Macron Is Officially French President: Should Francophone Africa care?

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Thursday, 18 May 2017 503 Views 0 Comments
Macron Is Officially French President: Should Francophone Africa care?

Today, May 14th, 2017, Emmanuel Macron ascended the red carpet at the Elysee Palace and has been given the codes to launch France’s nuclear weapons. Marking the end of the ceremony was a 21-gun salute echoing from the Invalides military hospital. In effect, the 39 year old Macron has now officially started the job as France’s President!
As is characteristic of election and inauguration ceremonies of Presidents, political scientists will now advance unexamined assumptions based on extravagant promises made by Macron on the campaign podium and during his inaugural speech. Pages of well-established papers will be enthusiastically devoted to interpreting the meaning of the Macron presidency for France, some self-pitying while others will be well grounded.
For some African political scientists, the question they’ll be seeking to answer is: what Africa stands to benefit from the Macron presidency. Many obsessed Africans have greeted Macron’s victory over Le Pen with a lot of enthusiasm. They dream of the end of Francafrique, a French presidency that will stand up against African dictatorships and their occult networks fueling corruption and a whole series of colonial tools that they wield (such as the CFA franc). Let it be said unequivocally that this will not happen.
I want to shrewdly narrow in on what a Macron Presidency means for francophone Africa. Frankly, I would like to say Macron owes francophone Africa nothing! Francophone Africans are not entitled to anything from Macron! And this claim is based on the following argument: Macron is France’s President, and it is the interests of the French populace he seeks above all else to protect. Macron’s presidency seeks to make its own contribution to the immigration crisis, climate change, the excesses of global capitalism and terrorism.
Macron is in favour of labour reforms that include aligning the French economic culture with those of Western English-speaking countries (such as the US and the UK) and schemes to tackle youth unemployment. But economic policy is only one area where Macron would try to force through change. Relations with the EU will be a key preoccupation of Macron’s. A strong supporter of the EU, he wants to introduce reforms that can render the EU more accountable to its member states, such as oversight of the euro overseen by a specialist Eurozone minister. On immigration, it is predictable that Macron will take the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach to the refugee crisis, allowing for France to take in its fair share of refugees. In the aftermath of the number of attacks France has suffered from ISIS and al-Qaeda, relations between the country’s Muslim population and the French state have significantly dimmed. And Macron seeks to mend these relations as he also finds ways of making France more secure. In his inaugural speech, he said everything that makes France a country where everyone can feel safe, will be amplified. He said nothing about Africa!
Based on this, the idea that francophone Africa should be jubilant that a new tenant has occupied the Elysee Palace is ridiculous. That our people imagine their fate depends hugely on French policies is entirely symptomatic of a spirit of profound defeat, a grave manifestation of mental enslavement. This is particularly the case of countries in the Central African Region, the hotspot of the death of democracy, where some despots were already in power when Macron was only four years old! And one of these political grandfathers unsurprisingly celebrated his allegiance to his new counterpart:

“On the occasion of your brilliant election as President of the Republic of France, I have the great pleasure of presenting to you, in my own name and that of the Cameroonian people, my sincere and warm congratulations. For many decades, France and Cameroon have has close and trustful relations in numerous areas. Forged by history and a long friendship that has never been denied, they can accomplish new progress”

(Cameroon’s President Paul Biya who has been power since 1982).

While Mr. Biya describes the relation between France and the francophone African country he rules with iron fists as “trustful”, the truth is that the relation between these two has always been asymmetrical: the one politically, economically, culturally and militarily submissive to the other. Like his predecessors, I doubt if Macron will see francophone Africa as anything other than as a problem, and instrument of power and a colonial preserve. As such, although his speech did not mention “Africa” at all, I suppose if it did, he would give hints of his Africa policy that revolves around the principles of equality, fraternity and solidarity. Yet, in the order of things, France’s policy towards francophone Africa has always been one of domination.
The question that must be asked therefore is not what francophone Africa should expect from Macron. There is every indication that French-speaking Africa will, for a long time to come, remain under guardianship. Therefore, the question should rather be: should francophone Africa care at all? For it is by asking the right questions that French-speaking Africa as a sleeping giant can actually wake up and stand up for itself, making itself its own center. French-speaking Africa must seek ways of meaningfully existing minus handouts from its colonial (and neo-colonial) masters. All else is deception!

Hubert Kinkoh

Hubert Kinkoh is an independent research consultant from Cameroon who currently works with International Crisis Group on the Horn of Africa Project. He is a holder of an MA in Peace Studies and International Relations from Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations, Nairobi-Kenya. He enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, sports and making friends.

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