TODAY is France’s National Day as the European country celebrates 228 years of the Storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution.
This year’s celebrations come soon after the election of president Emmanuel Macron who succeeded François Hollande on May 14.
However, Bastille Day is being celebrated amid outrage and anger at remarks that the French leader made about Africa, at the just ended G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Addressing the media, Macron was asked about an economic initiative for Africa’s growth and development, and in response he said that Africa’s problems were “civilisational” and the belief by some in having large families.
Despite the variance in the translation of his remarks, it is quite evident that the terms used by the French leader were not terms of endearment. According to one translation, Macron said, “The challenge of Africa is completely different, it is much deeper. It is civilisational today . . . One of the essential challenges of Africa . . . is that in some countries today seven or eight children (are) born to each woman.”
People from all corners of the world have roundly condemned Macron’s remarks, which do not only sound racist, but supremacist. Not only was he flexing his Big Brother muscle, but the youthful president was unwittingly demonstrating that the stigma and stereotypes from the West will never stop. With the rise of neo-liberal politics and the right wing in Europe, Britain and the United States, it will get worse.
If Macron had wanted to talk about policy issues and how best France can work with Africa, he would just have enunciated his government’s Africa policy. Africa was represented at the G20 Summit. Apart from South African president Jacob Zuma, the African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat was also present.
The French leader must also provide answers for these racial slurs. What did he mean by “civilisational”? Was he alluding to the Western mentality and how they perceive Africa as the so-called “Dark Continent”? Is it also his responsibility to prescribe the demographic make-up of African families?
If Africa has no business in his family life, what gives him that right to try and dictate what is good or bad for Africa? Were these sentiments arising out of a frustrated leader who thinks that the only illegal immigrants and terrorists that have been crossing into and attacking France are from Africa?
It is understandable that some people never see any wrongs being committed by former colonial powers, and are willing to act as their lapdogs?
While campaigning for the presidency, Macron visited Algeria in February, and made a remark being used by racist denialists to support his remarks. He was applauded when he said colonialism was a “crime against humanity”, and this despite the fact that former French colonies remain firmly beholden to it. Macron’s cheerleaders are oblivious to his hypocrisy and double standards.
We have also followed Macron’s Africa approach with interest. When he visited Mali a few days after his inauguration whose interests was he advancing — Mali’s or French interests? With 1 600 French soldiers in the West African country, this could not be for Mali surely.
As Macron celebrates Bastille Day with other Western leaders in attendance, they should realise that there are no-quick fix solutions to the mess created by slavery, colonialism and interference in African countries’ internal affairs.
As we report elsewhere in this issue, Just before French colonies were granted “independence” in the 1960s, France organised and bound them into colonial pacts that see the 14 African states put 65 percent of their foreign currency reserves into the French Treasury, and another 20 percent for financial liabilities.
Africa does not need slave drivers, but equal partners in all areas, especially trade. The West pillaged and plundered this resource rich continent, and we do not need to be lectured about population control.