While the media evoke an anti-French feeling that would grow in Mali, it is important to ask today if this is not a simple protest against French policy in Africa.
"In Mali, anti-French sentiment is gaining ground", headlined Le Monde in January 2020. It has been a bit of a chestnut tree for the French media since that date: from Senegal to Burkina Faso - where four French soldiers were injured -, passing by Mali and Chad, an "anti-French feeling" would have gained ground.
The proof with protest movements launched by young Africans attacking the symbols of the French presence on the continent. But, as many Internet users report after the publication of the article in the Journal de l'Afrique devoted to Prime Minister Choguel Maïga, this “anti-French sentiment” described by certain media — including the JDA — is in reality only a feeling of disavowal of French politics.
France will pass you by, look at your minister 🤣🤣🤣🤣 Anti French? But there are French in Mali have we even touched one? Liars, manipulators 🤣🤣🤣🤣✊🏼🇲🇱❤️ pic.twitter.com/cyqPP8uSJ5
— Rolly+225🇨🇮🤝🇺🇸 (@Rolly40930428) January 18, 2022
Sixty years after independence, it is a certain French “neocolonialism” that exasperates Africans. The Senegalese politician Dialo Diop reminds with the BBC the "unhealthy and incestuous relationship that binds the French state to the states from its former colonies".
Youth aspire to other horizons
For the Malian philosopher Issa N'Diaye, also quoted by the British media, it is Françafrique that is of concern. He sees this policy “as a kind of guardianship that does not say its name and which consists in making the interests of France prevail, the interests of French companies, French multinationals over that of the African populations”. However, continues the former minister, African leaders are unable to get rid of Françafrique.
It is, suddenly, the African youths who oppose it. “Current youth who are on social networks, who have a wide openness to the world, who see what is happening elsewhere, aspire to horizons other than Françafrique. It is quite normal that this youth wants to revisit relations between France and Africa, ”summarizes Issa Ndiaye.
We saw it during the Africa-France Summit, there is a real gap between young people and leaders, whether African or French. Emmanuel Macron may have made a mea culpa during this event in Montpellier, in declaring that France had "failed to respect the sovereignty of Libya", it seems that the French president has forgotten this error by continuing to put pressure on a Mali that he definitely thinks is his pre-square.
The peoples demand a break with France
In addition to hostile political declarations against the Malian junta - Bamako is mainly criticized for a rapprochement with Russia - the general attitude of Paris on the continent continues to exasperate: "The symbols of Françafrique are above all in the economic relations, the place of French companies in the economy, the French military base present in the country, migration policy and monetary policy with the CFA which is still there”, summarizes the Senegalese Fatou Blondin Ndiaye Diop.
Amzat Boukari-Yabara, co-director of the book "The Empire that does not want to die: a history of Françafrique" (Editions du Seuil), confides to the JDA that, in Mali, "as elsewhere, it is the peoples who demand a break with France, more than the leaders. In Mali, the circumstances are quite special since the military intervention and the statement by François Hollande who said that 'terrorism is installed in Mali'. De facto, the French army has become an army of occupation”.
For the historian, it is above all by persisting in this quagmire that is Mali that “France is becoming more and more unpopular. However, there is stubbornness on the part of French officials, but above all an inability on their part to understand that the balance of power is changing”.
Macron and his neo-colonialist discourse
This is certainly the problem: despite this feeling against French policy in Africa, Paris persists. “From Mitterrand to Macron, France has always had, basically, the same discourse”, sums up the author of the book devoted to Françafrique. However, if Emmanuel Macron has long evoked his desire for a "break" with Françafrique, in action, this is far from being the case.
Emmanuel Macron can also be considered as the French president who has the most pro-colonialist speech, far ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy or François Hollande. In addition to the vestiges of Françafrique, Macron is in a double strategy which consists in doing everything to maintain a certain stranglehold on the former colonies - Côte d'Ivoire or Gabon, among others - but also to conquer new countries.
And more than an anti-French feeling described by the press, the African countries, represented by their young people, are today in an awakening: as long as France will be militarily present in Africa, will monopolize markets, today held by Total or Bolloré, will hold rulers by decried development aid and will continue to impose its conditions, particularly in terms of currency, this famous “sentiment” will continue to be anchored.