Senegal has lately hosted two Islamic Conference Organization summits, under controversial circumstances. Now the country is set to host the XVth Conference of Heads of State and Government from members of the International Organization of French-speaking States, scheduled for 29 and 30 November 2014, in Dakar.
This Dakar revisit comes a quarter century after the first French-speaking summit outside the West. It presents an opportunity for Africans, the overwhelming majority in this institution, to recall the various resolutions adopted at the 1989 summit, and to take stock of progress so far made in their implementation.
At the 1989 conference, marking the bi-centennial of the French revolution, we were promised, in the disingenuous formula of the Francophile bard of Negritude, Leopold S. Senghor, that the year 2000 would bring us peace and security, stability and prosperity, unity and solidarity… at the give-and-take encounter of universal civilization.
Such were the flowery promises of Francophonie then. We have since seen their fruits, and it would be an understatement to say they are bitter.
For, in the so-called universal give-and-take, it is instructive to compare what Africa has received with what she has had to give, in the twenty-five years since then. Let us recall the clauses of the Final Declaration of 1989. On the premise that the French-speaking community would thenceforth become “a fundamental political, economic and cultural reality in the lives of our States, as well as a stabilizing factor between Nations,” the signatories affirmed their determination “to develop this shared space of dialogue and multilateral cooperation, exemplary in its solidarity… by means of practical, meaningful activities designed to address multiple challenges.” Further, they committed themselves in all solemnity “to help create a more equitable international economic context, with a view to promoting in developing [member] countries a process for the improvement of their economic situation.” Lastly, the resolution urged other international agencies “to commit themselves to this common political determination to create and develop such a dynamic…so as to work for the establishment of a solid, lasting peace throughout the world.”
A straight comparison of this rhetoric with the actual behavior of the French-speaking leadership, without exception, lays bare their hypocrisy.
Take the final resolution, the most serious, on peace and security. In theory we entered a postcolonial era at Independence. But in practice, counting its Operation Sangaris, the 5th French Republic has since then conducted fifty military incursions in French-speaking Africa, an average of at least one military intervention per year. And those conducted from 1990 to 2013 have proved especially devastating and destabilizing for our continent as a whole. They include Operation Turquoise, which followed the unsuccessful attempt to wipe out the Tutsis in Rwanda (1994) during F. Mitterrand’s mandate, to Operation Serval in Mali (2013), under the current president F. Hollande, following Operations Licorne and Harmattan under N. Sarkozy, which respectively ended in the capture of L. Gbagbo in the Ivory Coast (April 2011) and the assassination of M. Kadhafi in Libya (October 2011), not to mention the kidnapping, then deportation to South Africa of the democratically elected president of Haiti, J.B. Aristide, in the context of a French-American-Canadian conspiracy (2004) against him for daring to demand the refund of the ransom paid after the first real abolition of slavery in the Americas in 1804, or the destruction on the ground of the Ivorian air force by the French air force in Bouaké (2004) under Chirac…. Even this partial list makes clear the extent and scope of the disorder caused by these repetitive, irresponsible interventions, especially in Libya and the Sahel. Under the circumstances, it is reasonable to ask what such phrases as a stabilizing factor and a solid, lasting peace really mean.
In the field of economic and financial affairs, we need not dwell on the humiliating devaluation of the CFA Franc, also announced in Dakar (1994), when the “two Michels,” (Camdessus and Roussin) defeated in twelve hours the “ fourteen Abdous,” (Diouf and his African peers) supposedly defending this currency to the last. Nor need we mention the shameful pegging of the CFA Franc to the Euro, when in 1999 the French Franc was replaced by the European single currency. All this confirms the status of the CFA Franc as a colonial currency. Beyond that there is the control exercised by French transnational corporations over key sectors of Africa’s captive economies—mines, electricity, water services, telecommunications, infrastructure, transport, banks….
On top of this comes the general collapse of the agricultural, handicraft and industrial sectors, should the lopsided “Economic Partnership Agreements,” massively condemned and rejected by the African peoples, get signed. Despite popular opposition, the European Commission is bent on pushing through the Agreements. No doubt they have forgotten that what a pliable African head of state accepts today, another may reject tomorrow.
As far as social and human wellbeing are concerned, we all know that while the discriminatory agreements envisaged will enforce the free circulation of commodities and capital within the Euro-African “free trade” zone, it will never allow the reciprocal freedom of human beings to travel freely inside the same zone. Witness the miserly rate at which, as a matter of policy, entry visas into the Schengen area are issued to Africans. Witness also the thousands of dead bodies of young Africans endlessly drifting in the Mediterranean, under the cold, indifferent European gaze.
Who is fooling whom? What do they take Africans for? Each life is as valuable as any other. Each human being is a human being, unique and irreplaceable for his or her people. When it comes to basic human rights and responsibilities, no person has a higher value than any other. It’s a pity that nearly 70 years after the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we still have to remind the world of such truisms.
But it is in the field of culture and language that the cunning dishonesty of the official promises of 1989 is most obvious. For, while admitting that education and training are “strategic areas of action,” and while claiming to work for “the preservation and diffusion of both the French language and other national languages and cultures,” the French authorities have continued to force their African placemen to use, as their exclusive official language for administrative and educational purposes, French. This despite the fact that even though Senegal was the oldest French colony, only 5% to 10% of the Senegalese population, at most, understands the French language, in the sense of speaking and writing it fluently. Under such circumstances, is it surprising that the so-called French-speaking countries have the highest illiteracy rates in Africa, and that the overwhelming majority are among the least developed countries, and that all of them rank at the bottom of the UNDP’s Human Development Index?
Was it not, incidentally, in the name of “the defence of Francophonie” against the supposed threat of Anglophone domination, as represented by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, that the late president Mitterrand plunged the French army to its neck in the Rwandan genocide?
For all the above reasons—and the list is by no means exhaustive—we, African patriots and democrats, Continental and Diasporan, from all nations, with no discrimination as to ethnic group, race, caste, class, religious, ideological or philosophical conviction, in the name of all African peoples, in upright solidarity, make the following proclamation:
1. We condemn the attempts of France and the USA to recolonize Africa by force of arms, and demand the immediate cessation of Operation Barkhane; we demand the total and final withdrawal of all French bases deployed on our continent; we support the categorical rejection of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council of attempts to install units of AFRICOM, NATO or any other foreign land, sea or air forces in African space;
2. We demand the unconditional and irreversible cessation of all supplies of arms, munitions and/or financial resources, overt or covert, from non-African powers to various seditious, separatist, tribalistic or religious groups, militias, factions or seditious associations, on pain of the freezing of diplomatic relations.
3. We demand the effective implementation of African Union decisions on the urgent need to create an autonomous rapid-reaction armed force, and the deployment, as rapidly as possible, of a standing army under the joint authority of the African Union Commission and its Peace and Security Council, which shall also be mandated to negotiate a permanent seat for Africa on the UN Security Council;
4. We say no to the suicidal signature and ratification of the so-called Economic Partnership Agreements, in reality just a rider-and-horse partnership; we demand the immediate abolition of the legal fiction that the Franc zone became from the moment the Franc CFA was absorbed into the European currency; we invite African sub-regional agencies such as ECOWAS to observe the treaties currently in force, and to respect the agreed deadline for the launching of a sovereign West African currency;
5. We demand the implementation of a patriotic economic programme that gives priority to African partners in all affairs, especially in defence, security and national sovereignty, beginning with self-sufficiency in food and energy.
6. Last but not least, we demand that African languages be raised to the status of official working languages, constitutionally recognized. We demand enforcement of the right of all children to receive a basic education in their mother tongues. We demand free, compulsory education for all African children. We demand effective access to primary health care, in line with the relevant clauses of the African Union’s Maputo Protocol.
In the considered opinion of the joint signatories of the present declaration, the so-called French-speaking Summits are nothing better than a clumsy clown show intended to mask the multiform abuses of power committed by French neocolonialism in Africa. Today, this French power has fallen in behind the USA since its reintegration into the NATO command structure. As a corollary, the Francophone circus serves to maintain the corruption, conflicts of interest and various types of FrançAfrican deals, like the Carrefour du Développement scandal that marked the Bujumbura Summit.
For these reasons, we the signatories have decided to hold a peaceful mass protest against the holding of the next French-speaking summit in Dakar. To this end, we solemnly invite all patriotic Africans and direct descendants of Africa, wherever they may be, to get organized to join this wide continental and worldwide movement against the crimes of European and American neocolonialism and their local stooges in Africa.
The struggle continues!
Dakar, 12 October 2014.