization, deregulation, and privatization.
These policies negate the altruistic social, political, cultural, and economic elevation of the working class and rural peasantry in Africa for a dignified and decent existence devoid of immiseration.
All the while, the neocolonial masters sponsor wars and conflict by selling arms and dangerous weapons to African despots, rebel leaders, and crime lords. Then they come again to the same African citizens decimated by their arms and weapons to tell them about democracy. It is farcical.
These neocolonial forces are the same powers carefully entangled in a global concerted effort to maintain a neocolonial stranglehold not only in Africa but in other less industrially developed regions of the world such as Latin America and Asia. Neocolonial powers, according to Kwame Nkrumah, have made neocolonialism the last stage of imperialism.
France, with the help of its Western allies, has ceaselessly destroyed the continent through neocolonial dominance premised on the default global economic, political, and cultural base and superstructure of capitalist neoliberal globalization.
The former colonial masters were determined to perpetuate the brutal exploitation and underdevelopment of the African continent without the strenuous effort of running colonial empires. They had to do that via neocolonialism.
Pretexts had to be conjured and fortified - Africa was told to be entirely dependent on external powers for its survival. And that is wherein the problem lies: the pillaging of a rich continent by countries stuck with an imperial hangover, unwilling to extricate their hegemonic supremacy from their former colonies for their selfish enrichment while the world's masses wallow in a quagmire of abject poverty.
As such, of particular focus here is an obstinate French neocolonialism - and how France is increasingly becoming unpopular on the African continent as Africans valiantly strive to be divorced from the toxicity of their (neo)colonial foe. Bitter and protracted as it may be. But unavoidably necessary.
This rightly echoes Frantz Fanon’s emphasis on the total detachment and liberation from colonial (and neocolonial) subservience; the process of decolonization - the ineluctable material fact is that every decolonization process is ugly but inevitable. This alone being an immortal point he elucidated in his book, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’.
Why France Infuriates Africans - And the Quest for New Allies as the West is Ditched
For France, just like all other global north powers, letting go of Africa is absolutely inconceivable. The prospect of French neocolonial hegemony on the African continent - particularly for West Africa - coming to a grinding halt with much "ignominy" is one that drives a massive existential dread in the psyche of French political life. The fretfulness of the European ruling elite over France's dipping ratings in West Africa is self-revealing. As well as how they get tensed up concerning Russian military activities in African countries.
Despite recent acts of political goodwill gesturing towards the possibility of mending relations between France and West Africa, it clearly seems that this is not even enough. These acts include the withdrawal of troops from Mali following Operation Barkhane's abysmal failure, the return of stolen artefacts [during colonial military conquests], and a rather vague willingness to engage Africa's "younger generations and civil society".
Regardless of these frenetic attempts - essentially a farce given the weight of France's monstrosity in Africa - France is increasingly becoming unpopular on the continent, and this is evidently mirrored by its obstinacy with regards to sustaining the vestiges of its former colonial empire in West and North Africa.
There have been some instances where French disapproval in Africa has been palpably heard, compelling French political elites to panic. Like when Mali's military leadership made their intention to unceremoniously sever ties with France over the latter's dismal failure in stopping the ebbs of lethal extremist insurgency.
The insurgency itself, with its unabated proliferation in West Africa and the Sahel, is in itself a manifestation of an interplay of political factors that ultimately incriminate France.
The turn by countries such as Mali to geopolitical villains like Russia has immensely incensed pretty much the whole European Union political bourgeois elite. But it only signifies how much Africans are yearning for real independence from France. Compounded of course by France's - Europe's - failure to effectively deal with extremist insurgency that has particularly ravaged Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
Unpopularity Due To Forcing a 'Weakened But Toxic Imperialism' With Disastrous Effects
French neocolonial hegemony will not be wiped off the continent in absolute terms. French private capital at the behest of multinationals is deeply rooted in Africa's political and economic structures - a lifeline to corrupt and despotic African elite rulers who abet French imperialism on the continent to the detriment of their own people. Yet, France's influence in shaping political dynamics especially in West Africa is waning. China and India have since eclipsed France as Africa's major trading partners.
Succinctly, this is weakened imperialism that is still toxic, since it will take decades of protracted ideological and where inevitable military struggles to absolutely eradicate French private capital and its vested capitalist interests of unfettered exploitation. French political leaders are seized with restoring the colonial Empire, and this has precipitated classic neocolonial arrogance and callousness in which French actions in Africa have resulted in untold suffering.
France is unwilling to lose control over its former colonies. Despite causing unspeakable atrocities to African people - for instance in the Algerian war and Cameroonian war, colonial struggles of independence that stretched from 1954 to 1964, 120,000 Africans died. And yet France is infuriatingly intransigent when it comes to admitting its colonial wrongs.
The complicity of French imperialism in the Rwandan genocide speaks volumes on why Africans are vindicated for wanting nothing to do with France. These historical bits vindicate French unpopularity on the continent. The "Paris Club" is an infamous institution devised for the sole purposes of subjugating Africa's economic and political independence. Not to mention the monstrosity called the CFA Franc - a currency designed to perpetuate dependency. The clamors to abolish the CFA Franc in favor of a new currency called Eco signal a deep desire to break neocolonial ties with France.
French atrocities in Africa - from colonialism until now - are countless and do not warrant lengthy dissection here. The salient point is that even though all these factors contribute to anger and resentment on the continent at the hands of France, its imperial and neoliberal hegemonic supremacy over its colonies will not be smashed overnight.
The capital invested through exploiting Africans is astronomical for French neocolonial dominance to die suddenly - for example the oil multinational behemoth Total Energies from France sponsors the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and its tournaments - AFCON, CAF Champions League, and the CAF Confederations Cup. Total commands a mammoth 25% of its production operations in Africa, and 18% of its oil reserves are in Africa as well. These are the legacies of the Berlin Conference - and France is determined to continue with such unjust enrichment.
Africa Must Fight For Organic Democracy, Mass Mobilization, and Counter-Hegemonic Narratives
The decline of France's imperial hold on Africa in the face of rising global competitors - notably Russia and China - does not portend the outright death of French imperialism. Yet, French unpopularity in Africa has converged with the newfound rising influence of Russia on the continent as a rival hegemonic power to [the liberal, free-market] Western Europe.
Russia has expanded its footprints in Africa by luring African leaders with its military prowess to fight insurgents (which the global north powers arrogantly label "terrorists"). The support offered to African countries by Russia's private military contractors riled EU leaders who were quick to call out Russia and its president Vladimir Putin over what they cited as "human rights abuses".
It is also avowed knowledge that China's imprint in Africa is a thorn in the flesh for Western neocolonial imperialism. It is easy for France to lose positive ratings in Africa because of its colonial and postcolonial atrocities; and it is easy for Russia and China [absolute state capitalist powers] to play a huge role in Western disapproval due to shared history with African countries - the two UN Security Council permanent members greatly assisted African countries during colonial times in their fight for independence.
These two countries also vetoed a UN resolution (drafted by the US) that was aimed at imposing international sanctions on Zimbabwe at the height of the country's political crisis in 2008 - 2009. But Russia's assistance (and perpetuation of war and conflict) to Africa in fighting "terrorism" is cast in doubt given that the country is in the heat of a major war with Ukraine that has caused massive global disruptions economically and politically.
Conclusion - A Call For Unity to Fight Against Neocolonialism; Whether Coming from East or West
Despite these changes in global geopolitics where alliances shift and re-align considerably - because there are no friends in politics but permanent interests - Africa must now take the initiative to drive a consciousness of self-sustenance and holistic economic emancipation that stands intractable in the face of Western neocolonial dictates.
This calls for cross-continent solidarity; because French unpopularity is a portent for mass organization and mobilization heavily inundated with raising ideological consciousness - counter-hegemonic narratives.
Italian activist and intellectual Antonio Gramsci, in his time, observed that "the old is dying but the new cannot be born" - this statement proves how French unpopularity and African anger at neocolonialism signifies that the old order has the potential of withering away completely if only Africans stand strong in unwavering Pan-Africanist solidarity.
Header Image Credit - This is Africa